My social media feeds are full of people wishing farewell to 2019.
So many of the people I know found the last year hard, and I’m no different — 2019 was certainly the hardest year of my life so far. I definitely used to be one to say good riddance to a year that seemed filled with more heartache than joy.
But I’m not here for that anymore. Because no matter how hard the last twelve months were, I still got to live them and, for better or worse, they taught me a lot.
In the last year I learned I am stronger than I ever could have imagined. I learned that life really does go on. No matter your tragedy, no matter your grief, you still have to take out the trash and comb your daughter’s hair and get your oil changed and make dinner and unload the dishwasher and fold the laundry.
And sometimes, when you feel like you can’t take another breath, those little things are everything. Because they mean you are putting one foot in front of the other, that you are moving and living in spite of it all. ￼
I learned that kids will make you laugh and help you feel love and joy even when it feels as though your heart’s been ripped from your chest. I learned they will take the biggest, hardest news and trust what you are saying about it. That if they really believe you think it will all be ok, they will think so, too.
I learned how much I love my husband. I learned that by picturing my life without him, by having to really think about what my existence would be without him in it. Those thoughts are so painful they make it so I can’t breathe, and I learned I have to live with them.
I learned what one day at a time means. What being present means. How to focus on this moment right here, right now because the next one is not guaranteed.
And I learned to have a new appreciation for the fact that, even before this, forever was not mine. That it doesn’t belong to any of us. And some days that knowledge brings me a small bit of peace.
I learned the universe can be cruel and can make you question everything.
I mean, I had a stroke at 35 and my husband was diagnosed with ALS at 37. I’ve spent some time shaking my figurative fist at god and wondering what I did in some past life to deserve all this in this one.
But I learned that the universe can also be beautiful in tragedy, that it will let you know you still matter, that you have a place and that there are people — whether those who are still here or those who have gone — who are looking out for you.
Like when we realized the company running Chris’ clinical trial is headquartered literally next door to his first apartment in Boston. Or when we had to go to the emergency room in Concord, N.H., while on our summer vacation because Chris had spent four days flat on his back with a lumbar headache from the spinal tap he gets in the trial. Our ER doctor came in and asked us what was wrong. We explained about the trial and that we lived in Canada. She told us she was from Calgary. And that she grew up in the neighborhood next to ours. And that she went to the middle school directly behind our house.
And because of all that, I learned I don’t believe in coincidences.
Every Christmas I make my kids photo books from their last year of life. They go month by month, and looking through all the photos this year was hard. In pictures from the month we found out about Chris’ diagnosis you can see in our eyes how desperately sad we were, but even with those heavy, tired, bloodshot eyes, we are smiling. We are riding bikes through Stanley Park in Vancouver and eating ice cream and playing at the playground and swimming and watching our son play baseball.
And so even after my hardest, most tear-filled year of life I can see all the good in these last twelve months. I can see how I learned and how I grew. I can see how I grieved and how I loved and, most of all, I can see how I lived.
To learn more about our story, go here: https://www.nhl.com/flames/news/dear-hockey-family/c-312763286
To donate to ALS research in Chris’ name, follow this link: http://uom.convio.net/goto/chrissnow