Mirrors. They reflect an image. For some, that image is distorted. For others, that image is a reminder of who they used to be. For me, a mirror reflects growth. I am not the girl I used to see in the mirror. I am not the mother I used to be. I have sparkle in my hair, wrinkles around my eyes, and depth I had not noticed in my eyes before. I see someone who should look like hell but thanks to great genes still looks pretty good.

April is a mirror to me. I reflect on where I have been and where I am going in April. I have done this since I was 15 years old. In 1984 I lost a class mate to domestic violence and it stuck with me. Every milestone, every birthday, every holiday for the past 35 years I have remembered him. I have expressed gratitude at growing older every single year because this boy didn’t have an opportunity to do so. He died on April 1, and like clock work I have taken inventory of my life on this day.

3 years ago my life was completely different than it is today. I was a doormat. I tried to be as invisible as possible to avoid any conflict. Fun was something other people did. Vacations were painful. Routines were maintained or chaos ensued. I was a facade at work, people thought I had it all together. I was barely hanging on. My mom was probably the only one who knew how close to the edge I was. She single handedly helped me find a way to cope. She gave me an article titled “Letting Go”. It saved my life.

The article was for people who were in their 70’s who were preparing to lose their spouse. Many were dealing with dementia and Alzheimer’s. The article discribed how to let go of what was and embrace what is. This is how I approached grief when Jerry died. I’d always had hope that our lives would magically get better. We’d grow old together. We’d become grandparents together. We’d live a good life. When that abruptly ended, I was left with what could have been. It made me sad, and I would find myself grieving for a life I never had but really, really wanted.

So I’m about to enter my third year without Jerry. I think I’ve surprised some people who thought I’d buy a condo and give up on the horses. Lex would never let me do that, so I still have them. I’ve cleaned up more metal and junk than I care to think about. As I reflect on the last 3 years I am astounded at the love that has surrounded me. I have never been alone on this journey.

Jerry died believing he was giving his family a better life by sacrificing his. I will not dishonor him by not having a better life. Some people will get that and others will judge my actions. But, the aging woman I see in the mirror every day is solid in her belief and in her self worth. At the end of the day, it’s that woman I have to face. Today, I smiled at her and told her how proud I was of her.

Keep going, never quit.

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