He died on a Tuesday. I can still remember screaming those animal sounds into the phone, tones I'd never heard come out of myself. Deep, guttural defiances... yelled at his dad on the other end of the line – every cell of me rejecting the words from his broken voice, “No baby, he's not okay...” The room is spinning. I remember flashes only. I remember pacing like a caged animal in the shock of it all, and coming back to the bedside where I stared at one of those old-timey pictures of us on the wall, in a teal frame, which I'd hung only days earlier. Suddenly, I am in the hallway, down on my knees, screaming still. Then on the floor, in the bedroom, calling my best friends, the first words I say, over & over, “You have to come over. You HAVE to come over!” followed by barely breathing words, “It's Drew. He was in a crash...... he... didn't make it...” I am lost in space. Gasping. Grasping at anything I can, but nothing exists. I am plummeting through an empty black void – a vast nothing. It is somewhere not earthly. In the explosive event of his death, I have left my body too. It is 8pm, June 12, 2012. I am 29 years old. And the love of my life, my future husband, is dead.
In the rest of my time, I did a lot of what I did when I lost my parents… I made art. Hiked around in the countryside, wrote endlessly, took a lot of photos, sat and stared quietly sometimes for hours at the hills and trees. I started painting for the first time in my life, and found it helped me to express some of the pain. I started selling some of my art here and there and showing it at a few galleries and shows. I started my Our 1000 Days blog to record my journey and our story. I listened to all kinds of music from classical to heavy metal, and took some art classes like welding and clay sculpting and jewelry-making. I went to a lot of art galleries and festivals just to be around art. I found that exposing myself to new things - whether appreciating art or watching documentaries or making things in a class - helped to give me a break from the emotions and helped me find some way to still see the wonder in the world. Sometimes, like with painting, it also ended up being a way to get some really deep emotions out. Art in all its forms has saved my life.
But I have some ideas. Before he died I had only dreams of being a writer and an artist and making a different in people's lives with my creativity. Since he died, I have dropped everything to pursue those dreams (albeit at a snails pace, because I'm also dealing with the grief). I have sold some of my art, written many pieces that I am very proud of, and gained a great deal of confident in myself as an artist and someone who can help people. That's a big thing for me to admit… because honestly, deep down, there is still a part of me that doesn't believe I am big enough to ever help anyone. But slowly the part of me that knows I can is gaining momentum.
I have no clue how anything will unfold in the next year or two or ten. All I know is that I've lost my mother, my father, and the love of my life, all before the age of 30. I've been dealing with death and grief and learning to live through it for over 20 years already, and I'm only 31. I'd have to be a complete idiot not to take that as a sign to help others out somehow. So I'm setting my compass there and letting go, trusting that someone out there - perhaps a particularly handsome pilot I know - will be guiding me.