Sunday, April 13, 2014

The Most Special of all Olympics

Every April, my son Garrison, participates in the greater Fort Worth spring track meet for Special Olympics. He participates in a running event, (this year it was the 100 meter dash and the relay race) and some type of tossing event (this year it was the javelin toss). It's something we, as a family, look forward to every single year and when it is over, we are all so sad.  It all begins with a fabulous opening ceremonies on Friday night where they do the torch run, have cheerleaders perform, honor athletes, have guest speakers and our families most favorite part, the dance they have on the football field! It is so awesome to see hundreds of athletes, all with different types of special needs, out on that field getting down to the music that the DJ plays! It is the one and only time you will see Garrison dance! He LOVES this part. We have so many awesome memories of this event and especially of Buddy out there dancing with me and the kids! This weekend marked the second time we attended since Buddy's death. To be honest, there were tears shed before we get there because we want Buddy with us so desperately. We miss having him dance with us, yell with us, and when Garrison wins gold, cry with us.

Some of the very last pictures we have of Buddy, were taken exactly 2 months before he was killed, at this event. Now, last year, I felt Buddy's presence so strongly. I knew without a doubt he was there. The kids and I have all had countless experiences where we felt Buddy near. We have been left with zero doubt that he walks with us, watches over us, cries with us, laughs with us (and I am sure AT us), dances with us and even sleeps next to us.  But I am here to say, the experience I had this weekend blew all of that out of the water.  I have had some VERY spiritual experiences with Buddy since his passing. Some I have shared, and some I have not, for those are just for him and I to share. Buddy was not a fan of sharing spiritual experiences with others. In fact, I'll never forget the conversation we had in regards to that one time. He believed that sharing an experience with others may diminish the experience itself. And he's right. It can. However, I have shared so much with my readers, more than I should perhaps, but I feel strongly that I need to share this one in particular.  Maybe it's because this blog is my journal and I want my kids to have it and always remember it. Maybe it's because ya'll have become family to me. Maybe it's because my story may help someone. I don't know why but I do know I am supposed to share it. So I hope each of you will read it with as much love and respect as I am writing it with. 

(Buddy and Garrison walking and talking at his track meet in 2012. Exactly 2 months to the day before he was killed.)

For the first time ever, Garrison participated in the relay race on Friday afternoon. In this race, there are 4 runners who each run a portion of the track while carrying a medal baton. When they reach the next runner, they pass the baton and then that athlete can begin their portion of the run. Garrison was the last runner for his team. The girls and I were nervous wrecks. My heart was pounding so hard. Garrison does not do well at all if he doesn't win! It's a nightmare trying to convince him that silver and bronze are still awesome. There is no convincing him! Even though I know he cant, nor will he, win every event, I always pray so hard that he will, just so we don't have to face the aftermath of him "losing". 

Garrisons teammate, and best friend, Chris was the athlete who would be passing Garrison the baton. I found that alone so heartwarming and precious. I see Chris hand Garrison the baton and the girls and I start screaming to Garrison to run!! We were jumping up and down and yelling like lunatics! He was winning by a mile! As he drew closer to passing in front of us, I knew Buddy was there. He was running next to him. I didn't see him with my actual eyes, but with my spiritual eyes. He was running with his boy. He was going to cross that finish line with him. And he did. I couldn't stop crying. It was too incredible. It was too spiritual. It was something I have never in my life experienced before.

As Garrison was walking with his helper to the medal stand, he saw me and grabbed me and hugged me so tightly. He said "I did it mom!" Tears were flowing like crazy! I wanted to ask him if he saw his dad running next to him but I didn't. That was answered later in the car when we were leaving. He was looking out the car window and I heard him say "Did you see that dad? I did it!" He knew his dad was running with him. 

Seeing these 4 special boys up on that medal stand, getting their gold medals was just so incredible. They smiled so big and even kissed them! They had just conquered something so huge! Something they had been practicing for several weeks! I cannot express how proud I am of not just Garrison but the other boys as well. It is such an honor to be there and watch each athlete participate! The smiles on their faces, the way the come up to anyone and everyone and show off their medals, the way they hug you, the way they burst with pride at their is truly life changing!

 (The Alliance All-Stars gold medal relay team!)

I am grateful for the opportunity to be a part of such an amazing thing as Special Olympics. I am grateful for the experiences that my family has every single year!

Here is what I know....

Buddy is near. I know this. Whenever I say "I wish Buddy was here to see this" people always say "he sees everything" and I agree. He does. BUT...When I am saying that, I am saying that I want him physically here to share things with us. It is very different. I long to have him PHYSICALLY here to touch, hold, laugh with, cry with, kiss, dance with, watch softball games with, watch Garrisons events with...I want him here. I know that happened for a very brief moment on Friday. He was HERE! His smile matched the smile on Garrison's face as they crossed that finish line together. He was there to share that moment with his first born, his only son, the young man who impacted his earthly life so much every single day. 

I know Buddy misses us so desperatly. I know he understands differently than we do. He sees the whole picture but that doesn't stop him from missing us. I know we have a loving God who knows what we need and when we need it. I needed to know I wasn't alone. I need to know I wasn't forgotten and neither are my children. I know I was blessed with a rare find! I was blessed with a man who was unlike any other. I do not know how I got so lucky but I am so glad I did. My kids and I talk often about how blessed we were to have such an amazing man as my husband and their dad. I know everyone thinks they have the best. And for them, I am sure they do, but we got the cream of the crop!

So Buddy, thank you. Thank you for continuing to be the most supportive father and husband imaginable even from heaven. We miss you so much! We love you with all that we are. We will continue to work hard here while you work hard there! Please stay close.We got this!

Friday, January 31, 2014

The Miracle of Forgiveness

I hear people say "If that happened to me, I would ______" (you fill in the blank).  I'm guilty of saying the same thing many times throughout my life. Each of us always think we know exactly what we would do if we were in someone else's shoes.  The only problem with saying that is, you never know what you will do until you are smack dab in the middle of it. For example, if someone had told me on June 20, 2012, that Buddy would die the next day, and not only would he die, but he would be killed. And not only would he be killed, he would be run over by a truck and just left there on the side of the road like some animal.  If someone would have told me all of that 24 hours before his death, I would have said this "I will hunt the driver down myself and kill him with my bare hands.  He wont deserve jail. He doesn't deserve to live when my husbands dead."  That is what I would have said on Wednesday, June 20, 2012.  But on the morning of Thursday, June 21, 2012, that's not what I said or felt. 

When I read the words on Facebook saying that a runner had been hit, and if you were missing a member of your family, to call 9-1-1 immediately.  When I read that, in that moment, I knew.  I don't know how I knew, but I knew it was my husband.  I ran to the front door and looked out the peephole and saw his work car still out front, I couldn't believe it.  I knew our world was shattered forever.  I kept saying to myself, "He's just unconscious.  That's why he cant tell them who he is. That has to be it."  But to be honest, I knew! I knew the love of my life was dead. Now what I will say next, you may believe and you may not. But I have never lied to my readers and I never will.  I've always been very open and honest and that will never change.  What happened that Summer morning should never have happened.  The driver, Terry Knight, made a huge mistake.  What he did was wrong.  His actions not only changed our families lives, but he left us with so many unanswered questions and very broken hearts. The part you may not believe...I've never been mad at Terry Knight. 

Well wait. I take that back.  A week after Buddy died, I was in Flagstaff, getting ready to bury my husband.  My cell phone rang. It was the Sheriffs office.  They told me Terry had killed himself.  I started sobbing. I remember telling the Sheriff, "I just wish I could have talked to him. I wish I could have told him we were going to be okay."  I was mad at Terry in that moment.  With his death, Terry not only took his life, but he also took the how and the why's with him. I knew in that moment, I would never have the answers that would help to provide closure for me personally.  I wanted to know what he was doing that caused him to hit my husband.  I want to know why he ran.  Why didn't he stop and try to help him?  Those are questions I so desperately want answered, that now never will be.  That did make me mad. 

Many people have said to me "I could never do that.  I could never hit someone and just leave them there."  I agree with you. I don't think I could either. But, it goes back to you never know what you will do until you're in that position.  When I say that, please understand, I'm in no way excusing Mr.  Knights actions.  What he did was wrong, so incredibly wrong.  His actions destroyed a lot of lives that day, but be very careful when you say "I would never."

Without going through every detail into what happened that morning, I will share with you how the forgiveness happened.  It was a very personal and spiritual experience and as you read this, I hope you will do so with reverence and understanding.  Due to the spirituality of it, until now, I have not shared it with many but I do feel now is the right time to share it with each of you. Three officials came to deliver the news to me.  A sheriff, the coroner, and the Sheriff's office clergyman.  They asked me a few questions about Buddy's body that would help them to know without a doubt that it was him.  When I confirmed it by telling them he had scars running up the side of each foot and all the way up to his mid claves, they gave me the official news that Buddy had been hit and killed by a hit and run driver.  My next door neighbor and dear friend Justin had already told me as he had gone to the scene of the accident and already spoke to them. However, looking at these 3 men, it all became so real.  I believe my first question was "Did he suffer?"  I was assured it was instant and he never even saw it coming.  As I stood there, listeneing to these men tell me how they believed everything happened, something miraculous happened. I asked them "What are the chances of us finding the person who did this?"  They replied "with the evidence we already have? About 90% chance." And then it happened....

As I stood on my front porch, a feeling overcame me. It started in my toes and traveled through my body , finally leaving through the top of my head. I physically felt it travel throughout my entire body.  It was incredible. For a brief moment it scared me as I didn't know what was happening, but then a peaceful feeling overcame me, a feeling of peace I've never felt before.  This thing traveling through my body? It was all the hate and anger for the driver.  It was being taken from me. It was God and I also know it was Buddy as well. They were taking that from me.  Why? Because they knew it would eventually destroy me.  Right there, on my door step, I forgave Terry Knight.  It was the most beautiful and spiritual experience of my life.  I did not know this then, but it has since been made clear to me.  My loving Heavenly Father knows the grieving process.  He knows it entails of being angry.  That is part of getting through the hurt and ultimately healing your very broken heart.  As I previously stated, He knew that my anger, if directed towards Terry, would destroy me, so He took that from me and instead, allowed me to direct my anger towards Him. I've spoken of this anger before and even lost two "friends" over that particular blog post.  But, I promise, each of you, it was all part of Gods plan.  He knew my anger towards Him would not last forever. He knew I would see the light and recognize my blessings and all He does for me every day. He knew that one day, I would remember and feel the power of His love.  He knew He could handle anything I may say to Him.  He knew I would get through  that stage. He knew, because He would help me.  He would send angels to hold me while I lay there and curse Him.  He knew how I was strong enough to get through that because He, Himself, made me strong enough.  He believed in me. He always has and He always will. 

Here is what I know......

My forgiveness of Terry Knight did not come from me. I am not some remarkable person who forgave this man out of the goodness of my heart. God took that from me.  Becasue of the love that my Heavenly Father and Buddy have for me, they together, took it form me.  I felt both of them so strong that morning and in that very moment.  It was very clear to me that Buddy had too forgiven Terry. He gave me immediate confirmation that he loved me.  That he missed the kids and I so much but that he was ok.  That was the first of many times I would feel that, including right this moment as I'm writing this.. I know Terry Knight has a lot to answer for.  I know many of you who knew and loved Buddy, do not forgive him for taking Buddy's life and that's ok.  That is a very individual thing.  I have been told by many that he is a coward for killing himself.  Again, you're entitled to feel that.  For me, I know the Lord will deal with Mr. Knight in His way.  Justice will be served by God himself.  The one and only true judge.

Terry left behind a wonderful, loving, caring and kind mother who struggles every day.  He left a wonderful step dad and step siblings all who loved him very much.  They are just as innocent as the kids and I.  So when you pray for us, pray for them.  Forgiveness is a beautiful and yet difficult thing. I'm so blessed to have had such an incredible experience.  I hate that this is the life my children and I now have but I fully recognize the miracles that have occurred.  This story I just shared with you being the biggest miracle of all. Because I have a loving husband who is now in heaven and a loving God..I got this!!!

Sunday, January 5, 2014

A Moment of Silence

I love my blog. I love that so many readers have sent me emails and comments and messages at how my blog has helped them.  How reading about my journey through these last 18 months has somehow impacted them and their lives.  I am honored that you, my readers, come and check in and take a few short minutes to sit and cry with me, laugh with me, and hurt with me.  I am often asked if I keep a journal.  I don't  This blog is my journal.  So, to my readers,  who have been so encouraging and supportive of me, I apologize for my hiatus from blogging. I can only tell you that the last few months have had several ups and downs and to be honest, I just didn't know what to say.  But, here I am, ready to give it a shot.

I have a huge fear of letting others see me weak.  It's a very real fear to me.  I constantly hear 'You don't have to always be strong"  But the truth, as I see it, is that I do.  When you are constantly told how strong you are, how you inspire others, how your strength is the reason your children are doing so well, that tells me, I cannot show my weaknesses.  I do not for one minute believe that any of you, or my children, think that I am strong and smiling 100% of the time.  My kids have seen me cry or yell one too many times to be fooled but still. I hesitate to write because I fear y'all may think I am a phony after all.

Since Buddy was killed, I have had many failures, many successes, many tears and many smiles.  I have put myself through hours of guilt for each of those things.  I have loved again, and lost again. I have had my heart broken and been rejected. I have questioned every single thing about my faith, my church, my God, and myself.  I have gained new friends and lost friends but mostly, I have lost myself.  When I look in the mirror, I often do it with tears in my eyes. I talk to myself. Sometimes its a pep talk and other times it is just staring and crying.  I look as deep in my eyes as I possibly can searching for answers.  My eyes are sad and are missing the light they once had, and that saddens me.  But, I also see a fighter in there.  I see potential. I see greatness.  I see a strong woman, a weak woman, a believer, a sinner, a saint, a lover, a fighter, a perfectionist, a follower, a leader, and a woman who so desperately wants to do the right thing and to just be happy. A woman who will stop at nothing to make sure her children are happy.  And so my journey continues. A journey I am determined to excel at.

I have goals that I cannot wait to achieve. I want to go back to school. I want to become fluent in ASL (American Sign Language). I want to write a book, and speak to woman about how they too can survive losing their spouse.  I want to help others in any way I possibly can.  I want to make my children proud, Buddy proud, God proud and myself proud.  I want to move forward not as the woman who tragically lost her husband, but as the woman who survived the unthinkable.  I believe that maybe it is not my strengths that inspire people, but my weaknesses.  My ability to share with you that I am not perfect. Share with you that I have been found on my bathroom floor, just in a towel, too weak to get up. I have smiled more fake smiles than real ones.  I have shared with you some of my mistakes (nobody want's to know all of them).  I have shared with you my fears and my insecurities.  All of these things my appear to be weaknesses, but friends, it is those weaknesses that you connect with most because those weaknesses are you,  and they are me. They are what make us human.  Facing those weaknesses and refusing to succumb to them, that is what makes us strong.  You cannot have one without the other.

This is what I know....

Grief is a VERY individual thing.  There is no right or wrong way to go through it.  You can't go around it, over it, or under it.  Straight through it is the only way.  You will be criticized along the way.  You will be laughed at, made fun of, used, judged and rejected. Sad but true.  BUT, you will also be encouraged, supported, loved, treasured, comforted, and very very blessed.  You will go through every single emotion known to man.  You will direct those emotions, especially love and anger, at the right people but also at the wrong people.  You will look for answers everywhere you can.  In good places and in bad.  You will make mistakes of all sizes but you will also have great victories!  Victories that may not have been possible without those mistakes.  You will question everything but you will find answers when you are ready for them.  Those answers will come from within.  At the school where I teach, we have a motto.."Never, never, never, give up"  That is who I am friends.  I am a woman who never gives up. I never have and I never will.  Im sorry for my moment of silence but sometimes, it takes a moment to figure things out.  Which I will; when I'm ready.  I got this.

Sunday, September 8, 2013


I wonder how I got here. How did I get to this point in my life?  I'm a 35 year old widow with 4 beautiful babies. I stop here to look over that word widow, trying to digest it. It's a shock to my system every time I see it or say it. Like myself, I am sure that most of you have always thought of a widow as a much older woman in her 80's or 90's, rather than someone my age. As I read in a book a short time ago, being a widow makes you a part of a very small and elite club. Being a young widow?  Well that club gets much smaller. So over the past 14 months, I've come to terms with this description of myself. So now, I wonder, what do I do with it?  Well, I've decided that I'm going to use the word "widow" to empower not only myself, but hopefully each of my readers.

W- Willpower! We have, even though at times it may not feel like we do, willpower. We have a very strong desire to succeed and survive. There are days where we feel defeated and struggle to find that willpower, but it's there!  It's been very eye opening to me how little accomplishments have come to bring me so much joy!  That is willpower at its finest. When I have a difficult day, its as simple as "I cooked all three meals today!  We didn't eat out once!"  I had the willpower and drive to cook for my family. On the roughest days, that's a very big deal. 14 months later and family dinners still bring a little sadness to our lives, but I feel they are important so we try very hard to do them as often as we can. Pushing through things that hurt, that's willpower!!!

I- Imperfect! Widows are perfectly imperfect. We are going to make mistakes. We are going to make right decisions and wrong decisions. We are forced to change just about every single thing in our lives. We have no clue what we are doing. I can tell you honestly that I have said and done things I never thought I would. Both good and bad. I've had many heartfelt and encouraging and beautiful things said and done for me since Buddy died but I've also had many cruel and judgmental things come my way as well. I know I'm not only speaking for myself when I say " I'm doing the very best I can!"  We, just as you, are imperfect.

D- Determined! Widows are very determined! We are determined to show others that we are strong!  We are determined to hold it together. We are determined to make others proud of us. We are determined to help not just our children heal, but anyone and everyone who has been affected by our husbands death, to heal. We are determined to heal ourselves but only after we know everyone else to be ok. We are determined to one day, not have to "fake it until you make it!"  We are determined to smile and truly feel happy again. We are determined to succeed!

O- OK! Widows are, or in some cases, will be, OK!  It's going to take time. We ask for a lot of patience and understanding. Remember, every widow is different. We have all suffered a loss but just as our losses are different, so is the mourning process we are forced to go through. In the situation where we have lost our spouses in the exact same way, we still hurt and eventually heal in very different time frames. So please! Be patient and understanding!

W- Warrior!  Widows are warriors! I currently have a favorite song called "Warrior" by Demi Lavato. If you haven't heard it, please listen to it. It's beautiful. Widows fight many many battles that many don't know about. Between our sorrow, our jobs, our children (not to mention, helping them through their sorrow), yes! Widows are indeed warriors!

Here is what I know...

As I write this, I'm sure that every widow who may stumble across my blog may not agree with this acronym. Maybe they think I'm crazy. I want to make this clear...every single widow has each of these traits somewhere inside of themselves. As for myself, I have willpower, I'm imperfect, I'm very determined, I AM going to be OK, and I am a warrior!  I am fighting for myself and for my children. They need me and I need them. Fighting for your kids is a tall order and most of the time feels overwhelming but I also know I am capable. I know God has deemed me strong enough to do just that. God has put many different people and things in my life since Buddy's death. Some have only been for a short season, and others for a long long time. I'm grateful for each of those. Currently, one of my biggest blessings is my new job.

Two weeks ago, I started a job as a special education teachers aide at Kimbo and Natalie's elementary school. This job has been an unbelievable blessing to me for many reasons. Not only is it helping us financially, it allows me to be on the same schedule as my children,  but more importantly, it is helping me so much emotionally. It keeps me occupied, it helps me feel needed, it helps me to feel as though I'm making a difference. Before my job, I was indeed very busy but it was, what I felt, without a purpose. This incredible opportunity has saved me in many ways.

I always felt that my children and I could have a bright and happy future. After looking deep into myself, and defining what being a widow means to me, I KNOW we have a very bright future indeed!!

Thursday, July 18, 2013

Why I am Mad...


First things first...go and get a box of tissues. I am not going to guarantee that you will need them, but if you read this post with as much passion and compassion that I have while writing it; you will need them!

Now I owe all of you an apology...I am so sorry about my hiatus.  I have gone through many, many things since I ran my half marathon. I will share some of those with you tonight..oh wait..clock check..3:00 am...I will share some of those things with you this very early morning, and as I have done in the past, some I will hold close to me. This blog means so much to me. I love how it has helped others and my goal, is for this to reach as many people as possible.  Because maybe, just maybe, the hell that I and my children have lived through can help to touch or even change, a life.

I have said this before and I will say it  many many more times but I really do try and stay positive for each of you. Tonight (this morning) however, I am taking my mask off, setting it to the side, and letting each of you see the rawness that is me..Heather Hopkins.  This is no easy task. I risk much in doing this. Judgement is first and foremost. I've received A LOT  of that over the past year. Losing your respect is another. And perhaps, by the time you read the last line, you may just realize I am not as strong perhaps as you may have perceived me to be when you read the first line.  So, without further ado, yet much hesitation, I bring you "Heather Uncensored!"

I am mad.  I am so angry and hurt and mad, I feel like I want to punch something, or even someone.  I feel like I may lose my mind.  I hear people tell me that God has a plan for me and my children. I hear them say "Just give it to God." I hear them say, "You are so strong!" I hear them say "Buddy and God both want you to be happy."  My response to each of these is "I know. It's just hard!" At least that is what comes out of my mouth. What my mind says? "You don't have a clue! If God wanted me happy, my husband would still be here! God took something! My husband! So no! I'm not giving him anything! And no! I'm not strong! I am merely putting on an act to fool each of you, and my children, into thinking I can handle this life that was thrown at me!" Sometimes, while in the shower, I crumble. I fall to the floor and just cry, scream, and yell.  I yell at God and I plead with Buddy to please come back.  I ask "Why?" over and over and over again. I swear at God. I've said very un-Christian-like things to Him.  I'm so numb that I don't care anymore.  I hurt so bad that I just give up sometimes, even for 2 minutes.  Then, I stand up, turn the water off and go about my day. 


As I see people, or talk on the phone, I force my smile.  I laugh sometimes at how people comment on how happy my smile is.  I want to cry because a part of me wants people to remember that behind that smile is a very sad and broken woman.  People tend to think that once a widow, or widower get through the first year, they are miraculously healed.  Even more so if you happen to meet someone during that first year. It's like everyone holds their breath until one of those two things happen. I could almost hear the collective sighs of relief when I posted I had a boyfriend.  Let me be the first to tell ya'll...I wish it were that simple.  Instead, it almost makes the pain worse. Because now, you are dealing with guilt and fear. I don't want to hear that Buddy would want me to "move on" because I could never "move on" from the love of my life. I will find someone to spend the rest of my life here on this earth with but I will never "move on."  Because of the overwhelming guilt that encompasses me, I no longer have a boyfriend. I stepped back to figure myself out as I am this entirely new person who I don't even know. I look in the mirror and see a stranger staring back at me. Her eyes look so sad. They look tired and worn out.  Her shoulders sag as they carry the weight of the world on them.  Her mouth seems to turn down more than it used to, a product of the hours and hours and hours she has spent crying.  She looks so much older and so broken.  I see that girl and then realize that is indeed me. And I hurt...

I AM MAD! I am mad this is my life. I am mad that Buddy was ripped from our lives. I am mad that I had to come into my home and tell my beautiful children that their daddy was dead. That someone ran him over and left him on the sided of the road. I am mad as hell that as I laid in my warm bed sound asleep, the absolute love of my life was laying on the side of the road; for hours. I am mad that when I got the news, I didn't run to the scene and lay next to him so his body wasn't alone.  I am mad that he didn't decide to sleep in instead of running on June 21.  I am mad that I have 4 amazing children who cry every day because they hurt so much.

I am mad that people compare their losses to ours. I am mad that I am going to get remarried one day. I don't want to find someone else. I don't want to have to go through all of those awkward "getting to know you" stages.  I worked my ass of for 16 years and had such an amazing marriage. I am mad that was ripped away from me.  I am mad that people are awkward around me and "Don't know what to say" so they just ignore me. I am mad that many have just forgotten about us.  I am mad that people don't speak to me anymore because they don't agree with some of my decisions. I am mad that this is my life.  Don't tell me I agreed to this. Please don't tell me that. Why would I agree to have something so horrific happen to not just me, but to so many that I love so much.  I am mad that people think this will not hurt me to the core the rest of my life.  I am mad that people have taken advantage of me and my situation in the past year.  I am so mad. I am mad that I don't get to be in his arms again on this earth. I am mad that I don't get to hear his beautiful voice singing in church.  I am mad that he is not here to rock me in the recliner that my dad gave us.  I am mad that he is not here to hold me in bed and love me.

I am mad that my 14 year old son came back from our month long "vacation" only to be found sobbing in my room because he was just sure daddy was here waiting for us. I am mad that I cant get into his head to help him understand.  I am mad that I am a single mom. I am mad that people tell me "let me know if you need anything" yet when I do....crickets.  Turns out, for many people, that means only if I needed them the first week.

I am mad that Buddy is dead.  I am so mad. But mostly, readers, I am sad. I am so sad that he is not here to text me "come to bed and let's get it on!" (I swear he used to text me from the other room all of the time. :) )
I miss him every single moment of every single day. Every single aspect of my life changed on June 21, 2012.  Not just a few things...EVERYTHING.

Here is what I know....

That saying "You really find out who your friends are" is 100% true.  If you talk to other widows (and widowers) you hear them say that the second year is worse than the first..also very true.  The first year, you are in a fog.  You are constantly focused on trying to keep going and "not giving up" and trying to figure out "what the hell just happened."  By the time the first year mark comes around, it has finally sunk in and you realize "this is really my life now." And that hurts far worse than you can imagine.  Amongst it all, I do know I have been blessed. There is no denying that. I am blessed with family and friends who love me. Most have been very very good about not judging me but instead, applauding my good days, holding me or calling me through my bad, loving me through my mistakes, and being there to pick me up each time I have fallen.  I've never done this before. There is an awful lot of material to read and that has helped. But, everyone is different and we each mourn different. Nobody else was married to Buddy. Nobody else shared our bond and connection.  Nobody knew us, or knows us the way we knew and loved each other.  Therefore, nobody knows how I feel.  I know that prayers help.  I will admit I don't pray as much as I should, and when I do, it is for my kids or those that I love who I know are hurting so much.  So when I ask you to pray for me, please do.  I have felt the power of prayer carry myself and my children through some very dark hours.  I know that Buddy is near when we need him.  As I have laid in bed and held our crying children, as they cried out for their dad to come back, I have felt his arms embrace us. I have felt him hold me as I have begged for help going to sleep. He has accompanied me on runs more than once.   He has sat next to me as I have typed blogs.

Please don't judge me or leave this post disappointed in me. Please don't look at me as weak. Please just have patience and understanding.  And PLEASE pray for me.

I know that I will be ok.  But in the meantime, I just need to be mad..and very very sad.  I miss him and that's ok.  I got this...I guess.

Saturday, March 30, 2013

The Run of a Lifetime

I did it!!!! After 3 months of "training" (I really didn't train the way I should have), I ran the Dallas Rock and Roll half marathon! Buddy ran this exact same race 2 years ago and it meant everything to me to be able to run it in his memory.  It was truly one of the most amazing experiences of my life.  I was so nervous, and down right scared, I made myself physically ill.  I won't lie and say there weren't a few times I questioned my desicion but I will say that only 1 time did I consider not doing it.  That one moment came just before I left my hotel room to walk down to the start line....Let's start from the beginning....

In December, some of you may remember that I went to Las Vegas to celebrate what would have been Buddy and my 15 year wedding anniversary.  3 of my closest friends joined me on that very emotional, and yet healing, week long trip.  While there, I was talking to my dear friend Janice about running the Dallas Rock and Roll half marathon in Buddy's memory.  Without hesitation, she said, "Let's do it! I will run it with you!" Literally within minutes of our conversation, we were registered. I had only been running for about 2 months at that point.

Let me pause here to explain something. I have NEVER been a runner.  In high school, I ran during PE but only because I was forced to. Even then, I did any walking I could get away with.  I HATED running. Buddy always wanted me to run with him, and I finally gave in and went about 3 times. Then I gave up because I truly hated it.  So when people say "Oh I could never run. I hate it!", they clearly have NO idea how much I use to hate it.  A few months after Buddy died, I was prompted to just go running one day. So I did. I realized how much better I felt when I got home, so I just kept going.  Now I sincerely love it.

So, after only have been running for 2 months with zero prior running experience, I embarked on this crazy dream to run this for Buddy.  I was determined.  Well, I got home, looked up training apps and started working really hard.  I had many many hiccups along the way.  Mostly, it was just so emotional for me.  Time was also a huge factor.  So, come race day, I had only been running for 5 months and the longest run I had ever been on was 4 miles.  In your half marathon training, you should be running 7-8 miles fairly regularly. Oops! This caused me a lot of my fear. I knew I would finish, I would crawl if I had to, but I was scared that I would injure myself or the fear of just how hard it would be.  I have learned an awful lot about myself these past months and one thing I know, I am a very determined lady.  I don't give up. Its just not who I am.

I have also had the most amazing support system. I am so blessed. I fully recognize that many people don't have that. My local friends were constantly encouraging me and even went running with me a few times. One even bought me some running shoes for Christmas.  When I didn't want to go running, I would hear, "you know you will feel so much better if you do!" They were always right.  So I ran! Not as much as I should have but I ran.

My friend Janice stayed true to her word and flew out here to run with me. I LOVED having her here with me to run. It provided me with a strength that I cannot explain. She is a better and faster runner than myself but literally stayed with me every single step of the race.  I can never ever ever thank her enough for running this with me. What a blessed experience to share with her. I love you J!

Race Morning: We woke up to 30 mph winds. It was 30 degrees outside. If you know anything about me, I HATE to be cold! I was so scared to go running in the wind and cold. I can even handle the cold but running in wind, let alone high winds, is so incredibly difficult.  I cried in the bathroom that morning and actually thought for a brief moment, "I can't do this."  That thought was quickly washed away by a peace; a peace that consumed me and reminded me that not only could I run this race, I would run this race and Buddy would be running it with me.  He made sure I knew that he wouldn't leave my side.  And he didn't.  Every time I needed to feel him, I did. My nerves were a mess as we got to the start line.  It was truly freezing.  And then, it was our turn. Going across that start line was incredible. I thought "Here we go!"  My adrenaline was sky high. Janice paced us to run 5 minutes, then walk 5 minutes. We did that almost the whole race, except for the last mile. I wanted to run the entire last mile. 

I had made signs to wear that very briefly told my story. I wanted everyone to know why I was doing this. Not for praise or attention, but to let people know how amazing my husband was. I wanted everyone to know his story.  I was his legs that day and I wanted the world to know it.  From the very beginning of the race, runners would run past me and pat me on the shoulder, give me a thumbs up, tell me "you're amazing" or "You're such an inspiration". Some hugged me with tears literally streaming down their faces. Others said "I will run for Buddy too!" I nearly had to stop a few times because I was crying so hard.  The support along the race was incredible. Janice would run with her arm around my shoulders or holding my hand while I sobbed. At some point, Janice and I noticed that no wind had been blowing the entire run. We had about 4 big gusts that came through VERY quickly and then nothing. It was incredible. The trees around us were not even blowing. I don't know if the other runners noticed but we most certainly did. Complete stillness. The girls all said that the wind was blowing so hard the entire time they were waiting for me! An absolute tender mercy!

At mile 7, I got the boost I needed more than I realized. As I rounded a corner, there in front of me was Rachel and Kimbo with Laurie and Angela. Seeing those 4 faces meant everything to me. I was ecstatic. I hugged my girls right away and Rachel said "You're doing it mom! You're really doing it!" Kimbo told me over and over "I'm so proud of you!" They were all 4 holding signs and screaming.  As I got a ways from them I turned around and screamed so they could hear "I love you!!!" They screamed it right back. One lady came up next to me with tears just falling down her cheeks and told me "Thank you for letting me witness that moment."

Miles 8, 9, and 10 were brutal. Very very hard. Those were the times when I wondered if my legs were going to make it.  When I hit mile 11, all I could think about was my daughters waiting for me at that finish line.  As we got to mile 12, it felt like the longest mile yet. That finish line seemed like it would never come. And then there it was! The minute I saw it in my sights, I lost it. I pushed with all my might and crossed it! Arms raised high. I just kept saying "I did it! I did it!" I saw my girls and Angela and Laurie to my left and in all my emotional craziness, just smiled at them. I didn't know where to go or what to do.  I walked forward and to my right was my dear friend Brandi.   I came to my senses (I was seriously out of it) and walked over and immediately embraced her. Thank you Brandi for being there to support me! I love you!

I walked over and found my girls and Angela and Laurie. I hugged my girls first and we all 3 cried and cried. They told me over and over how incredibly proud of me they were.  They kept telling me "You did it mom!" and "We love you so much!" Standing there holding them and crying was an amazing moment. Knowing that Buddy also had his arms around us at the same time was just incredible. Such a sweet and precious moment that I know we will all treasure.

I then hugged my two angels Laurie and Angela. To try and put into words what these women mean to me just isn't possible.  They have been here with me every step of the way. Every single day they have seen me hurt, cry, laugh, and even fall. But have stood by me through it all. Thank you will never even come close to enough to what I want to say to these two amazing women. Thank you ladies for loving me! I love you so much!

I made 2 phone calls after I crossed. One was to my mom. I got her voice mail. I cried and cried to her and told her I did it and that I loved her. She has been such a blessing to me throughout my life and so much more than a mother. She is truly one of my best friends. I love you mama!

So, here it is. A week later, and I am still flying high from it all. I cannot say it was truly nothing short of AMAZING!! I am so glad I did it and would give anything to do it all over again. My friend Angelas husband Ben said it best..when Buddy was killed, he was training for his first marathon. Ben said that I was completing that marathon for him. He had run the first 13.1 and I was running the second 13.1. Thank you Ben!

This is what I know...

When I put my mind to something, and have A LOT of faith, I can do anything. I know that any crazy thing I try to accomplish, I will have amazing people behind me to help me live out my dreams. I know Buddy is with me when I need him. He cannot be here every step but he is most certainly here when it counts most. I know Buddy is proud of me. He has told me. He knows this was for him and for me. He knows I love him and will love him until I die. I know I did not do this race alone. I was surrounded by angels both living and those in Heaven.  I know I am a fighter. I also know I will NEVER run a full marathon. So don't even ask!  I know I can, and will achieve great things! One half marathon down, several more (literally and figuratively) to go!

Sunday, March 17, 2013

Self Discovery

Sorry it has been a few weeks but life has been a little rougher than usual.  Since I don't typically hold much back in these posts I will tell you all that during my complete "hitting rock bottom" day, I lost it. As my friend Angela put it "I saw you giving up for the first time." I really did. That day, February 20,  I truly felt I just couldn't go on.  Now, I have most certainly had those feelings at other times in my life but this time was much different.  I felt the life being sucked out of me. I thought, "If I just lay here and cry, I will surely die of a broken heart." I took a shower, and my daughter Rachel sent my dear friend Angela a text message that she was worried about me as she could hear the sobs coming from me through the walls.  Angela came almost immediately. I was so out of it. It was almost worse than the actual day that Buddy was killed. Angela called in a favor and got me into a new counselor the very next morning. She stayed there with me, helped me dress, helped put makeup on me and helped me do my hair. We then went to a planned birthday party with all of our families and kids. I don't remember much of that night.  I do know that Angela's husband asked Angela if I was ok because I looked awful. I went to the counselor the next morning, even though I told Angela I wasn't going. She came to my house and forced me to go. She would have literally drug me if she needed to. 

This new counselor has been wonderful. He has made me realize many things but has also got me thinking so much. He has given me counsel and advice that has helped me in ways I cannot explain. So, on this path of  discovering the new Heather that I am just now learning about, I am growing and learning in ways I cannot explain.  I hope to never, ever, ever revisit a day like the one I did when I hit my rock bottom...but, If I do, how blessed I am to know that I have friends and family, near and far, that will be here to pick me up. Thank you Angela for saving me that day. I realize I would not have physically died that day but I am not sure just how I would have mentally survived without YOU! I love you so very much.

I am not entirely sure why I am sharing this with y'all. My only thought is that maybe, just maybe, one of you needed to hear that not only do you have dark days and moments, but I do too. I want people to believe in me and know that I am strong..not because I put a smile on my face or am constantly trying to be positive, but because I can and will hit rock bottom, maybe even more than once, but that I will also overcome those moments. I want people to realize that even in my darkest hours, I believe there is hope and there is light, no matter how faint it may be. 

This coming Sunday, on March 24, I will run my first half marathon.  Buddy ran this same one 2 years ago.  His first and only.  It is the shirt he was wearing when he was killed.  I committed to this back in December.  The emotional and physical toll the training has taken on my body and mind is just overwhelming.  I have questioned my decision countless times.  I have only been running since September. I have never run before that. .  A half marathon, 13.1 miles, is a very ambitious goal for a beginner but this is just not any half. It is Buddy's half marathon.  So, despite my own questions in regards to my ability to finish, I am doing it.  I can tell you this..I am terrified. I am so scared that I feel physically ill. I am scared I wont finish. I am scared of letting myself and others down.  I try to just keep my children and friends faces in my mind..I envision seeing their faces as I run towards the finish line. I long for many of my loved ones to be there waiting for me, and I am so sad that they can't, but I am grateful for those who can.

Crossing that finish line will be the most amazing feeling.  I cannot wait to experience it. So, I am asking you, my readers, to please lift my name up in prayers this week. I know the power of prayer is great and powerful. I know many of you don't know me so it may seem strange, but please, ask God to just allow me to finish this race. Not just my half marathon, but my own personal race of healing.  Surviving the death of my husband as a whole. 

Here is what I know....

When you are at your "breaking point" or "rock bottom", there are still people who love you and need you.  There is still hope in a beautiful future.  Love is a powerful emotion.  I've learned it comes in many many forms.  I know I am loved and I know I am good at loving others.  I know that this weekend will prove to be one of my biggest trials, but I also know I can and will do it.  I know I am strong, and slightly (ok...maybe a little more than slightly) stubborn.  I know that I want to show my children, just as their daddy did, if you set your mind to accomplish something, you will! I know without a doubt that I am blessed. I have friends and family in my life who love and support me in ways I cannot even tell you. Sometimes it is a 3 hour phone call late at night. Sometimes it is flying all the way from Utah to just be here. Sometimes it is driving from Arizona to again, just be here.  Sometimes it is seeing me at my weakest and most vulnerable moments. Sometimes it is sitting on my bed with me and watching me just cry uncontrollably.  Sometimes it is helping my get dressed because I am physically too weak to do it myself.  Sometimes it is a note in the mail to just say "You and your children have not been forgotten." Sometimes it is a text message just to say "I love you!".  Sometimes it is a song someone sends me because they know what music really means to me.  Sometimes it is just standing at the finish line of a race with smiles and some tears on your face.  Those are the moments I will never forget. The people who love me the most and I, in return love them the most. What I know is that I am blessed.  So, as I run this weekend, I will run for Buddy, I will run for my kids, I will run for anyone and everyone who has ever supported me, especially these past 9 months, but mostly, I will run for me...I got this!