In Just One Year

In just one year, my life has completely changed.

This simple sentence is definitely an understatement, to say the least.  My life has DRASTICALLY changed in just one short year.  This time last year, I was so bogged down with many milestones that were about to happen in my life:  I was preparing for my wedding that would happen in 5 short days, working towards college graduation in a month, pursuing an internship with the Office of the Attorney General, and working.  That's a LOT to have to keep up with, but I must admit, I did it pretty well and am very proud of the outcomes :).

However, little did I know that my life would change even more in a short amount of time.  Early in the afternoon, on November 7, 2011, I received a call from my husband-to-be.  He told me that instead of going to class later that evening, I needed to go home.  Now, this was a very strange request.  He knew how important school was to me and how missing even one class could be detrimental to my final grade - and it was a class I was not particular keen on.  Plus, he wouldn't give me any additional details - just that I needed to go home after I left my internship for the day.  I couldn't just leave it at that, though.  I also could tell in his voice that something was terribly wrong.  Little did I know just how wrong it was.  I asked a few more questions, and he told me that he received a phone call from my mom about my grandmother.  I immediately hung up the phone with him and called my mom.  She asked who had told me, and I told her that Colten did.  How was he supposed to keep that from me??  Especially after my questions - I was not going to give up until he told me what was going on.  Upon the realization that 'something' was wrong, my mind automatically ran through a list of terrible things that could have happened and the several people I cherish dearly in my life that it could have happened to.  I needed to know.  My mom informed me that my grandma had passed away.  What?!  This couldn't be right.  She was fairly healthy for her age and had been doing fine a few days prior when I had seen her just the weekend before.  My mind just couldn't fathom the information I was trying to process.  My mom continued to explain what had happened - my grandparents were doing what they loved most: taking care of the farm.  They were attempting to give a sick cow a shot.  Their dog could sense the cow's agitation (of trying to be penned up and being sick - I'd be pretty agitated, too), and went after the cow to protect my grandparents.  They loved that dog, who returned that love towards them.  The cow got loose and took after my grandma, who was head-butted in the chest and died.  At least, that's the information we had.  To this day, no one really knows exactly every detail of what had happened, but we have closure, and it's pretty close to the truth from what we can tell.  My grandpa held her tight, begging her not to leave him - that he needed her and loved her so much.  He could not go on without her.  In the midst of everything, my grandpa had been knocked to the ground.  After an amount of time that no one knows, and to be honest, it doesn't even matter, he drew up enough strength to pull himself up and make the trek to the house to call 911.  My grandmother was pronounced dead on the scene.

Upon hearing the news, I lost it.  I completely and utterly lost it.  I couldn't think, I couldn't accept the news, I couldn't even breathe.  Granny was gone, and Pops had witnessed it all.  They had been married for over 50 years, and I cannot imagine, even to this day, the emotional toil this has put him through.  How do you move on from that?  How?  Why?  Why her?  Why then?  So many questions - of which none matter.  It was her time, and God called her to her eternal resting place.  Immediately, I went into my boss's office and just broke down all over again.  I had to tell her the story of what I couldn't, and wouldn't, accept.  How could I?  I was preparing to marry my best friend in 5 days and it was just a sick joke!  Only, it wasn't a joke.  It was far from a joke.  No joke at all.... none.  My boss immediately told me that she was driving me home (obviously, I was in NO shape to drive), and a co-worker followed us in her car.  I got home and immediately hugged my fiance.  I was crying; he was crying; my boss was crying.  It was a mess.  My boss left and then it was just us.  My body was in shock.  My mind was in shock.  Colten didn't know what to do.  What do you do in that situation?  What do you say?  I don't know.  I still don't know.  But it didn't matter.  I knew that I had to get home.  Everyone kept telling me that I didn't need to be there right away - there wasn't anything to be done anyway, but I needed to be home with my family.  I had to see Pops.

The next few hours were a blur.  I hadn't packed anything to go home for the wedding, and I had a LOT to pack.  But I had way less time than I had planned, so I hurriedly gave Colten a list of things we needed for the wedding and prayed that we wouldn't forget anything important.  Then we packed for the funeral.  Have you ever packed for your own wedding and a family member's funeral at the same time?  I didn't know what to feel or how to feel it.  I wanted to be excited for my upcoming nuptials, but Granny had just died.  My wedding didn't seem to matter much.  We packed up, grabbed the dog, and headed home.  Colten, bless his heart, got me home as fast as he could - we even encountered the sheriff for speeding, but were let go with just a warning.  It was an emergency.  I had to get home.  Upon arriving at my parents' house, there were no words.  One look was all it took and I was in my mom and dad's arms crying.  We stood on the porch for a bit to gain our composure since Pops was in the living room on the other side of the door.  Was he okay?  Well, of course not!  How could he be okay?  I had to see him, but I had to allow myself to gain some kind of composure before going inside to give him a hug.  While on the porch, my cousin arrived at the house.  We were all hurting in the same way, and we all had the same questions, but there was nothing to say or do in that moment.  We just all stood on the porch looking around like zombies with tears in our eyes.  We obviously had not accepted and could not believe what had happened earlier in the day.  But after a little while, I couldn't take it anymore.  I went inside and lost it all over again upon hugging my grandpa and seeing how much physical and emotional pain he was in and would be in for some time.  I don't remember who else was at the house at that time - the number of visitors that week were countless, but I know who all showed up, just not 'when' they showed up.  It was a long night, but we somehow survived.  Plans needed to be made for Granny's funeral, and it couldn't wait.

Throughout that day and the next, it didn't occur to me to cancel the wedding for now and reschedule for another time - to be honest, my wedding wasn't on my mind at all.  Memories of Granny flashed through my head, and I couldn't get past the pain I saw in my grandpa at every second.  So, plans were made, and we held the rosary on Wednesday evening.  So many people showed up to support us and to give their condolences for our loss.  Pops did astounding.  He made it through the entire thing, and held up better than I honestly thought he would.  I caught myself a few times feeling guilty because, at times throughout the rosary/wake (before the actual praying of the rosary began), my siblings, cousins, and I would laugh about a memory or two (or ten, haha), that we would think of that was our childhood growing up with my grandparents so involved.  And those memories are countless.  But I knew that she would be happy that we were remembering the good times and that she had touched our lives in such a way that we would never forget.  The next day was the funeral.

I agreed to do a reading at the funeral, but I didn't realize just how hard it was going to be to stand up in front of a packed church with my grandmother's body in the coffin right in front of the pulpit.  It was hard.  I wanted to read God's word and make her proud, but I couldn't stop crying long enough to do so.  Somehow, I found my composure and was able to hold the tears back long enough to deliver God's word and make it back to my seat.  After the funeral, we headed out to the cemetery.  Were we really about to bury my Granny?  My Granny??? Less than a week after I had seen her?  Yes.  That's exactly what we did. We laid my grandmother to rest just two days before what was supposed to be the happiest day of my life - my wedding day.  But again, that's not where my mind was.  I couldn't, and refused to, be selfish.  I needed to grieve.  We all did.  But my parents wouldn't let me. They shifted the focus of the rest of that day to wedding plans.  I still had to pick up my dress from Moulton from getting it cleaned and steamed.  We still needed to buy the fruit for the snack tables.  We still needed to get a trailer to get everything to the reception place.  We still needed a miracle.

Well, we received miracle after miracle - in the form of family and friends.  Amazing family and friends.  So many people played such a huge role in making my wedding day so memorable and go so smoothly.  Family from out of town (that I don't see very often, but know well enough) offered to take me to pick up my dress, so I accepted.  That same family drove to Victoria to hit up Sams to purchase all of the strawberries and grapes for the snack tables so we would have fresh fruit.  That family is amazing and their help will never be forgotten!  Family closer by stayed around and helped organize decorations and things that needed to be at certain places at certain times.  The next day, Friday, was the day to decorate the hall and have the rehearsal at the church.  That day was a blur!  We had so much help decorating, I'm still truly touched by everyone who extended a hand during this time to make sure that my wedding was about mine and Colten's love for each other, and the true meaning of love and family. My aunt and uncle even brought Pops by the hall for a bit to get him out of the house.  It was so good to see him out and about, even if he wasn't enjoying himself and didn't want to be there.  Who was I to blame him?  He buried his wife the day before.  I'm sure the last thing on his list of things he wanted to do was to attend a wedding in which he would be reminded of his loss.  But he continued to tell everyone that he would go to our wedding, but after that, he didn't know what was going to happen or what he would do.  I was just ecstatic that he wanted to be there for us on Saturday.  So, we decorated the hall and did what we could in the amount of time we had, which was a lot!  We successfully decorated the place to be country chic-ish.  Which is exactly what we wanted.  I couldn't have been happier with the result of that.  Then, it was on to rehearsal.  I didn't have a single minute that day to grieve for Granny.  I bottled it up deep inside of me and keeping pushing forward.  We successfully attended rehearsal, ate, and went home.  That night consisted of a lot of hurt feelings, grieving family members, and a fight between me and my sister.  But we got everything out in the open, made up, and looked forward to the next day.  Not exactly how I saw the night before my wedding day going, but it's okay.  Nothing that week was what I had anticipated.  So, why not?

Then it was my wedding day.  I got my hair done, hung out with the girls getting ready, and then I put on my dress.  I felt beautiful.  I felt amazing.  I felt a giant-sized hole in my chest because I knew my grandma wouldn't physically be there and my grandpa would have to endure being there without her.  Of course, with every wedding, there were some glitches, but I didn't care.  So what if one of my groomsmen had a different color vest than the rest?  Oh well.  So what if one of my bridesmaids left her shoes in another town?  Oh well.  So what if the bridesmaids decided to take scissors to their dresses just mere hours before the ceremony (okay, this was actually hilarious!)?  Oh well.  So what if my husband was intoxicated at our reception? Oh well.  My wedding day was beautiful and absolutely amazing, but it wasn't exactly as I had imagined.  It was BETTER!  Due to everything that had happened that week, my focus on my own wedding changed.  The small stuff didn't matter - I didn't care if Mark's vest was a different color.  I didn't care that part of my dress ripped during the reception.  I didn't care, it didn't matter, and we all had a great time!  Instead, the focus was on family and friends that showed up to help us celebrate our love.  The focus was on every single hand that helped make that day be such a magical dream come true.  The focus was on the meaning of that day, not the little things.  My heart was overflowing with love and support from every person in the room - and I knew my grandmother was there in spirit.  It didn't make the pain any easier, but I managed.

The next week was our honeymoon - and I couldn't have asked for a better location.  We went to Rockport to the Rodgers' beach house.  It was quiet, relaxing, AWAY from everything the previous week had put me through.  It was a break.  A break that allowed me to break down.  A break that allowed me time alone with my husband to begin healing.  A break away from the 'it's okay', the 'I'm sorry for your loss', and the 'she was here in spirit'.  It was a great break.  And my husband was there with me every step of the way.  He held me when I cried, he gave me space when I asked, and he was okay doing whatever we wanted to do whenever we wanted to do it.  Nothing was planned that week, and we went with the flow.  It was amazing.

So, I was a married woman!  And within a month, I had completed my last college class to obtain my Paralegal degree.  So then I was a college graduate as well!  Whew!  Then came the holidays and the stress of trying to figure out where to go when and who was where and when we'd leave and when we'd come back and so on and so forth.  It's hard to please everyone!!  But we survived.  The following months were countless job applications and sending resumes.  Then, the day came that I received an email from my old boss from the internship.  She had a position available if I was still interested.  Boy, was I!  I applied (after a very long night of editing my writing sample with my siblings and Splosion Man), and I scheduled an interview.  I remember leaving the interview in tears.  I mean TEARS!  I was so frustrated with the job hunting process and I wasn't happy full-time at my current job.  I was a mess.  Then, I began to fully allow myself to grieve - which lasted over a period of MANY months, and I'm still grieving, to this day.  I kept it bottled inside for so long, that it has taken a while to let it consume me.  Today, I'm still gripped with the raw emotion that consumed me a year ago upon receiving the devastating news.  But then the call came.  I GOT THE JOB, if I wanted it.  Umm, yes please!  I immediately told my boss at the current job at the time that I would need to change my availability because orientation for my new job started the following Monday.  Talk about a whirlwind!

In just one year, my grandmother had died tragically, my grandpa went through something I wouldn't wish upon anyone - losing their wife and best friend of soooooo many years, I got married, I graduated college, and I got a job with my degree.  In just one year, I'm a different person.  In just one year, I am utterly and considerably blessed beyond words for my job, my family, my husband, my faith, my life.  I don't take one minute for granted, and I definitely cherish every minute I get to spend with every person that I love in my life.  It may not be as often as I'd like, but the time I do get with them, I am thankful and very grateful.  In just one year, I've been hit by heartache, joy, utter sadness, desperation, happiness, low self-confidence, depression, amazing self-confidence, love, and so many other feelings.  I'm scarred, but it makes me stronger.  Going forward, I know that life is never going to be the same, but it was never meant to stay the same.  It has its ups and downs, and I experienced both and then some in a short amount of time.  Every wedding anniversary, I will be reminded of the tragedy that struck my family that Monday afternoon, but every wedding anniversary, I will also be reminded of the love and support that gives life meaning.  I will be reminded that I am loved for who I am and I have such an amazing support system.  I will be reminded of the reason for living.  I will be reminded to cherish every moment that we are blessed with to be with those we love.

In just one year, my life has completely changed.

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