According to biblical tradition, seven years is a Jubilee year, the year when slaves and prisoners would be freed and debts would be forgiven. I have wondered if I would feel a new sense of freedom from my grief now that seven years have gone by. I did not wake up feeling lighter like I was carrying less grief. Instead, I woke up in West Central Texas to a frigid cold, rainy, dreary day. Wintery weather is unusual for this time of year. Usually, we don’t get a freeze until November. At first, I thought that this weather was appropriate for the anniversary of Randy’s death on this day seven years ago. I liked the idea of my mood matching the weather. However, as I contemplated my mood, I realized that cold and dreary was not accurate. Today I woke up feeling grateful that I have a warm bed nestled in a warm house surrounded by my loving family. My family is not all in arm’s reach and looks very different than it did seven years ago. But never the less I feel surrounded. At the time of Randy’s death, my immediate family was Randy, Justin, and Wesley. Now it is Tony, Justin, Kara, baby JJ that is due to make an appearance in late February Wesley, and Maddie. Just as I could never have imagined Randy not being here, I could never have imagined the love I have for this family that did not exist in this form seven years ago. I spent the weekend with my now-four adult children reminiscing and realizing that although Randy is very far away and so much has changed after all these years. I still feel very close to him. Our kids are doing so well, and I loved the many adult conversations this past weekend, and I loved their opinions. I know without a doubt, Randy would be so proud of them. He was proud at every stage of their lives but would be bursting with love at the men they have become, and he would adore the women in their lives. Their thoughtfulness, intelligence, and humor never cease to amaze me. Our sons are so different from each other, yet I see many similarities to Randy in both of them.
I not only miss Randy’s presence, laughter, touch, but I also miss his opinions. I did not necessarily agree with him but loved hearing his perspective. When the pandemic first hit us, I thought about how my germaphobe husband would have reacted. Would he have had the same cavalier attitude he had to most danger or retreat to the hopeful safety of social distancing? I remember in the days after 9/11 when anthrax-filled letters were sent with their lethal spores; Randy was hyper-vigilant. He would not let me get the mail and wanted to inspect all packages. Randy did this with a great attitude and Eagle Scout determination. During flu season, he never went anywhere without a can of Lysol and all year round used hand sanitizer many times a day. During Y2K, he stocked up on Spam with the best of them. My best guess on his reaction to the global pandemic is that my brilliant husband would have devoured the scientific data. He was many things and had many careers, but was always a scientist. He majored in geology and minored in Chemistry before he earned his MBA. In my mind’s eye, I not only see him wearing a mask but also a HAZMAT suit every time he went to the store. I also see him loving the mandatory quarantines as an opportunity to finish the project. In my fantasy world, the project has countless possibilities. I cannot even guess what he would be doing in the last seven years, but he would do it passionately. Maybe he would still be painting and sculpting, or perhaps he would have become bored with that by now and moved on to a new invention or game obsession.
I do know; however, he reacted to Covid-19; he would not have been fearful. In 1991 shortly after Justin, our oldest son, was born, Randy fell and tore his meniscus. He was still in the air force, and they made him go to an orthopedic air force hospital for knee surgery to correct the tear. I decided not to take him because I couldn’t leave my newborn son and did not think the hospital would allow a baby to be there. We arranged for a friend to drive him the three hours and drive him home two days later. After the surgery, he called and said, “There’s good news and bad news. My knee does not hurt anymore, but I think I am paralyzed.” The doctor told him that he would walk and feel his leg about two to three hours after the surgery. He was post-op twelve hours and still could not feel anything below the waist. He told me on the phone that he had a few moments of panic, but by the time I talked to him, he had already made peace with his life in a wheelchair. He saw himself being happy and fulfilled in any circumstance. He had a little stick shift economy car at the time and told me he would need to get a new vehicle retrofitted for a wheelchair. He told me not to worry that he would still help with the baby. Pragmatically I assured him that he would walk again, and I was right but never forgot his attitude during adversity.
As hard as the last seven years have been, I know I am one step closer to healing every day I get farther from October 26, 2013. Sadly, every day that I have more healing, I am one step farther from my life with Randy. I do not ever expect a cure, but I know that I am better at managing the grief symptoms than I thought I would be. As I remember Randy today and every day, I dedicate “Grief Survivor, a Love Story” not only to him but also to all the people who have lost someone and all the people supporting those who lost someone. I pray that my words can bring you closer to your year of Jubilee.