How can that be? It was yesterday...wasn't it?
Each year on the anniversary, I reflect on the previous year. Have I made progress? Is the pain any less? What can I do? What can't I do? What positive changes have I made to my life that will help me get through TODAY?
I can honestly say that, with the help of the Compassionate Friends, I have made progress. Part of the reality of knowing you have made progress is helping others "new" in their grief. When you can see the pain on their faces, hear the pain in their voices...when you have been there, you can feel it too.
At the beginning of the CF meetings, they say "if you see someone laughing or smiling, take it as a sign of hope..." The smiles do eventually happen...the laughter too.
So, what CAN I do?
*I go out more than I used to. In fact, I enjoy meeting one or two friends for breakfast/lunch/dinner! * I actually got out the stockings at Christmas, the ornaments, listened to Christmas music, and sent cards (not without tears, but I did it). *I occasionally make phone calls. Not as often as I used to, but sometimes. * I answer the phone (when I'm home alone)...still make Donny answer the phone when he is home. *I can go to Fairmont girls basketball games...have been able to do that from the beginning (four years ago). It was what SHE loved.
What can't I do?
*Still have no desire to go out with groups of people. More comfortable in smaller settings...although we are going out for "115 years of Greatness" dinner. *Several of Fort's friends celebrate Stacy's, Pauly's and Melissa's birthdays. Started with "100 years of Greatness" when Melissa and Stacy turned 30 and Pauly turned forty. *Dancing. I used to love to dance at parties and weddings. My body just says "NO" now. I think it's part of the "celebrating" thing I just can't get past. Yet.
*Parties. Unless they are with Melissa's friends.
And I will be honest here too. I LOVE seeing Melissa's friends. I love getting together with her friends. I love that they stay in touch. But it is hard watching their lives go on when hers was cut short. Still doesn't seem fair to me. She should be HERE.
Is the pain any less?
Never. It is with me EVERY SINGLE DAY. There is a hole in my heart that physically aches.
What positive changes have I made to help me get through TODAY?
I think the biggest thing is reaching out to other parents who have lost children. I know how much it helped me, and I want to do the same. Pay it forward. Also volunteer Wednesday morning in my friend Rodney's 5th grade class. Helps ME, I hope I am helping THEM. I keep in touch with Mike, Jackie's husband and Bruce, my friend Ruth's husband (who will be 90 this year!)...they lost their spouses...I want them to know that Jackie and Ruth will never be forgotten! (just a note here...that is all ANYONE who has lost a loved one wants...that they never be forgotten...)
So. Have I made progress?
I have. Maybe in some small ways. But I have. I am still here. That is a MAJOR accomplishment. And I am blessed to have friends who still call me on a regular basis (even though I don't call them) and get together with some friends on a regular basis (Marla, Rodney/Josh/Debbie, Donna Runzo, Angie, Roxy, Marianne, Jennifer, my cousin Jan, my cousin Sue and of course my sister Sue who calls on a daily basis!)
My goal for this year is to get better at keeping in touch. If not by phone, then by text.
And of course Nick, Mere, Andrew and Max have been very good at keeping me busy (exhausted and loving it and thankful for five days to recuperate!) and loving me...and DONNY. Without him, I would probably not be here. He is my rock. I can only hope that I have been as supportive of him as he has been of me.
Four years ago this week, there were SO MANY random acts of kindness to our family, I couldn't count them all...we tried to thank everyone who did something to help us out, but I am sure that we missed some. In honor of those who helped out in some way in the weeks following Melissa's death, all we can do at this point is pay it forward. Please know that we are so thankful to all our friends, relatives and Melissa's friends and colleagues who reached out to us. You will never know how much it meant to us....
In Melissa's memory, please reach out to someone with a Random Act of Kindness today. Smile at someone who looks sad, call (or text) your parents, siblings, spouse and tell them you love them...and most of all, give your kids an extra hug today. And ALWAYS tell them you love them. I'm so glad I did...
Melissa Marie Fortener McLaughlin
January 5, 1978 ~ January 3, 2009