I’m writing this the night before celebrating my third anniversary without Drew. By the time you read it, I will likely be somewhere in the middle of the day itself. I don’t have to tell any of you how surreal it feels to be here – celebrating our three years together after three years without him. It has a different kind of sadness to it, which is hard to put into words. Less sharp around the edges, easier to hold in my heart, but still sadness nonetheless.
Since he died, I have tried to do several things on our anniversary to make it a good day still: Do something to make myself feel special, Do something to make myself and him proud. If I can make this day about either of those things... I can usually still find the joy.
The first year, I signed myself up for a weekend art workshop to learn a new art medium I’d never tried before. It turned out to be the best possible thing I could have done. Not only was it a fun and active distraction that fed my passion, but it turned out to be even more. All the other attendees ended up canceling for various reasons and I was left as the solo student for the class. I felt very special to have this one-on-one instruction, and even ended up sharing our love story and all about him and my journey with my instructor. If I had to celebrate without him, it was the best way to have gotten to do so. I felt special to have a class just for me. And I felt proud that I had the guts to even get out of bed that day, much less find something that would feed my soul.
Last year, the second time around, I ended up going to a weekend conference with my mother-in-law all about death, spirituality, and the afterlife. It was a beautiful place to be, but being in an ocean of people at a conference made the specialness of our day feel very overshadowed. By the end of the day I was so depleted and overwhelmed, I ended up in tears on the phone to my best friend from the hotel lobby… blathering on and on for some hours. I suppose in the end, it was a different kind of beautiful…between her and I. His death has indeed added a depth to our friendship we never had before. I felt proud of myself for reaching out and leaning on her. Maybe when the day doesn't go so well, I think there's still ways we can be proud of ourselves.
This year, it is very different and new. It happens that returning back to this conference again put me close enough to Mike – the new guy – for him to come for a visit. With us being 1400 miles apart, even a day together is special. It is so surreal that another man will be arriving here Sunday morning to pick me up. That this will also be the first day my mother-in-law will be meeting him in person - before she heads back to Texas. I'm finding it surprising that it feels so right to be spending the anniversary of Drew and I with Mike. It doesn't feel uncomfortable at all. I think the way I am able to see it now, is that love is such a fluid thing. Drew's love comes to me through many people. And this year, it is coming to me through Mike. He finds different ways all the time to make certain I feel special and loved. And the fact that Mike wants nothing more than to celebrate Drew and I with me on this day certainly does just that.
Losing Drew keeps teaching me new things about love all the time. The love of strangers – like my art instructor – to listen and open their hearts to us. The love of friends – like my best friend – who will be there for us at our worst moments to remind us, celebrate with us, cry with us and laugh with us. And this year… the love of a man – of this new man – and how it will never ever mean that I have to put my love for Drew aside in order to move forward in loving and being loved.
Somehow, all of this has come out of Drew’s death. All of these experiences of love are ones I would have never otherwise had. And while I still wish he were here, and I will always wish I could celebrate this day with him... I am so grateful for the other versions of love he has brought me. Each one, a color all its own... filling my heart up and adding new hues to my world along the way. Helping me see that there is still brilliant color in the world at a time in my life when it is not always easy to see it.