As of early this morning, it has been 7 years since I lost my first husband Andy to cancer. I really hate that after all the amazing, beautiful and happy times we shared, that it’s the date of his death that always stops me in my tracks and forces me to remember. Over the past 7 years I have really struggled on July 4th. As much as I have tried to focus on the happy times, the horror of his painful last days in hospice and the guilt of decisions I made regarding his care during those scary days were what my heart focused on.
This year, my brain has been focused on all things baby and I have been so thankful for something so exciting to keep my mind off the dark corners of my memories. I have had my moments this week, and had flashbacks to Andy’s last days in hospice, but I am finally starting to understand that to truly honor his memory in my heart, I really need to remember the happy times we shared. It finally sunk in that if I had been in his shoes, I would never want anyone to focus on the last ten days of my life when there were hundreds of so many more beautiful and meaningful ones to focus on.
With those thoughts in mind, I went through some photos last night and scanned in some of my time with Andy to share with you.
Here we are about a year before we got married. Andy was a VERY enthusiastic guy. I really can’t explain it, perhaps some of his friends will comment if they see this post, but he truly had a remarkable zest for life. Everybody who met him loved him and he could get away with anything. (Oh and yes, this is me before Invisalign.)
Here’s our wedding day, which happened right in the middle of his chemotherapy treatment. Look at Andy’s face! He was right in the middle of choking up during his vows. It was incredibly precious. In this photo I was 26 and had all the faith in the world that we would beat all the odds. To me, I look like a baby in that photo considering how much I have grown and changed since that day. (Bless my Photographer, Todd Chaney, for having to shoot our ceremony in full sun.)
Here’s Andy during his six months of remission, right before the cancer came back again. It was an awesome little vacation from cancer to just being normal people again.
Oh this photo of Andy and Whisper just melts my heart. It’s so smooshy.
I came across this photo tonight and it just stopped me in my tracks. Andy was in hospice, spending most of his time in bed and call me crazy, but the pugs both reacted very differently to this time. Whisper stayed in her cage most of the time and kept her distance. I swear, she was in denial of the whole thing. Stamp, on the other hand, wanted to be right by his side, giving him as much loving as she could. How precious are these two? Yes, I know, I’m supposed to be focusing on the happy times, not hospice, but the very beginning of hospice, when Andy was still at home, had some really intimate moments.
Looking at these photos are surreal. I look back at my life from 7 years ago and I can’t believe I’m so blessed to have experienced the amazing journey I did with Andy and then to be able to love again and have a growing family after the deepest loss of my life. I learned so much from Andy and I’m still to this day being reminded of the lessons he taught me. Remembering that morning on the fourth of July, 2003, when I told him it was ok to go, he went with nothing but peace and love between the two of us. That really should trump any scary memory from his last days in hospice that usually haunt me.
So this year, I’m focusing on the peace and love that surrounded his passing. From there, I think my heart will be more open to remember the good times and all of the gifts from our time together. I know that’s what Andy would want me to remember.
A huge thank you goes out to John this morning for yet another year of his tender love and support of me during the times that grief sneaks up on me. He, and our growing family, are who I strive to heal for everyday so that I can come out of loss a better person. He really does everything he can to help me do that and for that I’m so thankful.