The weather is warming up here in sunny Queensland, Australia, with Spring in full swing and Summer just around the corner. Last weekend I popped over to visit my sister and her family, who live a few streets away, and they'd just enjoyed their very first swim in their brand new backyard pool.
The sun was getting ready to set, casting its golden glow over the sky. My brother-in-law was cooking a BBQ, with a beer in hand and the football on in the background while my three nephews were running around to dry off from their swim. My sister and I sat amongst it all enjoying a glass of wine. And I felt happy.
Of course I wished Dan was there, the ache for him is ever-present, but in that moment, surrounded by people I love and looking up at a bright blue sky I was content and my heart was at peace.
I said to my sister, "I can't wait for Summer, we are going to have so many fun weekend like this" and she said, "me too... can you believe we're actually looking forward to Summer? I can't even remember a single thing about last Summer, let alone enjoying any of it. I am so happy to hear you say that you're looking forward to something, this is really big."
I hadn't even realised until she pointed it out but it WAS really big. I couldn't believe I was actually feeling genuine excitement about something so minor as the weather. This time last year, Dan had only been gone for two months and life was still a numb blur. I have a vague recollection that Summer occurred but no tangible memories of actually doing anything - let alone enjoying anything. One year ago, I didn't think it would be possible to ever feel 'joy' again.
After dinner I went back home to my quiet, empty house, climbed in to my big, cold bed and had my routine chat with Dan about my day. I cried for him and yearned for him - as usual. But I felt a sense that there was more to come for me. I felt hope. Even though my heart is broken because he isn't here, I was somehow still looking forward to wearing out my welcome in my sister and brother-in-law's new swimming pool this Summer.
It's so hard to describe how my grief can co-exist with this growing sense of remembering what it feels like to be genuinely happy. Not complete, but happy. Maybe, in the way I felt before he was part of my world. I will ALWAYS wish Dan was here. Every happy moment, every sunny day, every celebration and every achievement will ALWAYS be less sweet because of his absence. My heart will always ache for him, even when it's singing. Oh, how it yearns for him. It's magnetic, this pull, to be close to him. This impossible pull - to hold him, hear his laugh, kiss his lips, rest my head on his chest and breathe him in. Missing him is such agony. I have accepted that this will be a life-long pain and I still have those days where the grief is so intense that even leaving the house is just not an option. But a very small seedling of hope has sprouted somewhere inside me.
I think it was planted there during my time at Camp Widow West in July, and somehow, since then, enough light has seeped through the tears to give it life. I'm doing my best to protect and nurture it - it's still very fragile and nowhere near sturdy enough to withstand strong winds or stormy rains. But maybe a nice, quiet Queensland Summer will be the perfect conditions for letting my little seedling of hope grow stronger.