2017… Who knew four little numbers could bring about so many mixed emotions.
As I quickly approach the start of a new year, I can’t help but to think back and reflect on what a life altering year it’s been. When I look back at 2017, I see two completely separate lives joined by one horribly painful event. The first 185 days of 2017 were spent loving, supporting, and fighting for my husband and best friend as he continued to fight for his life. There were countless doctor’s appointments, tests, blood transfusions, chemo treatments, hospitals stays, and worst of all… too many conversations with doctors and loved ones about how my husband was going to die. In March I was told to quickly prepare to lose him, and then again in May, but he came back fighting harder every time. Despite how bleak it looked, we hoped for a miracle that would allow us to grow old and grey together. In late June I had the most painful conversation of my life as Brandon told me that he was ready to stop treatment and go home; and on July 4th, I said the most heartbreaking goodbye in the moments before his last breath. When I walked out of the hospital that night without him by my side, my life was forever changed.
The last 180 days of 2017 have been spent trying to navigate and adapt to life in a world that I haven’t lived in for a very long time, a world without emergency ER visits, lab reports, clinical trials, medication schedules, and a world without Brandon. Everything that was normal and constant in my life was completely ripped away and replaced with an existence that I didn’t recognize or understand. I spent the first weeks following his death wandering around looking for something to do or someone to take care of, because I had completely forgotten what it was like to do anything else. The thought of continuing forward with my life was terrifying and paralyzing because I couldn’t see anything other than the life I had always envisioned without my best friend by my side. But every day I heard a little voice in the back of my head, Brandon’s voice, telling me that I had to keep going and that I had to keep living my life.
In the beginning, it was all for him, my heart just wasn’t in it. I channeled my inability to take care of him into a drive to keep the last promises that I had made. Little by little, I pushed myself to get out there and to do things that made me feel like I was alive again. It felt so good to laugh, to feel the sun on my face, to be challenged physically, and to reconnect with people. I took a huge leap of faith when I left to travel alone for 2 months, and when I came home, I was nothing like the girl that had left. Through so many incredible places and experiences, I had reignited my spark and I had found my joy for living. Finally, the world started to look beautiful again. For the first time in a while, I started to feel hopeful about my future and excited to simply be alive. I realized that although this wasn’t the life I had wanted or prayed for, it could still be embraced and enjoyed, and it could still be beautiful.
Brandon gave me the most beautiful gift during those painful talks about how my life would be after he was gone. When I would cry and express that I didn’t think I could be strong enough to go on, he always smiled, encouraged me, and told me that someday I would be okay. He had the most gentle words of love and support about my life moving forward. He made it very clear that he wanted me to keep living and he never let these conversations end until I had promised to do the same. His words have resounded in my head for the last 180 days of 2017, helping me to keep going, through every moment that I just wanted to give up. And I have to keep going, because now I’m not just living for myself, I’m living for him too.
So as I sit here looking into 2018, life has never been more uncertain… but it’s never been more beautiful either. This year I’m viewing life through a whole different lens as I continue to discover who I am and where I want to go. I have hope and excitement for new people, places, and experiences as I strive to truly live this year more fully and deeply than any year before. 2018 is a year for living life to the fullest, and I know that little voice in my head will be cheering me on every step of the way.