An Unexpected Bond

A few weeks ago, my mom sent me a text saying that she’d been cleaning out her filing cabinets and came across some really nice pictures of Ralf and me. She asked if I would like to see. Then, she took pictures of the pictures with her phone and sent them my way.

There we were.

Just 18 years old, freshly graduated from high school, filled with hope and anticipation for the future that we already knew we wanted to build together.

So in love.

So happy.

And, completely clueless of what was to come.

Mason sat next to me on the couch as I scrolled through the images. In his precious little voice he asked, “What you watching, Mommy?”

I returned his question with another question.

“Mason, who are these people?”

“Mommy and Daddy in Heaven,” he replied with a shy smile.

“That’s right, Baby.”

I took the opportunity to talk to him about his father. I explained to him, as I have many times before, how much we loved each other and how excited we were to have a baby. Mason listened intently as I told him, yet again, the story of how his Daddy in Heaven was a fireman who drove a black RAM and knew how to operate a big boat.

Then I explained that Daddy in Heaven was called to be with God while Mason was still in Mommy’s belly. He loves to hear about how the doctors took him out of Mommy’s belly, how his Yaya placed him on Mommy’s chest for the very first time, and how she fell in love instantly.

He smiled so innocently, paused reflectively, and said something I was not quite prepared to hear.

“I want him to hold me.”

My heart dropped into my stomach.

“Oh, Sweetie. He wants to hold you, too. And I believe one day he will.”

I pulled him in close, squeezed him tight, and reminded him – for probably the millionth time that day- just how much Mommy loves him. Then, a few minutes later, the front door opened and in walked his Daddy on Earth. Mason screamed in excitement and ran into his arms.

And he was held.

Sometimes life doesn’t turn out the way we plan or even hope for, but we must be grateful for the unexpected blessings that come our way.

I know with all my heart that Ralf watches and rests in peace knowing that his son is so loved and cherished. Until the day he can finally hold him in his arms, just like he always wanted to.

I truly believe he will.

A Family Portrait

Ralf died just two days before our scheduled maternity photo shoot. It ended up being the day of his funeral instead of the day we were going to have our first family portraits taken.

Those that know me well can tell you how much I love pictures. I always used to make elaborate collages of my favorite snapshots as a teenager, and still have more picture frames around my house than the average person. I think it’s amazing how a camera lens can capture a moment and freeze it in time forever. Since losing Ralf, my appreciation of the art has grown even more. Our wedding photos and video are so beyond cherished.

During my last two months of pregnancy, and then once Mason was born, it broke my heart to think that we would never have the type of family pictures I’d always wanted.

I hoped to find companionship again one day, but I never imagined finding a man who could love me so deeply, despite my brokenness.

A man who would take Mason into his heart without hesitation and love him the way I know Ralf would have.

A man who could make all of our future family photos whole again.

I never truly believed we could find that man…until we did.

This is OUR family picture.

The faces and participants are different from what both Vinnie and I originally envisioned, but the bond and love captured are exactly what we’d always hoped for.

They say a picture is worth a thousand words, but they could never adequately describe the value of this one.

Thank you, Michelle, for doing what you do.

💙,

Maeghan

http://michelleguzman.com/blog/

Love After Life

We never met while you were here on this Earth, but I feel very connected to you. You were the love of the man who now holds my heart. Like him, I have suffered the loss of a great love of my life.

I completely understand how he yearned for you, cried for you after you left – and how a part of him always will. I understand how even now he can be having a completely “normal” day and suddenly see your eyes in the face of a stranger or hear your laugh in the line of a song and be swallowed up in grief all over again. I understand how he may feel guilty at times because his mind occasionally has trouble justifying his right to be in love and feel happy again, even though his heart of hearts knows that happiness is what you would have wanted for him. I understand that while his soul overflows with pride and gratitude every time he gets to witness and share in another milestone with Mason and me, that there is an underlying, eternal ache for all the missed moments that he should have had with you and Anthony. A pain that is ever present but that he has learned to live with because he’s had to.

I understand that I will never be you, because, how could I be? You were the only you there could ever be. And from what I’ve been able to gather from stories, pictures, and my own imagination, you were special and beautiful both inside and out. I understand that he doesn’t need or want me to be you, either. His heart has grown despite his suffering and has made additional room for me, with your space completely intact forever. As it should be.

You were you and left too soon. It was completely out of your control.

I am me, and I’m still here. And while it’s impossible to know for how long, I hope to honor your legacy by giving him all the love you planned to. I know that I can, because it’s the same love that I envisioned giving to Ralf until old age. But like you, he had to leave sooner than anticipated.

We move forward into this unpredictable life, but you are and always will be a part of our story.

So will Anthony.

So will Ralf.

And what a crazy, tragically beautiful story it is.

I hope we make you proud.

Ups and Downs 

I’ve been in such a funk these past couple of days. I can’t think of any one particular incident that could have caused it. I think I have always been prone to anxiety, but ever since I lost Ralf, it has worsened significantly. Sometimes, there is a trigger – like our wedding song playing on the radio unexpectedly, or seeing a black Dodge Ram on the road, or having to do a double take because for a split second I forget he is gone and could swear I just saw him at the end of the aisle at Publix. Other times, though, it’s just a general feeling of yuckiness that sets in out of nowhere. My head is cloudy. I have a hard time focusing on the most minor tasks. My body and my heart physically ache. Once you enter widowhood, you are a member for life. Even if you are so lucky, as I have been, to move forward and find love again, the pain your great loss has caused you stays with you forever. Some days it’s more pronounced than others, but it is always present. I am not the person I once was. I am forever changed and more aware of my mortality and the mortality of the people I hold most dear.

 
I’ve been having horrifying dreams and reliving every minute of Ralf’s final days in my mind over and over and over again. I keep thinking about that last morning we woke up in our bed together. It was the first time in a long time because he had been so consumed with studying for his lieutenant’s exam and had been getting out of bed at the crack of dawn to head to the library to study for months. I remember feeling so happy and thankful to wake up next to him, not realizing it would never happen again and that in ten days I’d be at his burial. I keep thinking of all the time we weren’t granted, of everything he is missing out on, of all the things I wanted and needed to say to him. My heart will always feel like I could have and should have done more even though my intellect knows that isn’t true. It’s crazy how the human mind works. It’s like when you rewatch a sad movie that you’ve seen a hundred times – you know how it’s going to end, yet you watch it again because somewhere deep inside of you there is the tiniest ounce of hope that things might turn out differently. I often find myself thinking how I should have picked up on some kind of sign earlier and sent him to the doctor, or how my pushing him to follow his dream of becoming a fireman somehow led to him getting brain cancer. I can list all the things I would have done differently while he was in the hospital, as if it could make any difference at this point.

 
Even with the way I am currently feeling, I know the severity of this “funk” is temporary. The wound Ralf’s loss left is now part of who I am – some days the scar tissue is intact, other days I bleed like the pain is new. But I know that a hard day, month, even a rough couple of years does not equal a bad life. I’ve heard it said that you should never evaluate your life when you are in a bad mood because everything will be viewed in a negative light. Even when I am feeling this way, I know that I am so greatly blessed. Blessed for having known and loved Ralf, blessed for the tremendous amount of support I received after Ralf’s passing. I am SO incredibly blessed to have my baby boy and the opportunity to find great love again – a chance to rebuild. I recognize that not everyone who has walked along the path of widowhood can say the same and I am grateful. Some days it may take a little (or a lot of) extra effort, but I always end up at that same realization. I believe that many beautiful moments await me, and I hope to enjoy them with my whole heart.