One year ago today, we (our family of four) celebrated the end of 2017—the end of a year that brought us into a world of miraculous clinical trials and showed us the very sharpest edges of a brutal disease. We celebrated the end of 2017 and the beginning of 2018 at a friend’s house with a handful of other families.
A few things from this night stand out. Matt ate. A lot. I blamed the steroid for his seemingly unstoppable hunger, but truly I didn’t know whether that was the case. I remember friends commenting that Matt seemed good and I hated that I could only nod. I couldn’t see what they saw. I could only see all the minor details that were wrong—I was, for all intents and purposes, missing the forest for the trees, and I wished I could see beyond the details. The quiet where there should have been jokes, the flatness where there should have been spark. And when the ball dropped, I remember looking at Matt, missing him while I was standing right beside him, and wondering what the year had in store for us because I had no idea. Our lives had become too predictable to plan.
New Year’s Eve is almost necessarily a time for reflection, for looking back on the year that has been and planning for the year that might be. This year, looking back on the year is— I’m not sure what the word is.
2018 is the year we lost hope, lost dreams, and lost Matt. So looking back on the year is painful. It’s also the year we (G, H, and I) found we could get back up after being knocked down too many times. It’s the year of grief waves and big sunglasses and half-marathons, the year of sheltering in place to block out the outside world and permitting the outside world into our grief. It’s the year that refuses to go out silently—in the last few days of 2018, we’ve had one last visit from the plumber, one hole in the ceiling, and one (hopefully mild) case of the flu. With all of that, it should be easy to say goodbye to 2018, a painful year. And yet saying goodbye to 2018 means starting a new year without Matt, with only the memories of him. It means leaving our happily ever after further in the past. And as difficult as 2018 has been, it’s also the last year I started with Matt—Matt will never know 2019—and for that reason, saying goodbye to 2018 is—
Bittersweet? Strange? Unfair? No word quite fits.
And planning for 2019? Hoping for a happy new year when we know the happiest moments are the ones most lined by grief, when happy can at times feel like a betrayal? Happy might always be a word with an asterisk for us. I suspect I will look at G and H and wonder, once again, what the year has in store for us. We’re still finding our way through Post Hope, learning the curves and jagged edges and unseen detours of this new life. We might never truly know how to navigate Post Hope—there may always be a new sharp turn we don’t see coming. So like last year, our lives might be too unpredictable to plan.
And maybe that’s okay. Maybe the plan isn’t as important as the knowledge that we can get back up if we’ve fallen; that even if we take a wrong turn, we can carve a new path; that hope isn’t so easily extinguished.
So, instead of wishing a Happy New Year, for this last post of 2018, I’ll leave with this: For everyone reading along, I wish for a new year full of a hope so bright, almost nothing can destroy it.