It’s the wee hours of June 21 and I can’t sleep. Technically speaking, tomorrow will be 365 days.
It will be 365 days since we got the call. 365 days since our world was turned upside down. 365 days since our precious Hannah became an angel.
And unbeknownst to me, somehow, someway, today was a good day.
I woke up full of energy accompanied by a depth of gratefulness that I’ve never had before. I kept thinking to myself, why aren’t you sad? Why aren’t you crying? Tomorrow is the day. The first year, done. Over with. How are you making it through this day with JOY?
On June 22, 2018, I was at a water park with my kiddos. I had a day off from work and couldn’t wait to bask in the sun while my kids (who are now old enough to swim on their own- thank the LAWD) were having the time of their lives.
Around 4:30pm, I received a text.
“Have you heard from Hannah lately?”
I shook my head “no” as if that counted as my reply.
It wasn’t abnormal though; to not hear from Hannah. She was always (and I mean always) losing/breaking/crushing/tossing/submerging her phone and it was always (and I mean always) in a bag of rice being revived.
Such was true on June 22.
So I texted her… but the text never said delivered. So I Facebook messaged her…. but the little blue check mark never appeared. So I called her… but it went straight to VM.
Not thinking too much into it, I quickly gathered up my things (and kiddos), sent a text to Chris that Hannah wasn’t answering my calls and headed home.
It took me 30 minutes to drive home, and 30 minutes to get ready for our neighborhood BBQ.
Then we received the call.
“I’m so sorry, but Hannah has passed away.”
Eight stupid words.
Said through the phone at 5:30pm on June 22.
Almost 365 days ago.
**Do you remember what someone, anyone, said to you 365 days ago? It’s quite a thing, to remember things like this. To remember where I was standing. What I was wearing. What the exact time was. It will forever be painted in my mind and heart.**
And then in a split second, an uninvited gust of strength entered my body. Uninvited, but absolutely welcome. There were people to tell. Calls to make. Travel arrangements to be made… all the things…
All the hard things.
And somehow we did it. Somehow, through the strength of Jesus within us, we did it.
Just like somehow we made it 364 days. Somehow, through the strength of Jesus within us, we did it.
I’ve heard it said before that the first anniversary of someone dying is hard. Like, freaking hard. And so, in true Audra fashion, I’ve been bracing myself since the calendar turned June 1.
Waiting for the waves of grief.
Who am I kidding? A tsunami of grief.
And it came. But wearing a different pair of shoes this time.
There was a steady cloud of grief that hung over me. Everyday, all day. And if you’ve ever met grief personally, he doesn’t leave. Ever. His character reminds me of when I had morning sickness while pregnant with each of my kids. Sure you look fine and normal to everyone else, but inside, your mouth is salivating, every piece of innards feel like they could throw up out of you at any given moment and ALL you can think about is how effing horrible you feel.
Such is true with grief.
Sure I may look fine and normal to everyone else, but inside, all of me pulsates throughout every limb with the pain of how much I miss my sister.
364 days. Almost one year.
Hearing this from so many people had me thinking why it was so hard. I wanted to unpack it. So I did. And what I discovered was this: when crap hit the fan almost 365 days ago, there was a supernatural strength given to us to make it through those first days. If you’ve ever been there, than you know. I look back now and can’t believe that we did all that we did, while going through the most traumatic experience known to us.
How did all of us fly to Nashville the next day? How did we pack up Hannah’s entire house in 2 days? How did we speak at her funeral only 6 days later? How did we spread her ashes on day 7? How did we drive her belongings in a Uhaul across the country? How did we go through all her clothes only weeks after? How did we endure a second funeral in Seattle only one month after?
I can tell you what it wasn’t. It wasn’t because we faked our way through it. Cause people, you can fake some things, but this kind of pain you can’t fake your way through. And it wasn’t because we numbed our feelings through addictive behavior either.
It WAS because of the supernatural strength of Jesus that we were able to do any of this. And He was only able to do that because we LET Him do that. We surrendered our pain to Him and allowed Him to exchange our measly and weak strength for His.
And now we find ourselves at Day 364. My mind has been wandering back to all the happenings of a year ago. Every conversation. Every memory. Every smell. And it seems as though I am going through it all over again.
But the shock is gone. The adrenaline, no more.
All that’s left is the pain.
Ah hah. That’s why people say it’s so hard.
The first anniversary.
It’s as if I’m back in my kitchen, getting the phone call. But it’s so much more real now.
I feel undone; exposed.
It’s so tempting to want to hide and ignore everyone around me; to hide from the loud pain screaming in my ears.
I will not camp here. You see, there’s a trust that has been built over the past 364 days as Jesus has ever so carefully and gently held my hurting heart. He has been such a gentleman by giving me space, time, patience, grace, forgiveness, mercy, comfort, safety, blessings…
And so I keep on.
I take His hand that’s extended toward me and as He pulls me close to His chest, He embraces me tight. I surrender to Him the frustration of still not having all my questions answered. I surrender to Him that whatever happened that day, 364 days ago, Jesus knows and that’s enough.
“Out of death, comes LIFE! Abundant life”, Jesus says. “Continue to trust in Me that I will never leave you or forsake you. Just as I was there with Hannah in her final moments, I will always be here with you.”
And so now I see. The reason why Day 364 was a good day.
And so on Day 365, I will choose LIFE over death. I will choose to remember all the beautiful and hilarious memories of my precious sister, not the painful unknowns regarding her death. I will choose to trust in the One who was with her in her final moments.
I will choose, I will choose.
When peace like a river, attendeth my way, When sorrows like sea billows roll Whatever my lot, thou hast taught me to say It is well, it is well, with my soul