Wednesday, July 27, 2016

Firsts

The firsts are always hard.

The first time I made dinner after Laila died.

The first time I took the kids to the doctor without her.

The first time someone asked me how many kids I had and I had to figure out how to respond.

The first anniversary of her death.

There have been a lot of firsts and five years later I just assumed we had passed most of those firsts.  Recently though, we had another first.  We just crossed off the first Sunday that fell on July 24th.  Weeks leading up to the day I hadn't really put it together in my mind.  The day was coming and I thought about it but would quickly change my thoughts.  It seemed like every day leading up to the day I had at least one thought about the coming day.

At church the Primary kids were asked to participate in a special musical number.  The man leading the music explained to the kids that they were singing "Come, Come ye Saints" on Pioneer Day because it was a day of celebration and a day for us to remember the pioneers that had come to Utah, many of them dying before they made it.  I felt prickly inside when he said that.  Of course I know that July 24th is a day of celebration for the Mormons.  I lived in Utah for a long time and the 24th is celebrated in much the same way as the 4th of July.  The entire state has parades, BBQs, fireworks, etc.  It's a big deal.  Outside of Utah it's pretty much only talked about in regards to talks in church and special musical numbers.  I feel grateful to not live in Utah anymore if just to avoid the celebrating on July 24th.  That would be horrible.  I don't feel angry when I hear people talk about their plans for that weekend or when people talk about celebrating the pioneers.  It does make me personally prickly inside though.  I don't expect anyone to feel the same way as me;  I totally understand that this is my tragedy and sadness and I don't expect others to treat the day as I would.  It's just that I can't help but cringe inside when I hear people talk about celebrating that day when to me it is never going to be a day of celebrating again.  I wish she had died on a day that wasn't so centered around special talks and musical numbers and people making it a big deal.  Even if she died the day after, that would have been better.  But she didn't so instead I just have to mentally remind myself that it's good to remember the pioneers and the sacrifices they made for us.  This year in particular, I tried hard to focus on the ancestors that I know were a part of healing for our family the last five years.  I tried to think about how I can be grateful for the legacy of faith they left behind and for the protection and guidance I know we were given as we tried to make it through Laila's death.

I think that this year I was taken by surprise actually.  I never forget the day.  It's not like the day comes and I'm like, "Oh yeah, this was the day Laila died."  Obviously not.  But I also don't actively think about it.  When I kept having it pop into my head throughout the weeks previous I kept pushing the thoughts out and then finally I decided to stop doing that.  I finally remembered what my counselor told me about feelings and about how every emotion deserves attention.  I just sat down with Mike and talked all my feelings out and let myself cry.  I told him that I thought maybe part of my snappiness during the previous week had less to do with pregnancy and more to do with the approaching date.  We talked about how my friend called me a couple of months ago to ask advice about a woman she visit teaches.  She said this woman couldn't "get over" the death of her son and even though it had been years she still seemed hung up on his death and she wondered how to help her not be so sad about it anymore.  I told her that she wasn't going to "get over" it.  She asked me in surprise if I still felt those feelings and I told her that of course I did.  I was surprised that she even had to ask me that but then I realized when I was talking to Mike that this year caught me by surprise because even though I know that I'm not going to just "get over" it, I assumed that I would not be that affected by the day 5 years out.

There was a main difference in the flashbacks this year.  This year, mercifully, I remembered the events leading up to her death more than the events after.  I remembered the night before when my brother and his wife went to visit a friend and Mike and I took all the kids (my brother's and my own) to the park.  It was a perfect night.  Laila stayed quietly in the wrap while the kids played.  I remembered how Jen and I thought up some Pioneer games for the kids to play before church.  I remembered Laila's last bath and the events at church.  I remembered having such pleasant conversations with my brother and his family that day and feeling grateful that it was such a beautiful day that day so that we could all go for a walk together after dinner.  There were many tender mercies that night and I remember those, though, many of those I learned about later from my brother and his wife because Mike and I were at the hospital when many of them happened.  I'm grateful that even though there were other flashbacks, I can have these happy ones too and that this year, they weren't all bad.

It is often strange to me to think that this is a part of my story.  Sometimes it hits me out of the blue and it takes my breath away.  This happened to me.  This is my story.  Even though I'm happy where I am in life right now, the thought that this is a part of my history and future brings me to tears.

Part of this story is that this is also Isaac's birthday week.  His birthday is on Saturday.  Five years ago we sat at our kitchen table with our bishop and Relief Society president and discussed when we should have the funeral.  I knew that it would be easier for everyone if we had it on that coming Saturday to allow family to get work off and give them time to make plans but like a lightening bolt the thought came to my mind that it was Isaac's birthday on Saturday.  There was no way I was having a funeral on his birthday.  We had it on Friday instead.  Today we drove to Kentucky Splash to celebrate Isaac's birthday as a family a couple of days early.  As we drove I couldn't help but think, "This exact day five years ago I was numb.  I was sitting at a funeral home making decisions about caskets and looking at burial plots."  I wish I could have had a glimpse into the future on that day and seen us today, five years later, playing in the wave pool, laughing and most importantly, happy.  Mike turned to me today as we got slammed by a wave, "I really like our family."  We have grown in love and happiness and I feel so thankful to be on this side of five years.

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