It's been just over a month since Patrick passed away, and yet it seems like an eternity since I last heard his voice, saw his lively blue eyes flicker, or watched him play so skillfully with his sweet C. It feels so weird to be both a widow and a suddenly-single mom at 33, and yet it feels even stranger that he's gone...for good.
People often ask how I'm doing, and it's hard to know how to respond; it's hard to know how I feel. I guess I'm doing "okay" most of the time. Sure, Patrick's absence hurts like crazy. Sure, I cry at points everyday. Sure, I still expect to see him when I turn the corner, or when I roll over in bed. But, I still get up every morning, drink my coffee, and make sure Cecilia's fed...and on some days, those are three things for which I'm very proud of accomplishing. On other days, I get the sense that the age old mantra of "everything being okay" is true. I don't know what that "okay" is going to look like exactly, but I trust that God will somehow, and in someway, create a new life for us that is still richly steeped in his merciful grace; a new life that is life-giving to us, even in ways we now cannot even imagine.
I have spent the last month trudging through the endless piles of paperwork needed to be filed upon the death of a loved one. I had NO idea how challenging it could be to settle one's estate. Even though I tend towards all manner of organization, I have struggled to keep up with all of the various accounts, agencies and people that need to be notified of Patrick's death, and all the of the subsequent paperwork that needs to be signed, notarized, sent, faxed, faxed back, re-sent, re-signed, re-notarized, etc. I feel like I could write an instructional book on how to close up one's estate. (I'm sure there's already one out there...perhaps I should have read it.) All of the paperwork has kept me going, and perhaps it has staid off waves of grief that will likely come in surges in upcoming days (and years.)
I couldn't be more thankful that Patrick ended his career with Accenture. Their benefits (in life and death!) have been amazing. Even in his absence, Patrick continues to provide for his family. As his survivors, we are granted lifetime health benefits at the same rate we were paying when he was employed. We're given 2 years of free legal help and 6 months of free financial advice. His life insurance policy is generous, and the monthly social security payments will allow me time to sort through this next season of life, write my book, and get Cecilia into some sort of preschool program before I have to think about going back to work.
As of now, I'm planning on moving us back to Durham, NC, probably later this summer. We still own our townhouse there, which we bought when we got married, and lived in when Cecilia was born. We probably had our happiest (and his healthiest) years there, and it thus seems fitting, and feels like a good thing to return to our community and life in Durham. It also seems like a more realistic place--given the cost of living and pace of life--to live (and thrive) as a single-mom. We have a great church and a wide community of friends there, so I would be returning to a strong support system.
Cecilia is blossoming before my eyes--reminding me more and more of Patrick each day. She loves pickles, and his soccer ball. She loves to "run fast", and is super ticklish like her daddy. She's moved into the "why" stage (I'm hoping this means the "no!" stage is soon over), and is constantly asking me questions. She asks about her daddy periodically - "when will he come home? is he still at the ho-pi-tal?" It breaks my heart to have to remind her that he's not coming home. My standard answer right now is that her daddy was so sick that only Jesus could heal him, so he's in heaven with Jesus; he's not sick anymore, and his hair has even returned! After she asks "why?", and I stumble around for a better answer, she has usually moved onto her beloved trains or dolls. I'm sure I'll be answering her questions about him for the rest of my life, and I know they will get harder and harder, especially as she begins to forget his presence in her life. It breaks my heart that he won't be here as she grows up, that she won't remember how funny he could be, or how much he loved her. I'm thankful that so many of you did know him, and have committed to sharing your love and memories of him with her (and me).
I have slowly begun writing thank you notes, and honestly, it seems like a more daunting task than all of the crazy estate stuff. We have experienced an absolutely astounding amount of support from so many hundreds of people over the last few months. Hundreds of meals, bags of groceries, kind notes and monetary gifts appeared on our doorstep, or in the mail. I have to admit that at some point, when things were growing really intense, I lost track of all of their donors. So, please forgive me if you never get a thank you note. Know that I am SO thankful for you -- for your love, generosity, kindness, and prayers for us. We could not have survived this horrible journey without you.
I don't really know what to do with this blog now. It seems weird to keep it going under the headline of "Get Well Patrick Kelly". Perhaps I'll start something new, to mark this new phase of life, but perhaps not. I just wanted to send a somewhat final (?) update for any of you who have continued to check-in with us.
So for the nearly 215,000 hits that we've received on this blog, since we began blogging about Patrick's cancer journey back in late August, thank you for being a part of this story. Thank you for your encouraging comments and messages of concern. Thank you for your faithful prayers and your interest in this terrible season of our life. I'm so sad this story had to ever begin...but I'm thankful that you were an integral part of it, even to the very end.
Blessings to all of you, wherever you are, this evening,
(for Cecilia & Patrick)