Three years ago, this was what our family looked like (the picture is older, but you get the point). There were four of us. There was balance. I had help. So did Sam. The two-years-plus prior to that had been filled with incalculable sadness, devastating disappointment, and brief glimpses of hope, all held together by dogged determination to thwart the odds and have Sam survive, but it was not to be.
Three years ago today, Sam took her last breath on Earth. Today, three years later, we still live in the house where she died. We share warmth and laughter and companionship in the very room where her life seeped away. And honestly, what more fitting tribute to such an avid hostess?
However, geography aside, what a huge difference three years makes. I look at that photo, taken on a visit to my dad & stepmom in Florida, and I don't recognize that man. I'm sure he was a good guy, a loving father and husband, but I feel so detached from that time and place, that era of my life, that I may as well be looking at another family. For that family is not the same.
There is still a sadness at the loss of what that picture represents - the whole temporal path that family trod together. But the feelings are no longer acute, no longer debilitating. They are distant, just as the memories associated with that photo are distant.
We are so very different now. Different, not just by the passing of three years, but by all of the experiences brought by those three years. We have proven that we can survive as a family unit (although it is by no means painless), we have proven we can withstand the loss of wife and mother, of father and grandfather, of house and home, and still come back with a pretty reckless smile. Reckless as in daring to smile when most would think we'd have so little to smile about.
But it's good, this "life" business. The business of living, and of living as if fully aware of the finite nature of life. With all of our mundane struggles, we persevere and come together as a family of three. Kind of a tripod design to this family now - more sturdy on uneven ground.
After weeks of pissing down cold rain and snow and hail, the morning broke sunny and warm today. Kayleigh and I watched Branagh's Much Ado About Nothing, and followed it with Ang Lee's Sense & Sensibility. Kayleigh wove me a friendship bracelet, which I have been wearing all day. Later, as if heeding an unseen spousal imperative (and before I was fully aware of the date), I found myself mowing my gigantic back yard. Tyler's friend Miles went home shortly thereafter, and our family tripod wandered down to the grocery store with our canvas shopping bags and grabbed up some Fuji apples and fresh strawberries and organic bananas and pasta makings for dinner. All the windows are open, and the sound of birdsong and an occasional dog bark punctuates the otherwise still spring day.
And I ponder what a difference three years makes.