To say this past weekend was an emotional one for me would be an understatement. My family and I had plans to drive the three hours to see Jillian’s billboard in person. On a Saturday. Exactly seven weeks after she left this Earth. The plan was to meet Steve’s family, along with our Melanoma photographer Melissa, and two other Melanoma warriors, Andrea and Jolaina. Melissa had offered to take photos of all of us under Jillian’s billboard.
As I was getting ready to go, I was overwhelmed with sadness. The kind of grief that knocks you to your knees, taking your breath away. I didn’t want to go. I couldn’t go. In a panic, I messaged Melissa.
“Melissa, I don’t know if I can do this!”
Her reply, “What do you want to do honey?”
Me: “Oh God. I have to. Shit. Ok. Deep breath. Its three hours on the road with two small kids. I'll be over my sadness by then. LOL!”
Melissa: "I got you!!!!!!!! I know this is hard. I know we can do this. We are going to do this!”
So, after putting on my Big Girl Pants, I headed out the door, picked up the kids and set off for our grand adventure. And I was right, you don’t stay sad for long when you are surrounded by giggles and the conversation that only occurs from an innocent eight year old.
My resolve shattered however when I got the first glimpse of the billboard up ahead. Oh! It was HUGE!! We found a parking lot and tumbled from our cars, walking along the fence to get as close as we could. My throat knotted, tears streaming from my face, I looked up. There she was! She was as big as life. I could even see the freckles sprinkled across her nose. My Jillian.
And then it hit me. I am looking at my precious daughter on a billboard. Sweet. I don’t want to see you on a billboard honey! I want you here. With me. She felt so close, but so very far away. I talked to her then. I told her how much I missed her, how much I loved her and how proud I was of her. And how incredibly blessed I am to have known someone so special for 23 years. I told her I will fight for her until my dying day, and that she will never be forgotten. I think she smiled that crooked grin then.
I’ve had the weekend to mull all of this over. I’ve heard people say, “It will get easier with time”. “Time heals all wounds”. Or “At least she isn’t in pain anymore”. I just don’t know. Some days it feels like I’m making good progress, two steps forward. But then I get slammed back three. I am not the first person to lose a child, or a loved one. I wonder sometimes if some of us suffering with grief don’t get the latitude we need. Does society put expectation’s on us to buck up, get over it? Move forward. It’s been six months, it’s been a year, five, or ten. How do you put a time stamp on love? You can’t.
For me, I’ve come to the conclusion that I won’t ever fully heal. I’ll just learn to live with the wound. And you know what? That’s okay. That wound will be a constant reminder of what my goal is and who Jillian IS.
So..(and I’m not talking about me here because I am fully aware of what I need to do for me. After all, I’m fifty now, and I can do what I want) if you know of someone who has lost someone they love, initiate conversation that will include their loved one. They may tear up. That is just confirmation that it still hurts. Deeply. I really believe that a grievers fear is that their loved one will be forgotten. Their loved one mattered. They shared this life with us in some way. They still matter.
Our Heavenly loved ones will continue to be a part of our lives until there is no longer a chain link fence separating us.
** A heartfelt thank-you to Dr. Brent Boyce, Saginaw Bay Dermatology and the family and friends of Jillian.