FROM THE STORAGE ROOM - Three years down the road and the horizon is bright


Today. This was the day, the one when we said goodbye to my David.

Could you ever imagine, back then when you read this, we'd be three years down the road?

Me, neither.

But here we are and it's pretty weird to me, the one who thought I'd never make it a week past that most awful morning. The one who hoped for delivery from grief - the sooner the better.

For the past two anniversaries, my girls and I did things big. On Year One, we went to the Tri-Cities and spent the night, treating our sad selves to the hubbub of a larger city. Looking back, I can see we were were trying to mitigate the pain with Red Robin burgers and the bright lights of a bustling mall.

That was a mistake. We were more miserable out of our home than in it.

Year Two was better. We went to dinner then came home and released helium balloons with messages to Dad. But we had to hustle, given the early darkness at this time of year, and we were glad to go inside to the warmth.

And that next day, I felt like we didn't have to make January 27 a big event ever again. Instead, we could begin to celebrate the day Daddy got to move on to Heaven. The kiddos agreed. Those memorial moments were exhausting for all of us and not anything David would have wished upon us.

Plus, who would have guessed that my world would be upside down a year later? That my frown would have righted itself and headed upward at a rapid clip?

My husband's death is still a wound for all the Hagars, from my brood to my late husband's brother and his family. Let me clear about that - you don't love a man, make a life with a man, laugh with a man for nearly four decades and ever forget what losing that feels like.

But today, right this minute, there are red roses at my house, given to me by a different man who understands all too well what this day feels like. And there are my kids. A couple are planning to go to a movie, given that their father was a movie addict. Didn't have to be a good movie for David, no sir. And a couple more plan to eat oven-baked nachos, Dad's version of heavenly manna. And not everyone feels like they have to cluster in a somber huddle together this year. One daughter is adamant about going to a family fun night at her friend's church, where she will also watch a movie. One her dad would have loved, actually. Another daughter traveled a couple of hours on the bus to be with a friend who never knew her father, but who cares about her. Another is going to go look at cars on a lot, knowing her daddy was a sucker for the sales patter, lapping it up like sugar.

I couldn't be more proud that my children have figured out ways to cherish David's memory that also nurtures them.

Me? I'm going to get done with a decent day of work, where we are having the David Hagar Memorial Potluck before our staff meeting. Then I'm going home and meeting up with Camo Man, giver-of-roses and decidedly maker-of-happiness. He's already checked in today, to offer any help at all in making this day better for me.

Silly guy. He already has in so many ways, not the least of which is having traveled a parallel journey of grief.

I can imagine David shaking Camo Man's hand, thanking him for taking care of me. Oh, sure, with a little ribbing at my expense. "Now watch out for her when she's mad," my husband might say, his grin taking over the lower half of his face. "Don't leave stuff on the floor because she'll stash it in the freezer and you'll never find it."

But he'd also tell Camo Man that when I cry, it's going to be OK. That when I laugh I mean it and when I'm sarcastic, a good joke will set me straight.

He'd say "Her mad will end and her sad won't last." And he would be right


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