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On Sunday November 8, 2015 at 10:00 pm it will have been six years. Six years since the last time I saw your face. Six years equals 2,191 days since the last time I was able to hold your hand. Six years equals 52,584 hours that have sometimes flown by while others dragged on forever. Six years equals 3,155,040 minutes since the last minutes I spent by your side waiting for the funeral home people to come and take you away. Six years equals 189,302,400 seconds since those last agonizing seconds that are forever etched into my memories. Six year equals approximately 37,860,490 breaths since the last breath was wrenched from your frail lungs. Six years equals approximately 220,752,480 heartbeats since the last time I lay my head on your chest desperate to hear just one more heart beat to tell me you hadn’t left me yet. Six years equals more tears than I can even estimate, six years and they still fall.

I’ve had people who have no idea what this grief is like tell me that I need to get over it and move on. In their eyes, six years should be plenty of time to be done grieving. I’ve had people tell me that I should start dating. None of these people have lost their spouse. None of these people have a clue about how deep the wound is to a heart that has been ripped into shreds by the premature death of the one you were supposed to grow old with. They wouldn’t even begin to understand the massive pile of pillows on your empty side of the bed, or the white noise that is played all night long to cover the silence that no longer contains your breathing or your snoring. Yes, I even miss the snoring.

None of them can comprehend the agony of the 365 days between the first surgery to remove the cancer from your brain and the day you left us behind. Unless you’ve watched your spouse die one day at a time, there’s no way to understand. The one’s who have lived through this nightmare have never told me to get over it and move on. They understand the tears that seem to start in the deepest recesses of the soul. They understand the pleading and irrational negotiating with God to send you back so I can try harder to find a cure for the incurable brain cancer that stole you away from us far too soon.

They understand the moments that drag on forever and the years that fly by so swiftly. They understand the silence that is so deafening. They don’t criticize, they understand. They open their arms and hold me close while I melt into yet another puddle.

Grief is not to be “gotten over.” Grief is a journey. Grief is messy. Grief is personal. With great love comes great grief. I’ve heard it said that when you lose your parents or siblings then you’ve lost your past. When you lose a child then you’ve lost your future. And when you’ve lost your spouse then you’ve lost your present, your here and now. I am very fortunate that I still have my parents and my siblings, and I still have all of my children. My past and my future are intact, it’s my present that is missing and will continue to be missing until my breaths and heartbeats have become a memory and I get to join my husband and my grandparents at the feet of Jesus, never more to be apart.

Until that day I will continue to count the years, the days, the hours, the minutes, the seconds, the heartbeats and the breaths that mark the passing of each moment in time.

Shelley Brandon

My bio is rather complex and like most people's starts at birth, or maybe before. I was adopted as an infant by very special and very loving parents. Pretty normal and average childhood with two younger brothers. Married at 22, motherhood at 25, divorced single parent at 29. Blessed at 31 with a new chance at love and the family I'd always wanted. Eight months later two of my sons lost their mother to pneumonia. Our blended family was tossed by the waves of grief from the beginning. The waves became a tsunami when my wonderful husband died 14 years later. Grief has been my shadow for nearly 20 years now, but life is still good when you're standing in the light.

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