Photo: April 2007
Here we are again, the start of a new month. But April isn't just any month in my world. April is a month full of death, heartache and trials. This month should be about spring and life. Sunshine and daisies. Flowery dresses and gardening. Then why the heck has it rubbed me the wrong way for 14 years. I will enlighten you.
Anniversaries of loss are the worst! They come around each year and can hit you like a mack truck, BAM! You're suddenly laying flat on your face, head throbbing and that anxious feeling that starts at your knees and works its way up to your eyeballs but being sure it hangs out a little heavier around the heart. Each year it would sneak up on me and my physical body would be reacting to it before my conscious mind would catch up and realize what was going on. These anniversaries have a way of being triggers. Triggers of all the feelings you had when experiencing your loss. The muscle memory of your body can give you the physical feeling of being right back in that very situation, that trauma, that moment when you found out.
April is the month we celebrate Easter. The resurrection of Jesus Christ. A miracle of saving grace for all of mankind. What a beautiful day! A day to remember there is something greater out there. So many smiling faces, bright colors, easter egg hunts, children giddy with jelly beans and family dinners. What's not to love right? All those things are great but they all happen to be an old trigger of mine as April 12th 2003 was the day our sweet baby Aspen passed away. The trauma of living through that traumatic loss was one that rang loud every April. Suddenly all the joy of April became a trigger. We received so many Easter lilies that year that they burst from our house and we filled our entire back deck with them. They are not my favorite flower, not even close.
A short 4 years later and I found myself at Seattle Harborview Medical Center. We had learned that my father had a brain tumor. He had life saving surgery in Billings to remove some fluid around his brain. We were told in that moment to get his affairs in order. What a gut check that was. The thought of life with our my dad was so unacceptable. It literally broke my heart. He made it through that surgery but we had to go to see a specialist to get the tumor removed. He was supposed to have another life or death surgery April 12th.
The day came and we said our peace with my dad. We were in for a 7-10 hour surgery. I have to admit that my dad was the rock for all of us during this time. He had 100% faith that God was going to get him through this. The same God that we celebrate every Easter, but also the same God that could have saved my baby but didn't. See life continues to move on after loss. The world doesn't stop for everyone, just you in that moment. My family was so focused on dad that they didn't realize the effects all these triggers were having on me. I prayed with my dad but shed a tremendous amount of tears. My faith wasn't near as strong as his. I was still so very angry at God and I really didn't know if I would see my dad (the oldest living teeneger) alive again.
So we waited and waited and waited..... Gosh I was tired. I watched my mom, sisters and brothers all do their thing to make the time pass. I watched, I love to watch people. It's fascinating to me. What I would have given for some sort of time machine during those 8 hours. Waiting... yuck!
Finally the doctor came in and said everything went well and dad was in recovery. Again with the tears! My eyes always seemed to leak so much! After waiting a few more hours while dad was in recovery we were finally able to go see him. The massive size of the scar on his head made me want to throw up. I still to this day cannot begin to imagine how his body was feeling in that moment. He tried to talk with us but was so tired and I noticed as he spoke that the left side of his face wasn't moving.
It took a few months for that side of his face to really gain movement again. It's still not 100% and his left eye tears up every time he eats. It's actually quite funny to watch. To see people think he is crying over his food gives me a good chuckle every time. Dad recovered like a champ and we only had a few setbacks over the next year. His one year anniversary came and we finally had a win for the month of April as his labs came back great!
I learned from my father that time does not heal all wounds, It's what you do with the time you're given. From that point on I learned to work on myself. Work on my hurts. The last five years of grieving was needed but I didn't want to live that way anymore. I didn't want the month of April to turn my heart cold. I wanted April to come and for my heart to celebrate with everyone else and reflect the colors of spring. I had to make a conscious decision to breathe through those triggers each following year until they no longer consumed me. I fought tooth and nail to no longer let my circumstances of the past rule my future. Again, and I can't say it enough, I had to CHOOSE to do this. I had to learn that no longer holding onto that pain didn't mean I loved my sweet Aspen any less. Letting go of that pain allowed room in my heart to remember all the amazing times I got to share with my girl. I had to choose, I had to take that first step. It wasn't easy but it was so worth it!
This April, we celebrate life! We enjoy the colors, the eggs, the family dinners and the trip to Aspen's head stone. We show love and compassion. We lock arms with those who are suffering from loss. Even though it took years for us to step foot back in a church, we attend regularly. Although I miss my daughter I am grateful for my past because it allows me to help others who are hurting. It allows my heart to feel their pain and know there can be a bright colorful future.
I no longer hate April, I look forward to all that it brings. It is a yearly reminder of all that is possible. If you choose.........