In the early 2000s after a long night of dancing and drinking, my friends and I would pile in a cab. To pass the time during our ride, we would play a game. The game went something like this: Pepsi or Coke, Britney or Christina, Tequila Or Vodka…you get the idea. My best friend Heidi loved this game. She would include the “Cabbie,” erupt in laughter, and yell out the choices , forcing us to pick a winner. Silly, right? Today, it is a snapshot in my mind, of happier times when our problems were small and our bar bills were large. My world was forever changed when I lost that Cabbie-loving gamer to Synovial Sarcoma (cancer) on March 10th, 2017. Since that day, I have been trying to make sense of something that seems impossible. How can she be gone from this physical place, forever? And how do I continue to live and love, now that she’s gone?
Yesterday was a cold gray day in Ohio. I was home with Blossom, my one year old. She woke up from her nap feeling cozy. She wanted hugs and kisses. As I sat holding her, thoughts formed in my mind: “I am so blessed. This beautiful child is healthy and she brightens my whole world.” I sat with that for a moment, suddenly my smile moved to a frown. Just the day before, I was feeling depressed, down, and overwhelmed. The grief from the approaching monthly anniversary of Heidi’s death weighed on me. When I pressed myself further in my thoughts I heard Heidi tell me “Quit being crazy!” Feelings are feelings after all, we can’t control them, only allow them to move through us. But, I was confused, how could I feel blessed and full of grief at the same time?
In our society, it seems we force this Britney or Christina choice. We make ourselves choose happy or sad. As if it is impossible for us to feel both. I had this picture in my mind of what a grieving person “should” say, or how they “should” act. When in all reality until you are in grief you don’t know how it will feel. Who am I, or who are we (as a society) to judge and decide how someone “should” act or feel? Why isn’t it possible for both happiness and sadness to live together? When I look back over the last few years, I see these shared feelings of happiness and sadness woven throughout my days.
Finding out I was pregnant with Blossom during a time when Heidi was well.
Heidi receiving the news her cancer had returned.
Heidi’s frustrations and deep sadness with her declining health.
Blossoms milestones of sitting up, rolling over, and crawling.
Heidi’s time in hospice and the physical loss when she left this earth.
Trying to figure out life without Heidi.
Learning to celebrate again with Blossom’s first birthday.
These are just a handful of my life’s ups and downs. Most of the time the happiness and sadness were in my heart together, I just didn’t realize it. I remember Blossom turning five months old on the same day as one of my final visits with Heidi. It was a beautifully brutal day, where I felt and carried so much sadness, but there were little glimmers of baby love too. I remember Heidi sitting in a chair resting. She woke up to see Blossom looking at her. Heidi smiled “Oh, Hi Blue Marbles when did you get here?” Little glimmers of happiness during a dark day.
I realize now that while grieving and dealing with sadness, I was living and loving. To move forward, I need to be patient and give myself the space to “feel all the feels.” I need to be open and allow feelings to come and go as they need to. It’s not easy, and some days I will have more sadness than happiness and that’s OK. At the same time I will allow a good day to be a good day. None of us who loved Heidi will ever “get over” losing her. We will carry her with us, buried in our hearts, forever. This is lovely but, I think there is room to carry her and to make new memories while we live and love again. As much as my friend loved the “Cabbie” game and forcing us to choose, for this one I think she might call it a tie. We don’t have to choose happiness or sadness. There is room for both.
Until next time…