...... and now:
The first picture is of Jim, on our last vacation together ...... 5 months before he died. We were visiting my brother and his family in Alaska, and we had climbed up one hellacious peak with the three boys. I just happened to catch him in a quiet moment, looking at the amazing view.
It's one of my favorite pictures of him.
The second pictures is one I took today, of Son #1. He and I are in Oregon, visiting my father and my sister and her family. Today the Son and I climbed a peak near here. All the way to the top. Which is much easier written, than done. But we made it.
I had him stand away from me, on a nearby rock, so that I could take his picture with the view in the background.
Before I could even click the button and capture that moment ...... it hit me.
It hit me hard, though I managed to swallow it down and continue with the picture taking.
This picture of Son #1 was taken today ..... pretty much 6 years, almost to the day, that I took that picture of Jim.
The similarity of the scene was not lost on me.
Nor was the similarity between the two men.
I'm trying very hard to not let the dam of tears break as I write this.
Sometimes it so wonderful that each of my children can look so much like Jim.
Other times ...... it breaks my heart.
It's such a fast and difficult trip back through time ...... like being grabbed by the back of the neck and drug through the past 6 years in less than a couple of seconds.
One moment I'm looking at my son ...... a moment later I'm looking at Jim, just as he stood in that exact moment ....... before I was aware that my wonderful life would disintegrate in less than 5 months. Before I ever came to a personal knowledge of the word "widow".
Before I knew that it doesn't matter how good people are ...... bad things will still happen to them. Sometimes very bad things.
Before ...... when I was naive and thought I had my life all figured out.
Before ...... my world, as I knew it, came crashing to a devastating and very quick end.
Funny, as we began climbing this Peak/Butte/Mountain, I didn't even think back to that day in Alaska. At least, not in a way that made me pause ...... and wonder how this might feel once we got to the top. I did remember that climb back in 2007 and remembered how very difficult it was, and how worried I was that one of the boys would get hurt.
But that was all.
It wasn't until we finally made it to the top of the peak today, and I turned my camera towards Son #1, that I was fully slammed in the gut ...... about how alike these two situations were, and about how alike these 2 men have become.
God, I miss that man so much.
And yes, I still cry every time I type those words.
I miss him with every fiber of my being. And I always will.
I know that this will never change.
Just as I know that there will always be times when something, or someone (most likely one of my children) will send me reeling back to my "before".
And though there is sometimes pain with that (as there was today, and while I write and re-read this), there is much more comfort now.
Comfort in the warm memories, and comfort in what we had, who he was, and who we were together.
Where there was once always unbearable pain at those thoughts, now there's usually comfort.
Much more comfort than pain.
Just as there will be for those of you on this path. Especially those who haven't been here very long and can't believe there will ever be comfort in your life again.
I promise that there will.
I don't know when.
I don't know what that will look like for you.
But I promise that it will arrive one day.
Very quietly and unobtrusively. You won't see it coming.
You'll just feel it one day ...... the comfort instead of the horrifying pain.
And you'll know that you're going to be ok.
The comfort won't be there all at once, suddenly covering up the pain, but it will slowly appear more and more often. As I said, I think there will always be pain, but one day there will be more comfort than pain.
I pray that each of you has the strength to walk through this valley ..... at whatever pace you walk.
Please know that, while we who are ahead of you can't remove you from it, as much as we'd like to, we have to watch from afar, cheering you on and willing you to feel the encouragement we're sending out to you.
Please know that we are up on the edge of that valley. We've climbed out. But we haven't left you behind and alone. We're still here, up on the edge, waiting for you to climb your way up here and grab on to one of our hands so that we can help pull you up and over the ledge.
You will make it.
We are here. Waiting. Praying. Encouraging.
And knowing that one day you will feel more comfort and less pain.