On the morning of June 9th, 2013, the physical world lost a beautiful soul. Gone too soon, well before the world was able to see all she had to offer, our Great Savior called back one of the greatest blessings I ever received through a friendship; my dear Catherine.
Eight whole years. Thinking back on the millions of things that happened between now and June 9, 2013 is truly remarkable. Learning to live without a loved one is something that affects all of us differently. Losing a grandparent when you're a child may not carry the same effect that losing a friend might years down the road does. But through every loss comes strength, understanding, and a new perspective on what life truly means. At least that's what I told myself as I adjusted to living without my best friend.
We never know just how grief will hit us. I have experienced losing a loved one before but never have I lost someone who really meant the world to me. Growing up being the one who was always left out, I found it hard to be open to making "girlfriends." But after I met you Cat, you changed the way I approached friendships and learned how to create a boundary for myself. You taught me so much about myself in the few years we had together than I could ever have imagined doing on my own. All of which makes living FOR you that much more meaningful.
The first step in grief is denial and shock. After the initial shock of losing someone, the events to follow can be troublesome and unexpected, but also very important. In the months following the hardest day of my life, I suffered from a serious string of PTSS (post traumatic stress syndrome) outbreaks that I never really expected to have. I had emotional outbursts and I lashed out to those who were there to support me. It was an experience that I know many others have dealt with too.
We can study and learn the 7-stages of grief, but the reality is, those stages look different to everyone. I could never have prepared for the lows I faced as the first 4 stages made their way through this experience. Sometimes it felt like it would never end; like I would never find a reason to live without you, Cat. It was so much easier to let the emotions and feelings consume me than to push through the pain and live on. But, life is a lot more important than that and I know Cat, that you would never want me to give up. For you, I find reasons every day.
The most difficult thing to accept is that life doesn't necessarily get easier as time goes on after a loss. If anything, we learn how to create and live with this new normal. A normal that may never feel full again but one that can be lived out for a purpose.
After you passed, everything changed. Our plans for the future, our move to Florida, the dreams we would talk about for hours in between classes or on bus rides to our games. I knew that everything I did moving forward would be for you. The risks I took wouldn't be possible if I didn't have the belief in me, that you helped me see. Moving to New York City after college was scary, but you were there every step of the way. The choices, challenges and fears, I knew you were there holding my hand and telling me it was all going to be "okay". I never worried for too long because you, my Angel, still hold me up.
Life moved on and new memories without you had to be made. The memories we create with those who move on from this world are ones that will always remain. Pictures will bring back emotions but also smiles. Videos where I can hear your voice never ceases to make me laugh and cry at the same time. Happiness can still be there through pain, if we choose to see the good out of what that person brought to our lives.
I heard a song recently that really nailed all of my emotions on the head. The lyrics say:
"Yeah, I believe 'em when they say you're in a better place You had a wild side but you had amazing grace I know you're way off up in them clouds But if you can still hear me right now
I hope you hit those gold streets on two wheels I hope your mansion in the sky's got a ten-acre field With some mud and some hubs you can lock in Make some thunder, make 'em wonder how you got in Hide your beer, hide your clear from the man upstairs Crank it loud, hold it down 'til I get there And when I do I hope you got some new stories to tell 'Til then, give heaven some hell"
Every memory made with Cat floods my mind. A smile reaches from ear to ear knowing that she made this world a better place. But at the same time, I can't help but cry and feel guilt. Guilt that she can't be here to live out her days showing the world just how amazing she is. So as you think about your loved one today or any day, don't cry because they're gone, smile because the memories and love will never die.