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Will You Stay Five Forever?

“Will you stay five forever?”

“Ummm…sure. But on my happy birthday I will turn six. How can I stay five?” His brown eyes squinted shut as he giggled in my lap.

I never understood mothers who wished their children would stay small. Watching them grow and learn new things at each stage of life has been enjoyable and rewarding. I’ve never wanted time to slow down. In fact, there were a few seasons I wanted to fast forward through. When the grocery store grannies would stop me with my cartful of children to tell me “the years fly by” and to “treasure them while they are young”, I would smile and nod, but walk away rolling my eyes in disagreement.

I’m not rolling my eyes anymore.

If freezing time were an option, I would pay money to stop Lincoln right now. Five is absolutely my favorite year for him, though I cannot give you a specific reason. More like a bunch of little things wrapped up in 365 days.

For starters, he still adores his mommy and thinks daddy can fix anything. Everything he learns at school is the coolest thing and his teacher is the smartest person on the planet.

Five is when I started to see his talents and abilities emerge. He’s always been a curious kid but watching his creativity bloom has been wonderful. He can’t remember to put dirty clothes in the hamper, but can recall the details of any story you tell him.

At Christmastime he is the poster child for excitement. And he cries huge tears when his little brother kills an insect outside. He is hands down the funniest of all our children, and he doesn’t even try. His wit and humor come naturally and he makes us laugh every single day.

But maybe one of the reasons I want him to stay five is because my father died the year he was born. Every birthday is another year further away from the time I had with my dad. Sometimes when I look at his face, my heart feels both joy and sorrow.

The reality is, I cannot freeze or rewind time. Neither can you. The years will keep coming and we must learn to embrace the changes as they come.

I’m trying to be more intentional about enjoying every part of the journey. Even in the moments that are hard, crazy and exhausting. When there’s puke in the car seat, the bathtub is overflowing and a bowlful of spaghetti gets dropped on the floor. Instead of wishing the hard days away, we can choose to remember them and appreciate the great days even more.

The years really did go quickly for my little man. I blinked and he was walking. Then making up jokes. Now he’s building Lego sets and learning to read.

Soon he’ll be driving away, starting a career, and falling in love. And I’ll be the granny in the store telling young mothers “the years really do fly by”.

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When Winter Comes

The other day I was so grumpy. Not just normal mom grumps. I’m talking super emotional, easily irritated, I shouldn’t be around people grumpy. One rotten day turned into several. By the end of the third day I started getting on my own nerves.

Then I remembered. It’s winter. I get this way every winter. Because daddy died in the winter.

It’s normal and acceptable to grieve during holidays, birthdays, or major events. Surprisingly, I do pretty well on those. They have a specific date. I know they are coming and I am able to prepare myself emotionally for the sadness. Seasons don’t arrive that way. They slowly creep in until suddenly I’m in a sour mood and can’t quite put my finger on why. Maybe I should put a reminder in next year’s calendar. “Heads up. It’s almost winter. You aways get in a funk around this time.”

Grief experts say there are stages of grief: shock, denial, bargaining, denial, guilt, anger, sadness/depression, and acceptance/hope. I don’t identify with all these stages. I was never in shock or denial of his passing. We knew going to heaven was an upgrade his body desperately needed. I definitely didn’t try to make any bargains with God. (What would I bargain with anyway?)

But I do feel guilt. Because I didn’t have my children sooner. He jokingly begged me to have babies and I wanted to wait.

I feel anger. Because I wasn’t done making memories and learning everything he knew. And my children won’t grow up knowing the man who taught me everything I know. Holidays meant to bring joy are now marked with a hint of bittersweet because he isn’t here.

Sadness is the hardest stage. Indescribable sadness. My heart misses him so much it actually feels heavy.¬†When my oldest child sees his picture on the staircase she says, “PawPaw” and it pulls the trigger on sadness because she was the only one he ever held.

After daddy’s funeral, a dear friend told me there is no timeline or checklist for grief. This really bothered me because checklists are my fave. I was not prepared for the circle of grief because it never, ever ends. Like a roller coaster that loops and twists, it’s a ride you didn’t ask to be on and can’t ever get off.

There have been a few times my mom has asked me, “Why does it still hurt so much? I thought I would feel better by now.” I tell her we won’t ever totally feel better because we won’t ever stop loving him.

If you are grieving, I’m sorry. I am not an expert on grief by any means, but I will offer some advice:

  • Whatever stage of grief you find yourself in today, fully embrace those feelings. If you want to cry all afternoon, do it. If you’re angry, throw a plate.
  • Don’t fake it. Let the people close to you see your raw emotions. They can listen. (Or buy you more plates.)
  • Keep the memories alive. Look at pictures, watch videos, tell stories. It might feel worse before it feels better, but it will get better.
  • Love the ones who are still around. When you love and serve others, it helps fill some of the void death created.

Where I live, winter isn’t going anywhere for awhile. It’s going to be long and harsh and I cannot wish it away. But spring will come.

Hope will too.

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