“Oh my precious, oh my love. When they come and take me I will hold you from above.” – Cloud Cult 

It’s that time of year. The time where every bit of joy carries an equal weight of sadness. Our 4th Christmas without you. I pulled out your stocking and stare at it each year. We hung it under the angel and I’m transformed to a place of all that should be, all that could have been. 

I watch our twirling girl dancing in our new home. She is the perfect mix of us. Your eyes, your wit, your charm. My sass, my attention to detail and my need for a sense of control in all situations. 

She’s growing up without her dad. Yet, I’m becoming the best parts of us too. She forces me to do things I never would have if you were here. A trip to the Chriskindlmarket put me in ice skates, faking my way through the laps around the rink and balancing our girl with one arm and her very wobbly mother with the other. If you were here I would have stayed on the side. I would have taken pictures and sipped a spiked cider, looking at my phone and enjoying the quick parent break as you took the lead on the ice. It’s your thing, it’s what you did growing up. It’s foreign to me but our little lady would never know it as she looked up at me with delight. 

Grief does not go away but it certainly changes. These moments have been so painful as I was filled with anxiety each time I had to face something you should have been doing. Whether it was driving me home after too many vodka sodas, paying the bills or loading the car for a trip. Those challenges, once crippling are turning into another I’ll conquer.

I still have my moments where I sit on the couch and say out loud, “Joe, will you bring me another coffee?” My voice is met with a funny stare from my little but it feels good to say and then I drag myself to the kitchen to do it myself.

But I am doing it myself. We’re doing it every day. The things so unimaginable, I now wear like a badge of honor.

There are a lot of things I can’t do. I can’t go workout on a Saturday morning while my husband is home with the kids, I can’t have another drink because I have to be the one to get us home, I can’t do it all.

But I can buy a car by myself, I can hoist my 38 pound child on to my shoulders so she can see a parade, I can be the only mom on the field at parent soccer day. I can do a lot of things I never thought I could.

I am feeling strong. I seek out the people who “get it”. Those comfortable conversations amongst other solo grieving moms empower me to know I am not alone even in the loneliest, quiet of a Friday night.

We recently had brunch with a group of seven solo widowed moms. It was an afternoon of champagne and sharing and it filled my soul in a way I didn’t even know I was longing for. Tears streamed down my cheeks as I watched our children playing in the basement unaware of their common thread. Half a dozen fatherless children. I whispered to Mira, “Did you know all these kids, their dads live in the sky too?”

One of the children overheard and yelled from the stairwell, “My dad died!” In an endearing way only a four year old can. An echo of kids chimed in, “My dad died too.”

One of the little girls asked Mira, “What was your dad’s name?”

Mira said, “Well, I call him daddy but my mom calls him Joe.”

The warmth and striking sadness in her sweet voice. The pride she felt talking about her family. Our family. Not the family I imagined as a 12 year old girl who would write the names of her future children in a notebook. But the story that is all ours.

We will forever wear the pain as a badge and charge straight into the stress of life, together.

You would be just so proud of us, Joe. So proud of your girls. Thank you for giving me this family. Thank you for giving me these moments I never would have had. I never would have gotten on the ice. I never would have been her hero.

Thank you for giving me all I never knew I needed. You continue to love me in ways only our hearts can feel.