Sometimes I feel as if I have already lived through my own reincarnation. When my husband left this world, the world that I knew went with him. I am now and will forever be a different version of me. I constantly miss my old life. I find myself craving it in the worst way. There are even times I hit certain milestones when I think to myself “maybe.. if I just reach this ONE day... things will go back.” But the days come only to pass with the painful memories still adhered in my being. Much of the past year has felt like a test. A test on how I react, what I’m capable of overcoming, how I handle challenges, and what limits I can be pushed to reach. I continually wait to pass each test. I made it through another day, can I go back yet? Another week? Another month?
I used to believe my old life was what would be considered “normal”. Living through tragedy has caused me to feel differently. I sit and watch as the lives around me continuously get hit with devastating news. I have yet to meet a person who hasn’t had some type of hardship in his or her life. If you have not, you truly will never understand or appreciate the blessing you have been given in this world. As unfortunate as it may be, tragedy is a part of “normal” life whether we all like it or not. I knew it would find me one day, I just never expected it to leave this Brady-sized hole in my heart.
My goal is not to find a way for my heart to heal or a way to get over the experiences I am working to outshine. My goal is only to push forward. In the same way I will never “get over” my past, my heart can never simply be healed. I am only forced to take a different path in life, not to pave over the old one. On this path I strive to make all things positive. I crave positivity almost as much as I crave my old life. If I’m going to be forced to live a life without the love of mine, it’s going to have to be the most transcendental life you have ever seen. As I once read, “The happiest of people do not have the best of everything, they just make the best of everything.”
With this new life I’ve been handed has also come an unbelievable amount of beautiful new experiences. I have seen things I otherwise would not have seen, met people I otherwise would never have known, and found joy hiding in places that I never knew existed. While it has been a painful road getting to know this new version of myself, it is the hidden joy that pushes me onward. The last handful of months leading up to this day have been quite life changing in and of themselves. It all began with a phone call I received over the summer. I was working at my summer job when one of my former co-workers and dear friend of mine called me out of the blue. I’m not supposed to answer my phone at work, but that day I decided to anyway. She gave me a quick, “Hey, I’m in Las Vegas and have big news that will affect you. Call me when you get off work!” As a million different scenarios raced through my mind I finished out the work day. I called her back not knowing what to expect. She went on to tell me how she was going to be moving to Las Vegas to teach. That being said her full time job as an art teacher was going to be available and she would love nothing more than for someone she loved to take her position at a school she held so close to her heart. With summer break ending in only a number of weeks I had little time to consider my options. I began to think about the pro’s and con’s of both jobs; mine as a part time art teacher at a school I loved and hers as a full time art teacher at a school she loved. Going out a limb I decided to call in for an interview at this new school. During my interview I retreated back to my own personal life foundation; honesty. I feel as though I sat there and continually gave every reason as to why I should not be hired. There may be a chance I included some reasons as to why I should be hired as well. [;
One week later I still had not heard a thing and was 98% sure I was not going to be offered the position due to my overbearing honesty. On one afternoon I pulled up to drop off some items to my classroom at the school I had been working at. I put the car into park when my phone began to ring. It turned out to be the principal offering me the full time position as the new art teacher at her school. So many emotions ran through my body as reality began to sink in. Here’s the thing, I get attached easily to everything and to everyone. The very thought of leaving my coworkers and my students behind ate at my soul. They had been the ones who supported me during the most difficult year I hope to ever experience. How could I just leave them behind? In the end I had to put my emotional attachments aside for a moment in order to truly consider the factors that would be beneficial to my own well being. With that in mind I accepted the full time position. In my life’s typically busy fashion I just so happened to accept the job about a week and a half before the first day of school, and I was leaving for a week long vacation the during that timeframe. I’m often reminded that my life would not be mine if it weren’t continually running at 100mph. Thankfully, my family ended up leaving our vacation early to give me a couple extra days of prep time.
I found myself a bit restless the evening before school began. I would imagine most people are before a new job? Maybe? Anyway after finally falling asleep I started to wake up in the middle of the night, which I normally do not do. I remember my brain actually waking up before my eyes opened and thinking, “It seems kind of bright in here.” I opened my eyes to see one of Brady’s emergency flashlights, which was plugged into the wall, turned on. The flashlight was located behind a lamp and a night stand, plus a button had to be pushed for it to come on. I shot up in my bed. It scared the life out of me! I still have no idea how it turned on that night, but I find it a bit odd that there was a bazaar electrical occurrence in my household on such a big night considering Brady was an electrician. That evening when I returned home from work, my porch light had magically gone out as well. Believe what you will but my mind can’t help but to think Brady was finding a way to remind me that he is still right by my side, the same as he always was, supporting me along the way.
When starting a new job there are always so many things to learn. Attempting to learn the names of an entire new staff is one thing. Attempting to get to the know the names and faces of about 300 students is another. I thought back to my previous and first year of teaching. I remembered the innocent curiosity that so many children expressed. I knew, being the honest person I am, I wanted to tell this unfamiliar group of students about who I was. The trouble was deciding how much to tell them. In the end I found it best to go back to my honest roots. On the first day with each group of students for five days straight I told them about my life. I explained to each group where I went to school growing up, how I came to love art, how I became a teacher, and what some of my absolute favorite things are. About ⅔ of the way through the presentation I spoke with them about Brady. If you have ever worked with children you may have experienced this curiosity I spoke of earlier. With that curiosity often comes a lack of filter. In other words, children do not always think before they speak. Deep down I knew that if I did not explain the significance of Brady in my life 18 times with 18 different classes in one week, I would end up explaining it 300 different times over the course of one year. I decided 300 times was not an option because even I have my breaking points.
When I finished my story I told the kids they were welcome to ask me questions about what they had just heard. I told them that it was the only day I was going to let them ask whatever they wanted about Brady and I, and how after that day we would be moving on from the subject. I also informed them I would do my best to answer each question they had to offer. The types of questions some of the kids came up with were breathtaking. Their minds thought in such foreign ways as opposed to the thoughts of an adult. Some were very detailed by asking tear jerking questions such as, “Were you with him when he died?” and others asked very heartfelt questions like, “Did he go to heaven?”. No matter what questions came my way I kept my word and did my very best to answer each one for them. Their responses to my story were fairly incredible. I remember one child raising their hand to tell me “I hope when you die, you get to go be with your husband in heaven.” It was painfully sweet.
Along with telling all of my new students about my husband I also told them about some of my favorite things. I told them about my love for Superman because Brady loved Superman and how it became a symbol of strength for our families. I explained my ongoing art project about lucky pennies and how I even though I started it before losing my husband, I always seem to find them at times when I need them the most. I went on to tell them about my obsession with dreamcatchers, or dreams in general really. And I told them about the importance of cardinals in my life after hearing they represent loved ones who have passed on. Every time I see one there is peace in my heart. Little did I know that my students would key into that information and spoil the hell out of me with it! Attempting to make multiple long stories short, these kids are unrealistically amazing. I’ve had a number of students bring me pictures of the Superman symbols they have drawn, had a child handmake me a dreamcatcher (her first one she’s ever made), had a student convince her parents to buy me a Superman magnet while on fall break, and, more than once, have had students “hide” pennies for me to find. Have you ever given someone you have known for less than four months that much unconditional love? Amazing is an understatement to describe these awe-inspiring kiddos. Remember me saying how I get emotionally attached quickly? Well, these kids had me wrapped from day one.
But it’s not just the students at this new school. It’s everyone. Again, the amount of love I have received from my new coworkers in under four months has been astounding. After only 2 short weeks of getting to know the people I would soon be surrounded by daily, I already felt like I’d known them for years. As they slowly began to get to know more about me and my story they quickly picked up on the fact that I may have some rough days every now and again. So some of these thoughtful little coworkers of mine decided to buy a bag of Reese's Cups and sneak me a couple whenever my days are not filled with so much sunshine and positivity. I didn’t even know who was leaving me Reese’s Cups until one day when I had a full on meltdown at school (which almost never happens). I tried keeping my emotions in check as a frantically went searching through the halls of my building in order find someone, anyone, who might be available to talk. It was somewhat out of character in multiple ways because not only do my full on meltdowns happen few and far between, they almost never happen at school, and if a meltdown does occur my first reaction is to hide away from others, not to seek them out. My search ended at the first grade classroom where I broke down the second I opened my mouth to speak. My coworker quickly went to grab me some Reese’s which were stashed away in attempts to ease my aching heart. It is thoughtful moments like that where I cannot express how appreciative I am to have ended up in such a warm, loving place. It helps to remind me that maybe I am supposed to take different life paths sometimes. That was not the first or only time I’ve had a Reese’s day at school, but that day was definitely up there on the list as one of my worst ones. I’m not even one to have a “control freak” type of personality however I must say I feel completely frustrated on days where I am unable to control my emotions. The control over them helps me to feel grounded.
This fact is something that worries me as tomorrow, November 10th, Brady’s birthday, approaches quickly as the minutes pass by. It’s going to be a Reese’s day. I feel it in my gut. I want him to come back and hold my hand to get me through it. I want to lay in bed snuggled up with him all day and pretend that this new life isn’t mine. I want him to protect me from the pain I feel and tell me I’m going to be okay because he’s right by my side. Most of all, if you couldn’t tell, I just want him. I always did, I always have, and I always will.