One Year – A Letter to Shannon

Dear Shannon,

 

I can’t believe it has been a whole year since I was able to hold your hand, kiss your lips, hear your voice.  I can’t believe that time has kept moving while the world has lost such a wonderful friend, mother, wife, sister, daughter.  The days have been counting down in my head, but it was as if, it always seemed like such a far away date that maybe it would never come.  But here we are.  Christmas has come and gone, and just like last year, we find ourselves facing a new year without such a big part of our lives.

 

I have relived the events in my head, over and over again.  It is haunting to think about each event.  My last conversation with you, the night before Christmas Eve, about the kids’ gift exchange at Little People’s Place (We chuckled about Noah trading his gifts away to get one of those McDonald’s football toys.  I have that toy in our lockbox now, keeping it safe as something that Noah can cherish, knowing it was the last thing we spoke about).  Sitting in bed with you, trying to get you to respond while Darcy sat playing with your iPad, utterly unrecognizing of the situation unfolding.  Sitting in the hospital with you over Christmas Eve, Christmas Day, and the days after.  Starting out with so much hope that this would be a minor setback, then realizing with each day what inevitably lay ahead.  Standing in the room when your heart beat it’s last, and suddenly realizing what was happening.  Having to walk out to the waiting room to tell your parents and brother the horrible news.  Then having to wait for the kids to come back from the beach, utterly unaware of the fact that was about to shatter their world.  I have spent so many days trying to examine it all, trying to figure out if I did something wrong, if I missed something that could’ve saved you, or maybe bought you more time.  It all ends up in the same realization, that we weren’t able to keep you here with us.

 

I have dreamed of you.  I like to think those times were your spirit checking in on me, but every time I dream of you, I have to explain to you all over again what happened, the tragedy, the sadness, the emptiness.  And every time I wake, my mind is swirling with emotions.  Anger at it all being a dream, confusion over why it keeps happening that way, regret that I was never able to tell you what was happening to you.  There is also regret over the kids not being able to have a proper goodbye to you.  I worry that someday, they will grow to hate me for it.  I didn’t want them coming to the hospital when you were connected to machines, thinking that eventually, you would recover and they would see you then.  And when the end came, I had sent them away to try to get their minds off you in the hospital.

 

I want to tell you about what has happened in the year that you have been gone.  I like to think you already know it, but in case you don’t, this is the story of how we have gotten through this year.  It has been a year of learning, adapting, exploring, and remembering.

 

Darcy is still the same headstrong little firecracker you loved.  She can be so stubborn it drives me crazy at times.  But I see the mischevious, goofy side…The same things I saw in you when we fell in love.  She got it from you surely.  She loves being silly, laughing, pretending.  It drives me crazy sometimes, her not taking some things seriously or thinking I’m joking when I threaten to get rid of the toys she won’t clean up, but I can see that same silliness I saw in you.  She is learning every day.  Her teachers tell me she has been opening up more and more to friends at pre-school.  She tells me that she misses you, and reminds me of things you did with her, like taking her to the Cow to get ice cream, or playing dolls with her.  She spent a lot of time struggling to realize you were gone.  It broke my heart to keep reminding her, but she understands now that she carries a part of you in her heart, forever.

 

Noah is becoming more and more a little man every day.  It just shocks me how much of a grown up he is at times.  He still plays the little kid role from time to time, driving his sister nutty, which drives me nuts in turn.  He loves reading, and though he complains from time to time about being made to read on his own, he loves it when he realizes he can learn all sorts of new things from books.  I can see that while he inherited the shyness genes from both of us, he can be very sociable when speaking about things he likes.  He bugs me EVERY day he’s home to play with Sterling down the street.  He also got involved with a group at his school for changing families, allowing him a chance to explore his feelings.  He continues to love playing sports, persuading me somehow to cart him around to basketball now as a 3rd sport.  He also started baseball in the spring, something we had talked about before you left us, but never had the chance to sign him up for.  He loves being on teams and being among other kids to have fun.  What truly impresses me about him is the dedication I see from him.  He may not always show it (at home, when I ask him to clean up at least), but whenever we volunteer to help with church, or friends, or other family things…he is always ready to help out.  I want him to lead his life the way you did as well.  You were always someone ready to help friends in a moment of need.  I want him to keep that drive alive inside him as well.  I know he misses you too, he always sleeps with his photo blanket of you.  He also takes great care of Boo-Boo Kitty for you.  He may not speak about you a lot, but I know he sends his love often and thinks back on the memories you made with him with fondness.

 

The hardest part of this to write may be describing the year I have had.  Simply because, I’m not sure what kind of year I have had.  Losing you has certainly opened a hole in my life.  It is strange to sit at home at nights in solitude, no one to talk about my day to, no one to share thoughts on news or books, no one to watch our shows with.  This year, watching The Walking Dead without you was so much less.  I could even imagine the way you would react to certain things that happened, the exact words I know you would say (You loved telling the show runners you would punch them in the head if they put Daryl or Glenn in danger).  I guess the best way to put it is I have had to learn to live without half of me here.  I still find time to enjoy things in life.  We went snowtubing finally in February, which was a blast…but at the end of the day, you weren’t here for me to tell you about it.  Taking Noah to his first real Ravens game was exciting, but you weren’t here for me to re-tell all the joy I saw on his face (and also tell you about some of the words he uttered which sparked a whole DIFFERENT conversation from me!).  Finally getting the kids up to Strasburg Railroad to ride the Santa train was an amazing experience, but you weren’t with us, so it felt a bit emptier.  I guess what continues to drive me on is giving the kids the experiences and life that you would want for them.  We have done SO MUCH of things they wanted to do in this year.  Most weekends I think, I really just leave it up to them as to what we should do.  We’ve done snowtubing, Dutch Wonderland, Port Discovery, Smithsonian Museums, Orioles games (7 to be exact this year!), Frederick Pool, Ocean City…and of course lots of the bounce place at the Mall and Players FunZone for Noah!  I was able to take them to the movies (Not Bengies, but the ACTUAL THEATRE.  TWICE no less!).  While I stress to them that there ARE times we need to work on the weekends, with grocery shopping, cleaning, yard work and such…we also make lots of time for them to have fun and explore.

 

You are missed, every single day.  I see that from our kids and myself every day.  I see it from your parents and your brother, as they watch Noah and Darcy growing up and wish you could be hear with them to enjoy the wonderful kids they are and continue to become.  Not just watching your kids, but talking with you about life.  You were always such a great listener.  You would let me complain about work, about things I worried about, about challenges I had with parenting or life, and you would always have something to say that would help me either figure it out or put it in perspective.  I know your Mom and Dad and Zach miss being able to talk with you.  I see it from your friends too.  You should’ve seen us on Dress In Blue Day this year.  Your Facebook wall was FILLED with people in blue, in your memory raising awareness for Colon Cancer.  I check your page weekly now, because so many people leave remembrances in your name.  Your online friends continue to check up on me, and let me know that they send their love and support.  They send gifts to Noah and Darcy too, like this year, each of them got a delivery of Christmas socks.  I know you will appreciate that sentiment, given how much you loved socks!  I know you struggled with depression and self-worth in your lifetime.  But I have seen so much this year how much you were and continue to be loved!  The Celebration of Life we held for you was OVERFLOWING with people from high school, college, work, wedding boards, EFFers (some of who were able to watch online even!).  People whose lives you touched maybe even only briefly came out because of the love they had for you.  They continue to carry your spirit in life every day.

 

I don’t know what the next year holds for us all.  I have worked at adapting to this new lifestyle, one where I am the one making the decisions for the household now.  Some of it came easy, some of it I keep second guessing weeks and months later.  We face some big milestones in the next year, which will certainly make me feel the absence of you more.  Darcy going into Kindergarten, my 10 year anniversary at work, your 35th birthday, OUR 10 year anniversary, one we never will be able to celebrate.  I already can feel the emotions of those big days, seeing our family incomplete, wishing you could’ve seen these days.  I find myself still breaking apart over the things we were robbed of.  I remember you talking about taking a road trip before your cancer got too bad, even starting to plot out points for it.  It is something I may be able to have the kids experience one day, but still something you never got to do!  I hope that your spirit, your energy, will still be able to see these days from somewhere in the universe.  I continue to try to carry on your spirit in the parenting and friendship I give to others.  I hope one day to find some way I can extend that spirit to helping others, whether it be helping the Colon Cancer alliance, or continuing to fight for the same ideals you held dear.

 

Sitting here as I finish typing this letter you will never read, I want to finish with renewed promises I never said aloud to you, but I hope you knew them in your heart.  I will always put our children first.  I will make sure they have the wonderful life you wanted them to have, AND MORE.  I will continue to make sure they know they are loved by your spirit, by me, by ALL THEIR FAMILY, and by all our friends.  They will always know that we have two families.  Your parents, your brother, your aunts, uncles, cousins…they are all as much family to me as my own family is, and they have meant the world to me this past year, as has my own family.  You are on my mind every morning, on my lips with every word I speak to our children, and in my heart for all time.  I miss everything about you, every laugh, every tear, every adventure, every misadventure.  You were, are, and will always be the love of my life.

 

With All My Love Forever,

Joe

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One Year – A Letter to Shannon

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