I left off with our final few days together but that still isn’t even close to present day so I figured I need to try to catch up while Bentley is enthralled with Mickey Mouse Clubhouse. I actually read an article today that has changed my outlook on my reality I guess you could say, and need to write while the passion is still there. Scratch that…I got this far before I had to feed him and he wanted to snuggle to sleep in my arms so I let that happen for obvious reasons. I’m starting now that he’s in bed! 🙂
I can comfortably say that the days after Lindsay passed were the 3 hardest days of my life. We had to seemingly immediately start to make arrangements for a visitation and funeral and my mind was still barely registering the fact that I was no longer going to wake up with Lindsay in my life, at least physically. We met with our funeral director on the day that Lindsay passed and planned for the visitation to be the following day. I think leaving the funeral home after that meeting was one of the hardest moments to date. I actually had to pull over and stop at an office parking lot on my way out of Fairbury to just have a moment to myself and let it out. I parked there in the lot by myself, staring into the sunset with an expressionless face, before I lost it. All the memories, the love, the yearning for one last kiss or hug, the perfume, the “mommy moments”, our vacations, the dancing, the laughing, the Bears games, the awesome parties, the shots, her candid beauty and our future plans for family were hammering my skull like a hammer from the inside. I cried until my eyes hurt, my head hurt and I was coughing from the hysterical breathing. I pulled myself together, pulled the car into drive and limped all the way home in silence. I got home and Bentley was there with my parents so I took him and held him tight, holding on to a piece of Lindsay. He was, and continues to be, one of the few things on Earth that keeps me going. The others being my family on both sides.
The day of the visitation was very hard and very long. We got there plenty early and people started showing up almost 40 minutes before the scheduled time. During the visitation that was to span from 4pm-7pm, I was able to sit down one time, at 6:47pm. The line was constant and huge, often weaving its way throughout the funeral home and sometimes even spilling outside. That showed how special Lindsay was. There were over 600 people in total that came to show their support and pay their respects to Lindsay and it couldn’t have been more perfect. Garth Brooks played in the background the entire time (for those of you don’t know of Lindsay’s love for Garth….let’s just say she told me a million times that she’d leave me in a second for him…I countered with Carrie Underwood. 🙂 ) and the pictures and flowers were littered with purple, her favorite color, and perfect memories of her life. Lindsay touched each and every one of our hearts, if you had the pleasure of meeting her. She was one of those people in life that you may only see once every 4-5 years but you pick up like you had only been apart for 4-5 minutes. She was selfless, welcoming, loving and genuine with everyone she met and the support showed people recognized how special she was. Thank you to everyone who came out to pay your respect, it was beautiful and she would have loved to know how many of you cared. Thank you to my Aunt Sara, Tori and Becky for providing refreshments for our families during the visitation as well!
The day of the funeral marked Bentley turning 4 months. December 22nd will always be a very difficult day for me but there were some things that happened that day that are just too beautiful to ignore and thus make the day a little more bearable. We held the service at the Trinity Lutheran Church in Fairbury and it was perfect. Pastor Tom did an amazing job, truly capturing Lindsay’s personality and passion for life with his sermon. I really, really appreciated his unannounced utilization of my blog posts in the eulogy/sermon that he delivered. It gave a very special touch and I will remember it and have a place for those words in my heart, forever. I think the most amazing thing of the service was that Sam and I were able to get through our eulogies! Haha Any of you that know Sam know that she is very shy in front of large crowds and knowing her love for Linds, I knew she’d have a hard time. She got through hers relatively unscathed so I knew I had to try to troop through mine. If you’d asked me before I delivered my eulogy, “what are the chances you get through without stopping for an extended period of time or having someone else finish for you?” I would have given you an 80% chance! Ha! However, I could just feel her with me up there, telling me to “Cut the speech short, we don’t need another 26 minute speech like you had for Kevin’s wedding!” Haha She never let me live that down and I laugh to myself now, thinking back on it…I could almost feel her breath from the words, they were so clear! Anyway, I had to stop a few times but I made it through and I’m proud of the final words I was able to say about my beloved wife and I know she would be too. We proceeded to make our way to the Avoca Township Cemetery after the service to lay Lindsay to rest. This is where the day took a turn for me.
As Bentley and I stood near the casket as Pastor Tom delivered his final prayer and said some nice things, Bentley started to fuss. If you were there, surely you heard the only baby there start to cry. It was as though he was crying out to Lindsay, letting her know he was there and didn’t want to let her go and it tore my heart up but then IT happened. What is IT? Well, after the prayer was done and Pastor Tom dismissed us, I stood up with Bentley in my arms and proceeded to the casket to give her one last kiss and I wanted to lay his cheek onto the casket so she could give him one last kiss. I bent down and kissed her one last time and then as I lay his cheek down to her casket I remembered thinking “Do NOT let him spit that pacifier out on the ground, I don’t have a spare in the diaper bag”. He had other plans.
Bentley not only spit his paci out, but he spit it in just a way that it bounced off of my suit coat and right down into Lindsay’s grave!
My heart swelled up and I closed my eyes and held him tight, I could just feel her there with us, smiling at him and telling him thank you for such an amazing gift. Bentley just wanted his Mommy to have his paci, forever. 🙂
We then went back to the church for a delicious meal from Dave’s, thanks Deb and RB! From there the day turned into a celebration of her life. Bentley made his usual rounds, flirting with the girls and getting plenty of snuggles from everyone! After a long, long day we went and got the flowers from the visitation from Deb and RB’s house and brought some down to my house to display in various spots. The candles, statues and other decor are spread all throughout my house and it is a daily reminder of the love people had for Linds! 🙂
From that day until Christmas, things got a little bit better by the day but Christmas was hard for a few obvious reasons. It’s hard to explain the emptiness you feel by losing someone who means so much to you and is so close to you. Anyone that’s gone through it will know what I mean. You know how you are doing things around the house or mentally making notes on things you need to get done around the house or errands that need to be done and then you wake up and think “man, I KNOW I’m forgetting something”? Well imagine that feeling but that it’s a person. I just didn’t feel complete, really missing her on the rides to Fairbury and then from Fairbury to Minonk. I found myself wanting to share my thoughts or jokes or just to chat with her, but I couldn’t and that hurt really, really bad. I had a really hard time from Fairbury to Minonk because she would have been over the moon happy with his gifts from her parents and Jon and Becky for Bentley and we would’ve talked about how loved he was and how grateful we are for him and our lives together. Yet again, all these conversations played in my head like they were very much happening in real life but they weren’t. I just knew her so well that I could feel the words coming out of her mouth and it was killing me with each syllable. Thankfully we made it to Minonk without issue, Bentley fast asleep in his car seat behind me. I drove to the FS fuel station in Minonk and sat there for a few minutes, collecting myself and refocusing my mind on the day. It was Christmas and despite not having Lindsay with us physically, she was most definitely there in spirit and she loved Christmas so I had to be happy and so I headed towards my parents’ house to watch Bentley (and myself) get even more spoiled with love and gifts. I couldn’t imagine going through all of this without my family (on both sides) and it was about the only thing that got me through that day. Their love and support made an awful day turn into a great day of celebration.
From that day on, life has gone on. It hasn’t been easy, it hasn’t been fun at times, I’ve cried a lot…like I am right now…but life did just that; it went on. If we go back to the beginning of this battle and all throughout our theme was one day at a time and I had learned that that approach applied even to this day. There are the stupidest, littlest things that remind me of her and take me to my knees in heartache. The decor she put up, her stupid orange pants :), the memories of her in the dresses that hung in our closet, her perfume lying around, makeup stains on our room carpeting near her vanity, her choice in towels, just stupid insignificant stuff that had so many memories attached to them. That’s the thing that nobody tells you; you can handle the “big” things like the physical absence or the larger objects that you bought together, like a house or car. Turn around and put a picture of us together in Napa, CA in my hand and I’d lose it. Those memories are what a relation is made of, for me at least. We loved to travel and seeing the things scattered throughout the house that we brought back from these trips just take me back to that time, mentally, and it’s hard.
Then there is the greatest thing to ever happen to Lindsay or to myself, Bentley. Bentley makes each day bearable. He is truly an amazing little dude. He’s gone through 5 rounds of chemo, came 5 weeks and 4 days early, spent 5 days in the NICU but he just keeps on showing that same strength and resiliency that his Mom had. He has been so chameleon since day one, mostly out of necessity, that he makes every situation so much easier in how easily he adapts. He sleeps like a champ, poops like a champ, eats like a champ and keeps growing. He’s still tiny, but he continues to grow! They were worried about his hearing and eyesight because of the chemo but he’s had no issues with that and I can’t help but think that his continued health has something to do with his guardian Angel looking over him now. He is my best little friend, he’s my little sidekick, my football, baseball and hockey buddy (his first game he watched was Arrieta’s no-hitter against LAD!) and he is my inspiration to be the best Daddy and role model I can be. He wakes up so happy each day and he has made it very clear he knows who I am with his talking and smiles when I get around him after a long day without him at work. Just writing this now makes me want to go scoop him out of his crib and snuggle him! Haha He is my whole world, I would do anything for him and I promise to fulfill all of the promises Lindsay had me make to her about him throughout his entire life. He will never forget who his Mommy is and he will always know her story and how awesome she was.
Now for some sentimental stuff that is probably going to be hard for you to read, as I know it’ll be hard to write. I read an article today that addressed some very sensitive and fresh wounds that I carry. Life after Lindsay. We fortunately had time to talk before she passed about life without one another. We talked about Heaven and how wonderful it would be and how great it will be when we eventually meet again. We also talked about my life here, possibly without her, and it tore my heart apart. Each word was a struggle, I didn’t want to accept that reality. She spoke about how it upset her to know that there is a real possibility that Bentley will call someone else Mommy. It hurt her to know that she probably wouldn’t get to help mold him into the man he is intended to be. Lastly, it devastated her to know that she would most likely leave me widowed at such a young age, trying to pick myself up, glue the pieces back together and be a good single Daddy to our son. She didn’t want me to have another woman in my life, as that wasn’t the way it was supposed to be but she knew that was selfish and silly. She ultimately wanted me to be happy and she made that very clear. She said that she wanted me to find someone to be a good wife to me and a great Mom to Bentley, even though the thought of that destroyed her inside. That was one of the more difficult conversations I’d ever had in my life.
I don’t want to move on; I never will move on. Lindsay and I met for a reason. The love that we had was a flame, a beacon of light that most people can only dream of in their lifetimes. Our passion and love burned so bright and strong for one another that anyone could see it. We had a happily-ever-after kind of love. A once-in-a-lifetime kind of love. We found each other on Match.com and rode off into the sunset, never looking back. We had the house, the cars, a son, dogs and our future was so, so very bright. Then this ugly disease came in and destroyed everything we had in 9 months; or so I thought. As time has gone on I’ve realized 2 main things.
1. Cancer took her physical presence but didn’t touch anything else.
2. I will never move on. Ever, and you know what? That’s ok.
The memories are what define our relationships. When it comes down to it, the happiest times in our lives become etched in our minds and the tiniest of things will take us back to those moments as though they happened just a few seconds before. I look at those orange pants I mentioned before that she owned and it leads to memories of the 4 Bears games that we went to, her proudly wearing them to each game after she bought them. The wine glass in our glass cabinet behind me takes me back to our time at a small, romantic table in the middle of a vineyard on a hilltop in Napa, CA, the sound of Garth Brooks on the radio takes me back to her singing it loudly in our car as we drove down the road, insanely happy with our lives and how they’d turned out. Memories are what life is about.
Stop wasting your time living to work when you can work to live.
Stop making excuses on why you can’t take that vacation or why you can’t afford an experience for your child. Grab ahold of life by the neck and hang on. Get out and see the world, visit the places that you “always wanted to go to”, take your kid to Disney when they ask to see Mickey Mouse…even when it means standing in line for 3 freaking hours for 4 minutes of Mickey time! Haha Go see the national parks, take road trips with no destination, make sure you put your feet in both oceans in your lifetime. Life is way too short and volatile to live it with trepidation. Go out and live your life and stop making excuses and saying “I wish I would’ve ______”.
Lastly, I will never move on. Ever. It just cannot happen. Lindsay is, and always will be, a huge part of Bentley and I’s lives. She will always be his Mommy and she will always be a part of me and that’s ok. That said, the article I read earlier had a saying in it that hit me like a Mack truck.
“I’m not moving on, I’m moving forward.”
I’m not moving on from Lindsay. As I said, I simply cannot. Our love was so special and when you love someone like that they become a part of you, a part that cannot be taken away no matter how hard you or anyone else tries to make that happen. The memories of her are as much a part of me as any memory I have with my family. Those things just don’t leave you, they can’t. That said, that doesn’t mean that I can’t give that same kind of love to someone else or create just as awesome of memories with my next wife. When I find the right one, and I know I will, she will understand what I’m talking about because she’ll have to be sensitive and understanding of my situation. I will reassure her in words but more importantly, in action, that I can give her the same commitment I gave to Lindsay while allowing my love for Lindsay and the memories to remain. What I can do, is I can move forward. I can move forward from this awful, awful situation toward the future. Lindsay wanted me to do that and she wants Bentley to have the best life possible. She knows that means that he should have a motherly influence growing up and she said over and over again that she trusted that I’d make the right decision. I know the right decision is to move forward. I will carry her love, her memories and she will forever be a huge part of my life. At the same time, I will move forward and make memories and share that love with someone else in due time. I am not ready yet, I don’t know when that will come but when it does, I will know. Grief is a funny thing, it has made me do way more introspection that I ever anticipated. I started to really think about “adult” things, my life, Bentley’s life…basically “taking stock” of things, as that article from earlier put it. When I think about those things, I have a lot I want to work on for myself and for Bentley before I’m ready to move forward WITH someone. For now, it’s a boys only clubhouse (I put that in there for B…clearly he loves clubhouses) and will be until I’m ready to give myself wholly again. Next post will have more stories about Bentley and I in it, as there has been a lot happen between her passing and now, but this is all I have in me for now.
I will never move on from you, Lindsay, ever. You will be a part of my story and Bentley’s story until we pass on to the Heavenly gates with you. My love for you will remain and I’ll always be grateful to have had you in my life for the bright, burning moment in time that you were. You taught me more about myself in 3 years than I had taught myself in 26 years and that makes me smile. Bentley will never have the chance to fully understand what he lost after just 119 days with you, but I promise with every ounce of me that I will keep your memory, your story and your love alive when I talk to him. However, as sad and shitty as this entire last month or so has been, Life. Goes. On. There’s been times when it seemed like it wouldn’t, times when the next hurdle seemed insurmountable but guess what? The sun set and then rose again and a new day began. At some point I realized I had to take my own advice and realize that I determine my approach to the day, I determine my mood and how I feel about that day. I’m nowhere near over grieving, as the tears and headache from them that I have right now is indicative but I’m realizing it’s time to try to move forward. It’s ok to feel that way, she would have wanted it that way. 🙂
When I wake up tomorrow, I’m going to do just like everyone else. I’m going to get up and get dressed and put one foot in front of the other and move forward, one step at a time.