Seems longer than that. Seems like the months and years leading up to that last one were a blur, a speck in time. A fight that kept us swinging and one that never let us believe that we would lose. We knew the statistics and they kept us honest, but we never thought we’d end up anywhere but on the good side of those numbers.
Those last few weeks are still with me in surprising detail. The last few days and hours will never leave me. Not ever.
Last night I was reading through her Facebook account and some of the posts people made on their own sites about Dawn, and a common theme was the relative surprise with which she left us. People just didn’t realize how far along she was and how bad her health had gotten. She didn’t want people to feel bad for her. She wanted them to heed her words and remember her fight and she wanted her strength to be her legacy. She wanted her happiness and attitude about her life to be what she left with you when she passed.
The fact is, what she never said, what she never allowed to get her down, was that she felt cheated by life. Some days she would gather all her strength just to get down the stairs to the couch to be there with her boys. She’d push aside what ailed her in favor of sharing any happiness she could with anyone. She worried more about others’ bad days than she did about her own. She did whatever it took to keep her friends happy, her family optimistic, and her business open.
None of this was a burden on her. It was just her way.
I don’t look with sadness at the pictures that still decorate our house that show her smiling face. I don’t see a hospice bed in my living room anymore. I often think about the conversations we were lucky enough to have time for that made my new life so much easier to walk through. That being said, I will never forget how she breathed in those last few days.
I remember her smile. I remember asking her if she wanted everyone to leave that last weekend when all the cousins came over and she told me “I’d rather have them here than not here, no matter how I feel.” That statement alone changed my life. She couldn’t stay awake for more than an hour at a time, but her life was growing short and she wanted that time to be spent with those who mattered most to her.
There were probably times in the months that followed that people thought that the old me was lost forever. I struggled a lot in everything I did. I was suddenly a single father, I was suddenly a business owner, and I wanted nothing more than for everyone to leave me alone to find my way and anyone to come hold my hand and guide me through. At some point the tide turned and I took back my life and steered it in a direction I wanted it to go. I met a wonderful woman who has wonderful kids and I almost feel guilty for having this feeling a second time in my life. I’ve grown as a person, a father, a man. I’m still worried every second about my boys but they are doing well. We’ve found our way.
And we still miss her like crazy.