On July 10th 2016, I was on top of the world and living my dream of leading LEGO classes for campers of all ages, tapping into their creativity and having lots of fun. Tim and I were so looking forward to living in our RV and seeing our United States. When he died on July 17th, my world was turned upside down. So I did what I do best, I started a new build with my LEGO bricks. It started with five pieces, a brown piece that represented me, a blue one for my grief and sadness, a green one for growth, a yellow one for my memories and a red one for my love for Tim and for the love being shown to me.
As the first 365 days unfolded without Tim, I added to my LEGO build depending on how I was feeling. Some days I added nothing, and some days I added quite a few pieces. At the 4 ½ month mark, I posted a photo of the progress of the build which sat on one orange plate.
At the 7 month mark, that one orange plate had grown to two, and by this week at the 12 month mark, a total of four orange plates now sit on a large gray plate. Each of the four colored sections occupies one of the orange plates.
Here’s my experience this year and what each of the four segments represent today.
Blue – Represents my shock, tears, and fear when I’m down and blue. The first month and the 11th month were the hardest for me. The beginning of anything is hard, and after the shock of Tim’s death wore off the reality of living alone for the first time was excruciatingly hard for me and I cried buckets every day. The 11th and 12th months were also tough because I miss Tim as much today as I did a year ago. The grief section has a big chair at the top of a set of stairs because I don’t shy away from my grief or hide it, I climb the stairs to it, sit in a chair and embrace it. Then I cry until I feel cleansed and comforted.
Green – My growth without Tim. My green segment appears to be sprouting, because I’ve grown so much in the last 365 days. I not only sold two cars, purchased a new car and RV, I also took an RV tech course and learned so much about myself and my house that I didn’t know. I’ve taken solo and family RV trips with the Adventure Girls, joined several RVing groups to keep our travel plans alive. I cleaned out the shed, the laundry room and the work room and created my brand-new LEGO workspace! I’ve begun to do manual labor in the yard, rearranged furniture, made minor household repairs and I kept 6 plants alive that were given to me when Tim died. I feel I’ve spread my wings in directions I would never have thought possible and I am a much stronger person than I was then!!
Yellow – For me, Memories, are like sunshine – they rise, shine and set! My Memories are extraordinary of my almost 36 years with Tim. We lived life to the fullest every day and tackled the tough times and illness together! At Tim’s Memorial Pig Roast on 7/15, I had placed pictures all around the yard in attempt to capture Tim’s life and our life together! Some people who didn’t know me or know Tim were stunned by how much life we’d crammed into our time together! The mountain of memories in LEGO is reflected by one piece topping the other, which is how we lived. One memory seemed to top the previous one. We made a lifetime of memories which absolutely helps with my grief! The small group of yellow pieces that are on the left side of the build reflect the new memories I’m beginning to create on my own.
Red – Giving and Receiving Love. This year has been all about love. The love I lost with Tim, the love people showered on me when I needed it most, and the love I opened myself up to accept from others though I’m used to not accepting much or asking for help. It’s also the love I’ve showered on Kim and Kendal this entire year, which I knew Tim would be supportive of. This part of the build is my favorite and has the most LEGO pieces. There are certainly different facets and groups of love in my life – my very small family, my work family, my church family (including my awesome support group), my famous Cha Cha’s and Yo Yo family, and the huge Alzheimer’s family I belong to where we support each other and work hard to find a cure! All of my support bases are very different, but at times they intersect, as they did on the day of Tim’s Memorial Pig Roast. There are a few windows in the red section which reflects me opening the window of myself to others. There were a few days I didn’t love myself and days I felt no one would love me again. But for most of the 365 days I felt the love of so many people, and at times it was almost overwhelming, though it felt better than I could ever describe!
Each of the segments of this build – Grief, Growth, Memories and Love connect or touch each other because they’ve all been intertwined for the last 365 days. The middle section includes all of the colors in three revolving sections, just as our lives revolve from day to day. My thoughts and feelings could change from one minute to the next and dictated whether I laughed or cried. I lost so much when Tim died, and have had to rethink the rest of my life – keeping the promises I made to Tim, while creating new memories on my own. I added my initials at the bottom of the build because it reflects me and only me.
This has been a year I would never have wished for, but having endured it, I know Tim would be so proud of me, Kim and Kendal. We’ve stuck together like glue, endured the good with the bad, and have loved each other every day as if it’s our last day on earth. Because you never know when it may be! I miss Tim every single day, but I smile now when I think of him much more than I cry. I feel so fortunate to have had as much time with him as I did, and to have made the incredible memories that we did. I have no idea what the next year holds for me, BUT I know now that I can handle anything, so I’m ready for whatever God has planned for me! Love you Tim!!