I've made a decision. And in the past few weeks everything has come together very quickly for this decision to be fulfilled.
The children and I are moving to New Jersey.
I do cry a lot about leaving Minnesota, which felt truly like home to me. But I am convinced that, regardless of my emotions, returning home to New Jersey is the best place for my children right now. I know their eternity is at stake and they need more than one stretched-thin mama to pour a heart full of love into them. Andrew's family adore AJ and Gracie and have that additional love to give that my kids so desperately long for and need. Also, I can see that though Andrew's parents and siblings no longer have Andrew, they do have my children as an outlet for their love and commitment to Andrew.
This has been a very difficult and emotional decision for me, as there are many of you there that I love and am terribly sad to leave. I feel, too, I am saying goodbye to Andrew, at least in the way that my home is a picture of the life I thought we would have together, but cannot.
A few weeks ago, the children and I went to the apartment building I had chosen that is less than ten minutes from Andrew's parents. As I sat with the lease before me, suddenly, my brain slowed. I held the pen in my hand and stared at the line where I was to sign, but I couldn't remember the question I was about to ask the customer service woman who was helping me. I heard my breath as I inhaled and exhaled. And then images flashed before me. I saw Dr. Yueh when we met with him in his clinic. It was January 2009, after we returned from our two months of alternative treatment in California and a giant hole had opened on Andrew's neck. And Dr. Yueh said, "We have now reached the end stage of your disease."
I looked down at the lease. My throat was closing. I saw the blackness behind my eyelids with each blink. "I think I might pass out," I said.
The customer service woman ran and got me some water. I closed my eyes. It is so clear that this is what is best for the kids, I thought. It was time for me--and healthy for me--to start with a clean slate in a setting that does not continually remind me of loss, suffering, and utter disappointment. I signed the lease.
My house is all staged to sell. During my phone conversation with my real estate agent Sunday, I took a walk.
"I'm going to list your house on the market tomorrow," she said.
The air outside was hot and still.
"This has got to be hard for you, Grace," she said. "Of course you might feel panic, because you thought you were going to raise your kids in this house and live with Andrew in it for always." And suddenly, she had put words to feelings. An image flashed through my mind of children playing in our yard, the sun glinting off their soft hair. For always. Words Andrew and I said to each other years ago during engagement whispered: "I can't live without you." My chest burned. I held my breath so that she didn't hear me holding back tears.
That night, I put the kids to bed and fell asleep. Shortly after, I awoke, not breathing, my chest tight. "Lord," I called in the dark, gasping for air. "I don't want to die yet! I'm not ready to die yet! Please don't let me die!" And then I wondered why I thought I was dying when I was now breathing. I realized I had been dreaming about the last few minutes of Andrew's life, when his family and I surrounded his hospital bed and the last minutes in which he gasped for breaths.
How strange, I thought, I don't think I ever dreamed about his death until now.
I didn't know how to tell one of the most special friends I have ever had, my neighbor Melissa, that we were moving. She is like the female version of Andrew to me--stable, rational, loving, encouraging, and so much fun. We always laughed together, she always got my humor, and she always worked to imagine herself in my position so she could understand what I was going through. Even recently, she said when her husband goes away for a few days, she always tries to imagine what it is like for me.
When Andrew first died, she'd call me every day to check on me and take the route that was past my house when she was driving, just to make sure no one had broken in or anything was awry. She hardly knew me, but she said she begged God to show her how she could serve me. She said God had given her such a heart for me. After the kids' nap, when the hollowness could have eaten me, knowing that Andrew wasn't coming home for dinner, in desperation, I'd risk slumping onto her doorstep with the kids. It was a busy time before dinner, but she would invite us in.
Weeks after Andrew's death, when the house was empty again and both Andrew's and my parents had returned to New Jersey, Melissa drove by and invited us to make snowmen. I was frozen, still unable to grasp what had happened to our family, and she was holding my hand and showing me what a normal mom--not a caregiver with a dying husband any longer--does with her children.
I always admired how capable she was, how her emotions did not overwhelm her during the day, so that she could stay on task; but how she didn't compromise caring for others for her task-list. She was rationale, but never cold, rather one of the most relational, loving people.
She tried so hard to love me and be a compassionate listener when I was most in pain, when at times I was almost in despair. It would have been so easy for her to get frustrated with me or to give up on me. I kept expecting for her to tell me to buck up, but instead, she exercised love and gentleness through it all. It couldn't have been easy for her. Other times, when I was confused or overwhelmed about anything and couldn't think through my emotions, she spoke loving words of reason and truth to me.
I saw her do it with her other friends too. When a friend was going through difficult times, she would tell me how she thinks what her friend needs most of all is for Melissa to love her through it and pray for her.
When I finally told her that we were moving, she said, "I had all these dreams of homeschooling with you down the street together next year."
"I know," I said. "I'm trying not to think about it though." I blinked the image out of my mind and tried to imagine positive images to look forward to in New Jersey.
"I guess some dreams have to die," she chuckled.
I snickered. "Yeah, some dreams just have to die. I should put that up as a sign in my house. That probably would have helped me."
I remind myself that just because I'm going to miss a lot of people and cry about all the things I love in Minnesota, it doesn't mean God isn't calling me to move back to New Jersey. Being sad to say goodbye is a natural part of moving and a good thing. Being sad means you've been blessed by special people, blessed to live in a wonderful place. And so, I have to hold onto what is clear thinking--and that is that my children need their grandparents and those that adore them in New Jersey.
Love you all.