Sunday, August 19, 2012

Bikes & Milestones

I remember a few years ago Brad's brothers family was in town and I walked outside to Uncle Lance teaching Sophie how to ride... running up and down the sidewalk with her and she was having a blast. It kindof took my breath away to see it because it was like seeing the picture I had in my head of what Brad would look like teaching them acted out in front of me. I was overcome with all these emotions simultaneously: happy and grateful that they have amazing uncles who step in and do dad things, heartbroken and a little pissed that she doesn't get to learn this from her dad, combined with the unmistakable feeling that Brad brings when he is present. I'm not sure how to describe that - but the word miraculous combined with overwhelming love come to mind.  He showed me without a doubt that he was there. All these feelings all at once were a little overwhelming and I was starting to lose it. I ran in to get my camera and was happy for the chance to try to compose myself. I didn't want them to think I was upset and I figured my tears would be misunderstood.    I got it together and came back and took photos.  It is now a sweet memory.

That was probably 2 and a half years ago.

Since then I have struggled with teaching them to ride. Sophie is 6 1/2 and Addie is almost 5. They should be zooming around on their bikes like other kids their age - but I have some sort of mental block when I think about teaching them. I have used the excuse that we live on a busy road to distract them when they want to go practice. I'm not sure why, but it just makes me so sad that Brad isn't here to teach them. I have to gear up for it emotionally each time and usually I just try to avoid it. It's also just another one of those milestones - doing something for the first time. I am getting a little better about dealing when we have a milestone, but there is always a bittersweet undertone because I am celebrating it without Brad.

 Last spring I decided that I would make myself help them learn by summer's end.  I got them balance bikes and we started going on walks so they could pratice. We have had a very busy (and Fun!) summer so we really have only practiced a few times.

Last week Sophie picked up her cousins bike and just started riding.
It was so great!
(and there were a bunch a people around, so that helped me keep it together.)
 She was SO excited and proud of herself.
She just kept riding and riding and it dawned on me that Brad was probably running around that tennis court with her just like he would have been if he were physically here.

Today I took the training wheels off Addie's little bike and she was riding alone after 30 seconds. (but probably not really alone)

We went for our first Funk family bike ride and I got to feel that beautiful feeling that Brad brings when  he comes. And for the first time I didn't feel sad about a milestone. I snapped pictures and didn't even think about crying. He was so obviously, tangibly "here" with us.

It really was a Funk FAMILY bike ride.

I will remember that feeling the next time 
I am sad because he is "missing" something. 
Because it is a miracle.

Thursday, August 9, 2012

American Widow Project

A few weeks ago I had the privilege of attending an AWP event.  AWP stands for  the American Widow Project.  A charity started by a military widow when she lost her husband at age 21.

I stumbled across the AWP website about a year after I lost Brad. I remember clearly the night I found it. I read the stories and cried, and read some more. I think I looked through everything on the site - wonderful resources, (many that I knew nothing about), songs and quotes and all sorts of "widow" things. Reading it made me feel less alone.  I remember thinking "finally! someone who gets it!" I was so grateful to have found it.

I knew they did events, and they cover all the expenses (which is awesome!)  but the girls were too little for me to seriously think about going on a getaway, and as years passed and they got old enough for me to leave the timing was just never right.

The first trip that I could even make work in our family schedule was the Seattle trip in July.  Even though I was really nervous about the thought of going to spend a weekend with a bunch of people I've never met I decided that I would register and see if I got in.

Well, I got in. And even while I was registering I knew going would be a good thing.
I felt like I was meant to go.

I was really excited and really, really, REALLY nervous about the trip. I worried that I would be the "old lady" of the group and I worried if I would really relate to the people I met there.

Well, it turned out that I had nothing to worry about.  They had a great weekend mapped out for us. We all stayed in this really cool house in Seattle and went Kayaking and zip-lining and did a food tour at Pikes Place market- SO fun!

But the BEST thing about the trip was meeting these amazing widows. While our life circumstances and backgrounds were all completely different, they understood the one thing no one else can. I saw pieces of myself in every widow there. Places I had been and places I hope to get too. I learned from each of them. It was such a healing and inspiring thing for me to be able to meet these fabulous ladies.  It was amazing to me that the AWP could throw together 10 people who have never met, have nothing in common except losing a husband in the line of duty and by the time the weekend is over we are like old friends - laughing and crying together.

I consider it an honor and a privilege to have met them and to be one of them.  

I am so grateful this wonderful charity exists. And so grateful that a 21 year old widow had the courage to follow her heart and start this amazing organization. If you are looking for a charity to support -THIS is it.

It was such a good thing for me. I came home with a fresh new batch of courage - feeling like I can do this and that I'm not alone. I had no idea how empowering it would be to meet other widows who have survived that dreaded knock on the door.   I came home with 10 new friends and full of inspiration.  Can't ask for much more than that :)

So this is my shout out to the ladies of the AWP. Taryn and TT. You are amazing. You do so much good.  Thank you for being brave and following your heart and thank you for inspiring others to do the same.  Widow Power :)