A few weeks ago I posted this image not sure about what to share about it at the time. I had no intentions at that moment to make this follow up a Thanksgiving post, but thinking about it now it does seem a bit fitting. How do you approach gratitude while still grieving loss? I didn’t even set out to make this composition associate with loss when I shot it, but as I was fumbling around in processing this piece I couldn’t ignore the confluence.
For those new to my story I’m not going to rehash the last eight years but you can catch up with these posts. The week I captured this image I had some old pics pop back up on my phone from five years prior of my girls showing off their Halloween costumes to Heidi in her hospital room. Five years, has it really been that long? In some ways it still feel like yesterday, and in others it feels like a decade ago. It was five years ago I had to make the most impossible decision, one I had hoped I would never had to make, or if I did not for a very long time. The decision to put Heidi on hospice care after her three year bout with breast cancer. The doctors had exhausted all the treatments they could have offered her. Switching to hospice meant she had mere months to live, her doctor wasn’t even sure if she’d make it to Christmas.
Looking back on the holiday season five years ago it was the most chaotic two months of my life, caring for Heidi while trying to keep the holidays as festive as I could for my three little girls who had no idea what was wrong. On top of that wrestling with the tension of how much do I let them in on what’s going on with Heidi? In many ways those months are a big blur in my mind. Heidi did make to Christmas and whole additional month.
Someone asked me recently how do the holidays look for you as a widowed father. Bittersweet feelings come to mind, I do enjoy the time with my girls and family, but there is that ache–feeling like a part of me is missing in the celebration. I am grateful for what I have been blessed with, grateful I am on the other side of that impossible holiday season five years ago. Overall the past five years have easily been the hardest of my life: navigating grief while still trying to raise my three girls, work and the financial means to live, while somehow keeping some sort of margin for myself. Even in the midst of the hardships I am grateful. I just have to look back over the past five years I can see many, many moments where we have been blessed through family, friends, our church, and those little providential moments that could only be a God thing. I am grateful for all those blessings, with that tinge of ache at the same time.
Going back the to image itself, the tension I had when I first posted it was how much do I share of the story behind the photo? All my training in art told me not to overshare, you have to leave some mystery to the piece. And yet I couldn’t deny what nerve this piece struck with me at the moment. I probably won’t tack this post to the photo whenever I share it, but I am grateful to have a forum like this to reflect on this particular work and the feelings of loss in the midst of a festive time it brought up.
Thanks for reading, this post is a bit rawer than I usually write, but it felt like it needed to be shared. I do I wish you a Happy Thanksgiving and holiday season. Here’s the full image again.