Things can’t get any worse, right?

A year ago I returned from Tucson.  Dad had died and mom was adrift.  It was Mother’s Day and I wanted to spend as much of it as possible with mom, to help her get through the first few days.  I was the last child to leave and I felt like I was leaving a part of me behind.  I knew it wasn’t going to be easy for her – but I was coming back in a week to help with the local memorial event.  It was the first of mom’s baby steps on her own.

My family picked me up at SeaTac and I fell into Laurel’s arms and sobbed.  I suddenly realized that all of this pain wasn’t just mine; it hurt everyone.  It felt good being back while at the same time I felt guilty that mom was alone.  But life – specifically, my life – had to go on.  Sitting with everyone at dinner that night, I was thinking how lucky I was to have them all there for me showing me their love on Mother’s Day.  I was exhausted, sad and happy all at once.  I thought I’d been through the worst.  Turns out, it was just the beginning.

Over the next few weeks, life was a blur or comings and goings.  Seth! was off to Oregon for his cowboy adventure, then I left for Tucson to help mom again.  I returned from that trip only to head to Whidbey Island for a planned weekend with friends.  Seth! left for a conference before I returned and was back the day before we left for Denver for Dad’s main memorial service – poignantly enough, on Memorial Day weekend.  Returning from that trip meant our lives would settle down and things would finally feel normal.  I felt hopeful that would be the case.

Except then, the next worst thing happened.  On June 1, I discovered that my marriage, as I believed it to be, was over.  Throughout all my grieving and during all this travel, Seth! had been involved with an old friend and professed his love for her, all discovered in email on Facebook.  Heartbroken at losing dad, I was already in great pain.  This was like a knife in the heart when I was huddled on the floor in tears.  All that I once thought sacred and true was no longer real to me.  I lost both my dad and my marriage in a matter of weeks.  This had to be the worst.

I’d like to say that each month, things got better.  There were more downs than ups this year. Nothing was clear except I had to stick to what I had laid down as my plan before – separate and work on things apart.  It helped me stay sane to cling to the idea that doing what I said I would was staying true to my core beliefs.  I didn’t need to know more at that point.  I just needed to do that one thing. I felt cheated, though.  From the time of dad’s death to the discovery was only a matter of weeks.  My grieving for dad was stalled as I struggled with this new pain. I still find myself thinking of dad, wistful for his calm presence, and know that I miss him more than is possible to convey in words.

Losing mom in February after a whirlwind diagnosis and decline was the icing on the cake.  It felt too familiar – and scary – to go through that before I knew where things stood in my marriage.  I was afraid to trust any comfort or support, because the last time I had, it ended up being false and bad things happened to me.  I had to be very clear in my own head about what I needed, what I could accept, and how it felt to go through this again so soon.  I’m still not completely sure I know how I feel about losing them both so close together.  I long for a dream with both of them in it, as they once were.  To see them again, and to feel, just for a moment, that we can be with each other would be a comfort.  It would be like a warm embrace from the two people who loved me best.  It seems to me that then, maybe, I’d know I was making progress through my grief.

In the past year, I’ve lost my father, my husband’s faithfulness, and my mother.  I know lesser mortals who might have caved.  I am still standing.  Wounded, scarred, battered and worn thin, I am upright nonetheless.  I wouldn’t wish it on anyone.  I wouldn’t wish it for myself.  But it wasn’t a choice, and going through the fire was the only way out.

As this year comes to an end, I can only hope that the cosmic circle is coming to a close and each anniversary or milestone date provides healing and a sense of release.  I have felt held hostage by pain the past 12 months and am ready to stop hurting and be free.  I pray it is so.

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