It makes me so mad that literally everyday there’s some EXTRA reminder that my daughter fought cancer and died. Like I don’t think about it all day everyday and just need another needle in my heart. I hate that I don’t get to choose when something is going to pop out and slap me in the face. I hate that I’ll tear up over something little and really I’m ok but, my body says ‘No, you’re going to sob for 30 minutes and nothing you do can stop it!’ I didn’t choose this grief and IT. MAKES. ME. SO. MAD. That I don’t get to choose when and how I grieve.
Today was supposed to be super fun and it was….until it wasn’t. Every year, the first weekend of May is a big country music BBQ festival in Tyler. We love it. All of our friends go, we get to eat tons of delicious BBQ, listen to our favorite Texas Country, and be together. Last year, we went and my mom came and babysat our (we thought) healthy Soph. Last year, we were having some of our last happy and normal moments and we had no idea. Last year, we were 11 days from cancer and 8 months from the worst day of our lives…..and no one saw it coming.
May has always been one of my favorite months. Jonathan’s Birthday, my mom’s birthday, Mother’s Day, and the end of the school year all happen in May! And then we added diagnosis day to that. That’s been on my mind a lot lately but, I really wanted to have fun today and then face Mother’s Day next week. But my brain had different plans. Most of the day was great! Then I just hit my limit-and anyone who has experienced profound grief knows what limit I mean. I hit the ‘being around a bunch of happy people’ limit. We can do it for awhile and genuinely have fun but, once the limit is reached, there’s no recovering…it’s just time to go home.
I know I’m at that limit when I tear up and can’t blink it away. When the big crocodile tears just fall from my eyeballs out of nowhere and nothing can stop them. It’s just-oh hey you’re sad now, sorry about ruining your day. So, I hid behind my sunglasses, told Jonathan it was time to go, and started power walking to the car. Once in the car, I felt better. I had space to breathe. Now we are home, under blankets, watching basketball and that’s ok. I listened to my limit.
At least we looked cute in public for a few hours.
Another example of being blindsided by grief: a few weeks ago I scheduled a long overdue dentist appointment. Why was it overdue? Because my last cleaning was in February before Sophie was diagnosed. I had to explain to the dentist (who was super kind by the way) that the reason I missed my August appointment is because I was in Dallas with my daughter trying to get her rehabbed for a stem cell transplant. And then the whole story spilled out. He was so sweet and listened and teared up as he said he was so sorry and he patted my arm and asked if he could do anything extra for me today. I appreciated that so much.
As if that experience wasn’t enough, as I’m sitting in the waiting room waiting for my hygienist, a song comes on. Not just a song that makes me sentimental and not just a sad song. Oh no, THE song that was playing in that hospital room on January 4th at 2:11pm when my baby took her last breath. The song that I had been actively avoiding until I was ready to listen to it on my own terms. That right there-was my limit for that day and had nowhere to retreat to so I just cried in the full dentist waiting room. People stared, I sobbed, and a sweet employee came and took me to an empty exam room.
Sometimes I cry grocery shopping. Birthday candles, applesauce, mac-n-cheese, the baby aisle, bananas, oatmeal, yogurt….they were all her favorites and they all make me cry. The store by our house probably thinks I’m either famous or crazy because I shop with sunglasses on fairly often.
Butterflies, Disney characters, little girls with brown hair……she’s everywhere. It makes me so mad but at the same time I’m so thankful for the reminders. I’m thankful for the blindside hit and the slap in the face. I’m thankful for my limits. They are reminders that she was real. She was important. And she was mine. So, I’ll keep trying to fit into my new normal-even though that normal changes weekly. And I’ll keep reminding myself that when I can’t do it-when I hit the limit-that I have a BIG God to hand it all to. I don’t have to force a smile or tie a pretty bow around it. I don’t have to apologize for being sad or worry if I make others uncomfortable. I’ll keep giving myself the grace to just feel what I feel, when I feel it. Joy, sadness, rage, fear, guilt, love, loneliness, hope, gratitude…..she’s worth it all.