I didn’t want to celebrate this day.
I honestly didn’t even want to participate in it.
I wanted to distract myself enough to believe that somehow life now simply skips from October 11 to October 13, and then we could all just go another year without acknowledging that we are now living in year two without you. We could just pretend that it was still year one, and that that’s all we would ever have to face. One year. One year without you.
After all, we are kind of conditioned to only do crappy things for a year.
Sign a lease for an apartment and then realize that there was a big reason it was discounted so much? Stick it out a year, then you can move.
Don’t love the college you chose? Just give it a year, if you still don’t like it, you can transfer.
But here I am coming up upon the anniversary of the day that started an incredibly difficult year, and I don’t really get to move out of it when that year is completed. My mind can’t exactly wrap around that fact.
I can’t grasp the complexity of a whole life of this pain, a constant aching without a set end date. I can’t grasp an infinite missing of you. I can’t grasp the fact that I will never hear your laugh, or feel your arms, or watch you dance your goofy made-up move, the wiggalo, ever again.
I can’t grasp that life without you is just life now. And it will still be that way tomorrow, and the next month, and the next year, and for the rest of my life.
So I didn’t want to celebrate today. I was actually pretty adamantly against any form of celebration whatsoever. I didn’t have any interest in celebrating death, especially not yours.
But then I remembered the words that we always repeated to each other when good days fell in bad seasons- when birthdays landed in the middle of chemo weeks or adverse reactions landed us in the hospital over the holidays.
I remembered the three words that we would take turns saying, depending on who God granted the strength in that moment.
“We always celebrate.”
Some celebrations took place in steak houses with perfectly cooked filet (yours a hockey puck, mine still mooing), and others took place on our couch with Pizza Hut and two buck chuck, and some of the most testing celebrations took place snuggled together in a too-small hospital bed with champagne flutes of Gatorade as we dreamed of futures that felt both so close and so far away.
No matter the season, no matter the occasion, we did not let life go uncelebrated because at the root of our life was love, so much love, and love should never go uncelebrated.
So then what do I have to celebrate today? That’s what kept going through my mind when people asked what I was going to do on this day, or how I was going to honor it. What do I have to celebrate on the anniversary of the day that you left me? What do I have to celebrate on the day that the vows I intended to keep for my whole life, were completed early? (Yeah, I bet you forgot the agreement we had that I get to go first, but I didn’t.) What do I have to celebrate on the anniversary of the day that my love story, our love story, came to a shattering close?
And what I finally got to… what I finally decided was worth celebrating, is the epilogue.
My love, to forget the epilogue, the ‘what came after’ for you, would be doing you a grave injustice. As the wife, the widow, the one left behind, I was so oblivious to anything but my pain in the moment, my empty ache of watching the thing I dreaded more than anything in the world happen before my own eyes. I was so caught up in my own loss that I missed your victory.
That’s the most unnatural thing about losing your spouse. For your whole marriage, their victories are your victories, but that becomes so disguised in the moment of their death, because for the first time, their victory feels like your loss.
But it wasn’t. Isn’t. We win together. We always have. And then we celebrate.
So today, I’m going to celebrate. I won’t celebrate death, because death was not your reality on that day, it was not your epilogue. Instead, I’m going to celebrate your life, your freedom, your victory.
On this day a year ago, you won.
On this day, you brought a four-year battle, a 25-year battle, to a close, a victory.
On this day, any sight Satan set on your life from the moment of your conception, any plan he attempted to set into action, any strategy to claim your heart resulted in his complete and eternal failure. It resulted in your complete and eternal victory.
On this day a year ago, your battle was over, and your heart was claimed, and now nothing can ever touch you again.
Not fear, not cancer, not evil. You’re free.
This day marks the anniversary of your healing, your new body, your new home, your ultimate victory.
And I know days don’t mean as much up there…. They don’t need to. You don’t need to celebrate today, because you celebrate every day… just like we tried so hard to do down here.
But this day still means something to me, because it still has to. Because I still have choices. And my choice today is to either mope in my loss or celebrate your win.
So today, I celebrate.
I celebrate you, my love, my friend. I celebrate the life we made together, the many celebrations we fit into an incredibly limited number of days. I celebrate six and a half years of being your girl. I celebrate the honor of carrying you with me for the rest of my life.
Today, I celebrate your victory. And as your wife… I also celebrate my victory.
After all, we always celebrate.