I was thinking about this yesterday, pondering what I was going to write today and I think I might understand a little bit of why I've been holding my breath. You survive the first year and you survive all the firsts that you have to do alone. You reach the first year mark and you can no longer look back and say "Last year, we did this and this". On the first year anniversary, I think there's so much closure in a final, final, final way.
I'm not going to even being to profess I understand what Jason and Braxton, Nelson and Melinda, Gwen and Wendall and all Cheryl's other close friends are going through. To each of us she was someone different, someone special, but she filled a different role and for the ones I mentioned, she was so close to them: a wife, a mother, a daughter, a sister. She left a big hole. I can only go off of the pain and loss that I feel.
I think for me, reaching this year mark helps me to recognize reality. On this day a year ago, April 28, 2015, Cheryl became more alive than she ever was before, but for those of us on earth, death struck us hard and loss became very real. Living 2.5 hours away and going through our own family issues at the exact same time, I often felt like it didn't seem real that Cheryl was really gone. I can still feel that way even though I was faced head on with it this past weekend. Being with J and Braxton and feeling the loss of Cheryl and Bentley really drives it home in a hurry and it made me want to cry.
I think reaching this year mark, feels like closure in one way, and yet in another it feels like I am finally grieving the loss. I hesitate to say it like that because it feels like I am copying from what a friend and I discussed this last weekend and I'm really not sure it is the right term. March 28, 2015 was the last time I saw Cheryl alive, the last time I heard her voice. When that day in 2016 rolled around, I felt the loss. I could no longer say "Last year, Cheryl and I did this or last year J and Cheryl came around." That's when reality sets in.
Now today? Today I can replay the tape. I know exactly where I was when I heard the news for the first time. I can still hear Rosie in my ear on the phone saying "Gerald Burkholder died", yes I misunderstood it the first time and wondered what the significance of that was. Then she repeated it and I understood it was Cheryl Burkholder and shock set in. How could that be? Dave too remembers where on the road he was when he found out.
I don't know if any of this makes sense, but there's this knot in the pit of my stomach and this heaviness on my heart that has been building up over this week. It's like my heart is fully recognizing what my brain's been saying for the last year. Combined with the fact that there are more firsts coming up over the next week and a half for me and this is the first one and so I think the dread is somewhat that as well.
What have I learned over the past year? I thought I would learn to treasure my husband and never argue with him and I'm ashamed to say that wasn't the case. I do love my husband (not going into any mushies here, thank you), but it's been a hard Hard year.
I want to learn to be more like Cheryl with her words of kindness whether she liked you or not, with her generosity, with her love of life. That's a work in progress, but more of a fail than it should be, I know that. It's too easy to reach inside of myself and curl up rather than get out and do something for other people.
I have learned that death is final and completely unpredictable and you are NEVER ready to say good-bye. I have learned that friendships should be treasured and never taken for granted because we aren't guaranteed a lifetime with them. I have learned that God is bigger than our grief and our struggle and He will carry us even when we feel incapable of even praying. I have learned that grief is so individual, but so life-changing.
While I miss Cheryl, I do not regret knowing her. The saying is true, "It is better to have loved and lost, then never to have loved at all" or however it goes. It is true. Cheryl was that person that you could relax with, that you could talk about anything with. And somehow I think if Cheryl could send me, send all of us a message it would be to hang on and hurry up and join her. Our loss was definitely her gain.
"Cheryl, you are missed. You were a good friend. You and Jay were a couple that you could hang out with whenever and there was always good conversation about, well everything and anything. I have so many good memories of you and I think one of my biggest fears right now is losing hold on those memories. I can't imagine the wonderful time you are having in heaven, you and Bentley. I wish so much I could have met Bentley before he died. I guess I like to think of you and him "watching over" Nicole and that is comforting to me. You were such a good friend after Nicole died, you would listen and listen and I'm sure at times you wanted to tell me to "move on" but you were so gracious. I just miss you, but I am looking forward to the day when I will see you again."