Dear Andrew-I’m Still a Work in Progress

Dear Andrew,

I know it’s been a while since I wrote you. It’s certainly not because I haven’t been thinking about you. I still think of & miss you every day. I still have your picture by my bed & on my wall at work. When I went on a date a while back, I asked your picture if you were ready for me to start dating. I know that dating means someone else may take over some space in my heart. Honestly, I wasn’t sure I was ready for it. I made myself feel like maybe you weren’t so I asked you if you were ok with it. I know. You were ready for me to start dating 1064 days ago. But I wasn’t. And I wasn’t sure I was willing to give someone else any space. I wasn’t sure someone else would be able to handle the trauma that occasionally still brings me to tears. What if they reject me because I’m carrying so much past? Not openly carrying. However it’s something that happened & I can’t pretend otherwise. If a relationship is to be built on trust & honesty, obviously, your name must come up. But I digress, this really isn’t about me dating or not dating. It’s about me still holding onto every little detail of you.

Andrew, I know you of all people know I’m a person that people tend to divulge their lives & thoughts to rather easily. You did it quite often-either through tears on my couch or shouting at me in an attempt to create a negative reaction. Some days this is a heavy weight to bear. But one I carry with great privilege & honor. I take great care in holding the hearts of my loved ones very tenderly.

As is the usual, I have had many burdens amongst my friends & family lately. As always, many are heartbreaking, many are frustrating, many are infuriating due to the pain they are causing. I continue to do what I did when you would throw your anger or cry over your hurt. I maintain as much composure as I can, offer my shoulder & just continue to love them.

But as we are approaching the third anniversary of your death, my composure is rocky, at best. My heart a little extra tender. My nerves on edge. Tears teetering on the rim of my eyes. I know this is coming. I made it through the holidays & this is the final phase of pain until your birthday in August. I say this to set up my emotional state. I’m quite well, actually. But I also know that I’m a touch sensitive when facing my own or other people’s burdens.

We all know that sometimes in life, we get hung up on experiences or situations that we’ve been through. Like you, for example. I’ve been hung up on you, that night, this heartache, for the last 3 years. And being extra sensitive lately makes my brain play mean games with my heart & I, at times, wonder if I’ve made any progress in my healing at all.

Until today.

Today at church I was the epitome of chaos. Melissa & Mike were off this morning so it was me & Nate but the whole morning felt a bit behind. I had kicked off my boots so I could run around a little easier. And I was running. But it all came together in perfect timing. I was working the Guest table and in walked our first guests. A family of three.

Who had known you.

They didn’t know me, of course. But I was so caught off guard, I stuttered out that I knew of the connection. That I knew you. That we were friends. She sweetly said “please don’t let this effect your day.” I looked down at the paper I was writing on & muttered that I was fine. My go to answer when I’m trying to convince myself that I am. Then I had to show them around the church. In my socks. Thinking of you. Forgetting my normal guest speech. Losing track of where I was in the tour. Wondering if they were thinking some of the horrible things people have said to me. Were they wondering why I didn’t stop you? Were they accusing me of really being behind your death? Were they questioning how I could look at myself in the mirror every morning let alone show my face in a church? (Yes, these & more have been said)

I finished the tour not shedding one tear. I even smiled through it. I talked with their son. I handed them their guest gift. I went back to my place in the lobby. And sighed a huge sigh of relief that I hadn’t lost my marbles. When I was able to sit down, I let the whole thing really sink in & I cried a few tears. Then I dried my eyes. Refocused my mind on my worship, praying for some calming peace.

I began to realize that I made it.

I made it to the place where I could face your death, the accusations or the fear of them, & know that I had nothing to do with your death that night. I had made it to a place where I could speak of you in that fear with a somewhat steady voice. I had faced one of the things that has unknowingly almost paralyzed me for three years. But I wasn’t paralyzed at all. I was fine. I didn’t have a panic attack. I didn’t melt into tears. I didn’t shrink back or run away.

This may not sound like much to most people. But I have had people equate me to a murderer. That’s a hefty burden to bear. One that I haven’t told many. It’s filled with so much guilt & shame because while I know in my head I didn’t pull that trigger, my heart feels the guilt of your death almost as if I had. So to be able to carry on a conversation with this family left me feeling like I had conquered Mt Everest.

I know guilt & shame are not something you would have wished upon me. Especially for three long years. Maybe it took this family coming to church today for me to be able to finally face that. Maybe this is the year of my new beginning, with you & someone new in my heart. Maybe this is the year I’m able to pack up your pictures.

Who knows? All I know is I realized today that I have made quite a bit more progress than I thought. It reminded me that all I have walked through in this crazy life has brought me to this place. This place where my heart is filled with love for others. A place where I am ready to burst out of my comfort zone to fill the needs of all people. That I was exactly in the physical location of my greatest healing when this situation took place-my church surrounded by my church family. That God brought me to this day, flustered & chaotic, brought this family through the door up to my face, AND gave me the grace to handle it.

So I drove home from church with a smile as big as my face. I felt you saying “Silly girl, it’s about time you realized this was on me. Let it go.”

Your picture is still by my bed. And I will always miss you. But I believe today was a breakthrough for me. One I really didn’t even know I needed until it happened.

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