and a lot of great input from all of you, I have come to some conclusions. I cannot solve every problem right now. I will never solve every problem. For each one that I solve, a new one will be created, maybe even 10 new ones.
I read about an experience that Brittany at Unexpected Surprises is in the middle of at this point in her life as a young mother. It reminded me of some very important promises I made to myself almost 6 years ago. As I had those things in my mind, and I continued to read through blogs, I read a post by Roxy and it really brought definition to what I was already considering.
Until April 21, 2002, I lived in the world of "when." When I get out of school, when my kids are older, when I pay off my car, when I lose weight, I will quit drinking when, I will lose weight when, I will get over my ex when, I will be OKAY when... Not a single one of those thought processes prepared me for When my Husband suddenly dies at age 27, leaving me a widow with his two year old daughter and 4 year old son.
Up until that moment, when I got the call that Thomas was gone, and it changed our lives forever, I had been dreaming of living. I had been judging everybody else in my life by the standards that I had dreamed that I was living by.
Thomas and I were separated. I had made him leave after he had pushed me (See Simply Complicated Me- A Story) and because of his own insecurities, he rushed off to the arms of another girl. I couldn't have been more relieved that he was going to be someone else's problem. All of the things that had kept us together- namely his ability to work hard and provide financially for us, and his love for his children, and my ability to justify all of our relational problems, his jealousy, his verbal abuse, along with my desire to fix him... were fading on my part. With two lives to be responsible for, his financial cushion was no longer enough to catch the emotional burdens that it created.
Immediately after our separation, I tried to continue along on my high horse, attempting to single handedly raise the kids. It didn't take long before I realized that I needed his help and that the kids needed his love. In being apart, we learned how to be parents that cooperated for our kids best interest. We became friends. We had many disagreements on what the other one was doing, and a spark of his jealousy still remained, but he learned to snuff it out for the sake of his kids.
When he died, it literally knocked life's wind out of me. I did not think I would recover. If I didn't have my kids, I wouldn't have, but I wouldn't have had the relationship with him, or the loss been the same, without them. I felt like I was given an opportunity to know my best friend, and to share a love for two little people that would forever remain unequaled, and then it was taken from me... from us. With no conscious choice at all, I stopped believing in God and the afterlife that very day. When my Grandpa, and last close loved one, the man that raised me, died 8 months later, I didn't have much more room for the pain or grief. I lived it, breathed it, and walked in it, every single day. I literally went through the motions for at least a year. I do not remember much of that year other than the exact particulars of the days leading up to and following both traumatic losses.
I had so much resentment that my stepgrandmother had taken my grandpa's things and wouldn't let me and my kids have ANY of them that I actually had my little brother break in their (now her) house, so that I could get them. (yes its true) I was so obsessed with why she would tell me that he had changed his life insurance policy over to her, after he had told me on his deathbed, that the $10,000 policy was all he had to leave behind for me and my kids- that I should pay off my car and buy some things we needed, that I rummaged through her papers, looking for the documents. I found out she had forged the request to have it changed, and I had been dwelling all year on how to make it right. It was so much easier to focus on things then it was to face the emotional loss.
When life kept happening around me and I realized, that my kids had in fact, lost both their parents, I started to make sense of it all. I was going to choose to live, damnit! I was going to take both of their lives, for every valuable second of them that the three of us were blessed enough to share with them, and I was going to learn every possible lesson I could from their existence and life. I would not let them be defined by the end of their days!
On the actual day that Thomas died, none of his things mattered at all. You could not have given me enough of anything to justify his death or make it ok. I lived in guilt at the things that I could enjoy. A cheeseburger, a song, a hug from our children. Why then, despite all of the pain that I lived in, for fear of enjoying anything he couldn't, did I want to cling to his THINGS?!?! They appeared to be the only thing left.
When I decided to pull myself from my grief cloud and to start looking for meaning and light in my own life, I realized that all of the things that really mattered, no one could take from me. My stepgrandma had almost everything my grandpa had owned. (besides the few things I had stolen) She had his car, the house he had raised me in, his clothes, his life insurance money. Guess what? I realized that SHE got the shit end of the deal! All of those things will eventually disappear. She cannot take them with her, and she is not enjoying them now. She is a rathcety old woman, greedy and lonely, living in that big empty house.
When it occurred to me, that I had really had what was most important all along, his TIME, I felt rich and full. When I realized that my kids got to spend the last year and a half knowing their Dad as a good man, not the dad that fought with mommy all of the time, and realized all of the hugs and smiles and love that they shared in that time, I realized that we were the most fortunate people in his life. While my stepgrandmother spent my grandpa's dying days working 10 hour days through her retirement, hoarding her money for his ultimate demise, we spent it with him. We were important enough to have Thomas' and my Grandpa's love and time, to experience their LIFE.
My stepgrandma has pictures of memories that we created while she was at work. She has money in the bank. I have memories of my grandpa holding my children, even when he was so weak he hardly could. I have memories of spending his money doing fun things, eating together, and being cared for. She was at home showering when he died, I was there, as his last gesture was a smile when he heard my children on the phone, and then he slipped away.
I made a choice 6 years ago. I was not going to give my kids things, I was going to give them my time. I walked away from my stepgrandma and chose never to set foot in that house again. She had taken away physical things of my grandfather's existence, but she could not ever take away my memories and I was not going to live out MY LIFE making bad memories fighting for the house or life insurance money. I have gone without, many many times since I lost those two wonderful men. She has watched me and my children struggle for shelter, heat, and food, all while living comfortably in his house. We are the lucky ones.
So I remind myself today of that most valuable of lessons that I learned. Out of habit, we still do not have a lot of things, but I see how that way of life is creeping back in, and I am allowing myself to think I am not good enough because I do not have this or that.
I sit here, listening to my own playlist because I have my page open from when I looked for the link earlier in the blog. During that year, when I was just going through the motions, I did not want my kids to exist in grief like I was, but I did not have the energy to reinforce what was good. I made each of them a CD to listen to at night. I put Angel's Among Us, Lullabye, The Voice Within, and Don't Stop Dancing, among some others, on their CD's to ease them to sleep while I was crying myself to sleep in silence.
I have the gift of life today. I have the abilty to love, to forgive, and to live without hatred or mailice, and I choose to value those things above material possessions.
My grandpa's life insurance would surely be gone by now. My car was repossessed after he died, but I am no less of a woman or a mother for it. When I think of the memories that mean so much to me, I do not think of the mess, I think of the fun making it. I do not think of my car, I think of the ride. I do not think of a picture, because I remember taking the picture or being in the picture and how we laughed or cried afterwords. When I think of Thomas and my Grandpa, I do not think of their things, I think of their life.
When I look at all of the things that I was venting about, with my again realized perspective, it is much easier to sort through what things matter to life and what things are just things. I am going to put my focus on living today and enjoying making memories. I am going to make a list of the other things, and make a commitment to do one a day. Just one.
I have come so far since losing them. I have made bad choices since then, and learned many more life lessons. I have lost everything and fought to get it back. I have overcome addiction, losing my children, and homelessness. My Grandpa and Thomas would be proud of how far I have come. I would not be where I am today without them, and I would not give back a second of the pain. I had to feel the pain to learn to let it go and embrace the message.
If I want my kids to value life, then I must value life. If I want to teach them to value things, then I must value things. Together we can have fun making messes, enjoying the ride, making memories, listening to the music, and living.