It’s a blistery, fall day. The leaves are beautiful outside, but there is a biting wind. It’s a good day to be inside a coffee shop. I’m holding my freshly ordered maple latte, enjoying the warmth of the cup when the sinking feeling hits me.
The last time I had a really good maple latte was in Des Moines, Iowa. I remember it well because it was absolutely delicious - the best one I had ever had! Discovered in the midst of a challenging trip as Josh and I were on our way to the Mayo Clinic. We stopped in Iowa as a halfway point, enjoyed the coffee shop and walked around the sculpture garden. Josh was doing okay, but still was struggling with cognitive issues, making the trip interesting. We were on our way to Minnesota, seeking more hopeful answers.
Sitting here now - two and half years after that trip, on the other side of the "what if" - this sinking feeling of sorrow hits me once again. My eyes tear up in the buzzing coffee shop, but no one sees that detail. Grief hits like that - it is as if you are suddenly hit by an imaginary, oversized balloon hammer - I know oddly specific, but that’s what I imagine. Not so much a mac truck but still an uncomfortable blow.
These feelings don’t hit me every day, or every time I go to a coffee shop, but they do today. This is the constant challenge of grief – its unpredictability. How easily it unwelcomingly enters a moment or scene, and how often it makes no sense to anyone else. And especially how often it can make you feel alone and lost within it.
Pondering this all, I continue to sip my latte, blinking away the watery eyes - opting to tackle these feelings once again by writing (instead of avoiding and working on another problem I could solve). Writing still provides a way for me to process.
It’s no secret I still miss Josh. It’s a fact - as is the fact he isn’t here. Accepting this fact is still hard. Grief is hard. And I know other people feel these same feelings about their own special loved ones. Missing Josh doesn't stop me from enjoying this day but it does cause a stumble. I'm embracing the stumble. I write my thoughts not solely to put my personal journal into cyberspace, but I write with hopes of encouraging others out there struggling with their own beautiful yet agonizing memories. Grief requires us to look backward and forward - figuring out this balance is complicated. Maybe it’s too simple, but after sitting a few moments trying to figure out a solution for myself once again, I take five deep breaths and in my head (and on digital paper) offer up a thanks:
Lord, thank you for that special memory.
Thank you for Josh.
Thank you for our life together
Thank you for being with me even right now.
Thank you for TODAY’S maple latte and for whatever you are going to do next.
Five lines of thanksgiving. Five deep breaths.
This exercise doesn't erase my grief or memory but does help.
I hope it provides you grounding in the moment you might need it too.
Today’s verse of the day also happened to be one Josh's favorite ones:
He has told you, O man, what is good; And what does the Lord require of you but to do justice, to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God. - Micah 6:8
Getting a tattoo wasn't something I always dreamed about but it was something I had talked about before. The challenge was always - what would I want on myself forever. Josh and I had talked about various ideas - he was always going to do some Hebrew or Greek word. For myself, I wanted to draw something unique or use the words "hope or joy" - maybe a bird.
Since Josh passed away, I had really wanted to get a tattoo to remember him - not that I need a tattoo to do that but still . . . For the past two years, I debated what. I almost stopped and got one in California, then had an idea to do it in Denver with Erin but the timing didn't work. After much time debating, I figured out what to get one night driving home this summer.
The Wilco song, Everlasting Everything, came on my playlist. Something about it seemed perfect! I should get the word Everlasting in Hebrew or Greek then add Love and maybe Josh's signature. From this point, this was the plan. I wanted to then do this on a special day; the anniversary of the last day I saw him, our anniversary or maybe his birthday. It ended up being his birthday.
The day before Josh's birthday, another cool thing happened. I was doing some extra cleaning and actually looking for a good signature of Josh's to use for myself or his sister - who was also considering getting one. Inside his old computer bag I found old Hebrew study cards - and the one that fit was there. One side had the Hebrew word written in Josh's version of how he thought it looked. The other side the definition: - Always, Everlasting, Forever. It was not written perfectly but it was HIS handwriting - making it, to me, perfect.
I then went to work photoshopping together a version with this writing and the word "LOVE" from an anniversary card he gave me.
I scheduled the tattoo time, was super nervous as the artist went to work. Now this writing is permanently printed on my ankle. To me it's perfect. It represents us, but beyond this it also represents and Everlasting Love that is way bigger than us. It's about God's love. A father who loves me and us with an everlasting love. When I look at my new tattoo - I find encouragement and comfort. A reminder of a person that loved me greatly and a God who loves me even more.
Also on this day, Josh's sister and younger cousin Emily (who has the same birthday as Josh) also got tattoos representing Josh. We basically did it together but in different locations (me in Missouri, they in Colorado). It was a truly special day!
Hi! It's Jenn Brown, writing my story that is now slightly different as we enter a season of new grief. On September 30, 2019, my dear husband Josh passed away after battling brain cancer.