Yesterday was my wedding anniversary. Is that how I say that now? It used to be my wedding anniversary? Grief brings with it a whole new bag of verb tenses and extra words that don’t quite roll off your tongue well at first. “Late” in front of husband and “was” instead of is are things you hesitate with at first but slowly become the word you reach for more easily. But yesterday wasn’t a grief day because of friends.
I saw the date on the calendar a few days out. This would have been 21 years. I didn’t want to set myself up for it to be a bad day in general but I wanted to be ready so it wasn’t. My friend, Kottie, understood that. Her father died a year before Kraig and she has helped her mom get used to these words and these milestones. She offered to be what I needed—company. No sad shakes of her head or what I like to call the “pity tilt.” The pity tilt usually looks like this: head tilted to one side, sad smile affixed, and the “How you doin’?” tossed in. It might also be accompanied by a well-meaning hand rub against your arm and the head bobbing a bit up and down. Note to readers: the pity tilt is not welcome when someone is having a day without grief. The pity tilt has a shelf life of about the first few weeks after a loss. After that, beware the tilt.
Kottie had none of that. She just offered to hang out so that I wasn’t alone with the kids on what should have been another celebration only it’s not. With her I could cry if I needed to or just have a Seinfeld-ian conversation—i.e. talking about nothing.
I scheduled a full day. I learned early on this keeps me from becoming morose. I’m not hiding but I’m also choosing how my day will go instead of letting grief choose it for me. In the morning I needed to grocery shop and in the afternoon I needed to get my hair colored and cut so I look fantastic for my conference next week. In between, I took my girls to play with Kottie’s kids and talked to her about nothing and everything while she decorated a cake. That’s what she does—makes amazing cakes for all occasions right out of her kitchen. She even lets me eat cake scraps and lick the icing off a spatula. Sublime.
We had a good laugh that I had also come over on my birthday last month and she’d made me a “grief birthday cake.” It consisted of cake scraps—the cuttings off the top to make the cake flat—slapped onto a plate with a scoop of buttercream just dropped on top. She was up to her eyeballs making two wedding cakes and felt bad she couldn’t make me a real one. But we both laughed when she said, “Hey, this one kind of represents the year you’ve had so.…” Her mom thinks she might be onto a new market in grief cakes. I love that she can laugh with me.
Later a friend I made in MOPS who cuts my hair did an amazing color. I was splurging here. A beautiful, multifaceted highlight and lowlight color is not in my normal budget. Covering the greys usually involves a box I got at Walmart for eight bucks. But Shayla does an amazing job and my hair will look great for my trip next week.
I also decided that as close as my trip is, working on my book on grief was NOT a good idea on this day. Today was a day for a break, not reliving things.
After running errands and heading home to make dinner for the kids, I realized I did want to do something that night. Kottie and Chelsea had offered and I decided I didn’t want to just sit home. The kids were all enjoying a down day and said they’d be fine if I met up with friends so I texted Chelsea. She agreed that chips n’ salsa somewhere sounded amazing and she’d be by to get me as soon as she got presentable. She texted Kottie and our impromptu escape was on.
Chelsea accidentally chose the restaurant where Kraig and I celebrated our anniversary last year. But I realized I was OK. It was just a place. I would choose to focus on this moment not the ghosts of what were. The evening was beautiful and we sat outside enjoying the music from the nearby Main Street Square. We talked and laughed and ate chips and wondered what had put our server in such a nasty mood. We laughed a lot. We had a smiling waitress take a picture of us and then we headed to our respective homes.
God has given me friends to keep the sorrow at bay at times when it threatens to raise its ugly head. There was only one moment during the day when I struggled a bit, missing some small, sweet thing Kraig used to do. I call that progress.
The story of my life is moving on into its new chapters with grace and laughter. His memory is still there but the sting of it has lessened tremendously. Grief is becoming a more infrequent companion on this journey and that’s fine by me. God did not call me to sorrow and promised that joy will come in the morning. I’m seeing more and more light on the horizon and it is beautiful. So here’s to another first survived and another milestone passed. And here’s to good friends on the journey.