I think everyone has a photograph (or even a few) that instantly pull you in. You can remember every vivid detail that is captured.
This is one of mine, along with many more. It sits in my bathroom and greets me every morning as the new day’s light pours in. It makes me happy.
This was the day.
This was the day everything changed.
This picture is my reminder that I am a small, small speck in this vast universe.
This picture is my reminder that life and love are beautiful things that should never be taken for granted.
This picture is my constant reminder that life can change in an instant.
This is the last photo we took as a family before our lives changed forever. We posed for this impromptu photo on his mom’s front porch, blissfully unaware of what would happen a few hours later.
Veteran’s Day weekend, 2007. We laughed, we kissed extended family goodbye, we got into our vehicles and went home. We ate dinner as a family — chicken nuggets from the oven because we were too tired from a full weekend to attempt a real meal. We went to bed early, exhausted. That night, Chad suffered the first of many seizures. We waited anxiously in an ER bay for 2 days before an upstairs room became available. The next three years would be a roller coaster of surgeries, medications, seizures, plans, and surviving the best we could.
And then, almost three years to the day this photo was taken, he lost his fight.
Five whole years have passed since he left us.
It went by quickly and slowly, all at once.
Through this whole process, I’ve discovered that you never truly get over the pain of such a significant loss.
Grief changes people; you incorporate it into your life.
You move forward, but you always take the grief with you.
That hurt is woven into everything I do; I treat people differently. Everyone is facing a struggle. Be kind.
I respond to things differently. Peace is better than being right.
I think about things in a different way. Compassion is a gift.
Life is precious.
Love is not to be taken for granted.
These two things are all I focus on sometimes; and it’s enough to get me through the tougher days.
I have faith that there is so much more than this earthly life; things I can’t see. But things I believe in, things I hope for, nonetheless.
I was fortunate enough to have difficult conversations with Chad; what I should do and what he wanted for us. I rest peacefully knowing I was able to have such discussions with him. My heart is at peace, though it still hurts.
What does 5 years look like?
Probably a lot like your life. We’re busy with events, school (theirs and mine), sibling rivalry at its finest and normal stuff… There are piles of laundry, dogs to feed, a mortgage to pay, dust to wipe and usually a few grief-laden tears around the corner.
I am angry sometimes.
At no one in particular.
Life is not fair, and it’s a hard concept to grasp.
It’s okay to be angry, or content, or disappointed, or happy.
It’s okay to feel however I feel.
I am angry, hurt, and saddened that our beautiful children have been robbed of so many good memories. They deserve to have their dad cheering them on at events today. They deserve to have the memory of him teaching them to ride a bike. They deserve to hear him threaten to hurt any boy that might break their little tender hearts. They deserve to hear him say, “I love you” fresh from his lips instead of a voice recording I made at Build-A-Bear Workshop.
They deserve so much.
They have me. And I must be enough. I was specifically chosen to be their tour guide through this life. We navigate it the best we can; learning and laughing. We even cry sometimes, too. I just want them to know how very much both their parents love them.
Cailyn has now been without Chad longer than she knew him. She was 18 months old when the above photo was taken. She was 4 when he died. She likes to hear stories about her daddy and look at photo albums with me. It’s almost like she is looking in at someone else’s life through pictures. She just doesn’t remember much about him.
That shatters my heart. He was exceptional and I see so much of him in her. She is very deliberate about her choices; she is very methodical and organized. She didn’t get that from me…
Carys is starting to deal with her emotions about the whole thing. Just now – five years later. Just two day ago, I consoled her late into the night because she was so upset. “I know I loved him so much, I just don’t remember anything else about him.” She repeatedly pressed the plush hand on a stuffed cat we made at Build-A-Bear; Chad’s voice echoing, “This is daddy. I love you, sweetheart.” I’m so glad I thought to have a voice recorder added to that stuffed animal.
My poor, sweet, innocent girl. That tender heart has already been broken and there is nothing I can do to fix it. I hold her, I cry with her, I share pictures and stories and do what I can. But it will never be enough to fill that hole. Never.
Life isn’t all tears and depression for us, even though today is a very sad day that I dread each year.
We’ve been in our new home a little over a year. Moving was a necessary task; we needed a fresh start. I had hoped it would make the loss feel less acute since he has never been associated with this place. It has helped us all move forward.
Everyone is doing so well in school, myself included.
Cailyn is making excellent grades. She loves math and science. She loves her new friends. She is just a blessing; so sweet and thoughtful.
Carys is shining through her middle school transition. She’s on a recreational swim team and she is just an awesome kid. Her heart is huge and she is one of the funniest kids I know.
And I have finally been accepted to the nursing program. Moving forward, even though it feels like slow motion at times. I’m using my pain, and also the inspiration I’ve received from so many I’ve met along this journey, as fuel. I am tired. I am determined. I will make a difference, just as others have made all the difference to me and our family.
I don’t know what God has in store for the three of us Lanford Ladies. Faith, Hope and Love have gotten us this far; I’m always eager to see what’s next. The three of us are okay; forever healing, but okay.
Thank you, as always, for your continued support.
We appreciate your prayers, thoughts and concern today and always.