Being blessed with four daughters has definitely been such a wonderful combination of joy and terror. Right now they're 6, 5, 3, and 1 1/2 (these pictures were taken by Justin Hackworth in 2014), and having them at such different stages certainly brings many different adventures and challenges. There are days already when I can load Ellie and Soph into the car and make a Target run to go pick out nail polish, and then I walk past the training bras or the feminine products and my heart just drops into my stomach.haha Thinking about the chaos and drama in my house growing up and even reaching adulthood as the youngest of 6 girls, I'm dreading the teenage years quite a bit, especially in the world we live in now.
After Marty passed away, I put everything I had into focusing solely on my children, especially on my older two girls, as they needed the most attention and help with the transition into a life without their father. Partly it was to avoid falling too deep into the darkness that was pulling at me, but also because I felt that my only purpose left was to be the best mother that I could, that because so much of me had died with my sweetheart, that I needed to lose the rest of myself in making up for the lost time with the children. For those 15 months of babysitters and weeks away from them, microwave meals and endless TV while I spent every minute I could with Marty, traveling for treatments, researching, doctors visits, trying to memorize his face and his voice, making the most of what time we had left of our life together, taking the best care of him that I could.
Since Richard has joined the family, there's even more focus on that transition for our family and for the girls than there ever could be before he came along. I could finally start letting myself feel deeply and not worry too much about the consequences, or about who was going to feed the kids or take them to school if I became too lost in my own grief. Since the two older girls are the only ones likely to have any memories at all of their dad(and even now they don't remember a time when he wasn't sick and hurting), it became (and has continued to be) a beautiful part of each day when we can share those sweet memories together, when I can tell them stories they've never heard about their dad and our life together, when they can show Richard mementos and things that make them think of Martin, when I can hold them and we can cry together. I could finally look through old pictures with them and listen to Martin's favorite songs with them without completely falling apart, because I had back-up:) We've been able to keep up regular visits and meals/holidays with Marty's sweet parents and siblings as well, and spending more quality time with them has been great. And because the kids see so much of their dad around the house and always will, they can know that he'll always be a special part of our lives forever. I never try to turn off their tears or shut them down. We cry and we laugh, we miss him fiercly, and then we remember how much he was hurting for so so long, and we feel better about him being in heaven. We've continued to visit the cemetery each week together, and since his headstone was put in last Fall the kids all love finding their names and placing their flower on their spot.
There's a beautiful book that my sister Jordan gave to us before Marty passed away called The Invisible String, and I actually just bought all the kids a copy and wrote them a note inside. We read it every night during his last days, and it's still a favorite. Basically, it talks about how when we love someone dearly, that no matter how far away they get that we're always connected to them by an invisible string of love. That no matter if they're across the world or deep in the ocean, or flying high in the sky with the angels, that they can never be separated from us. I ball every time I read it, and it's not just geared towards death so I highly encourage y'all to get a copy for your family. I added their books to a memory box that I bought for each child. Each box is a small trunk with a latch, and inside they each have albums of photos, the newspaper with his obituary, copies of his funeral recording and the program that I made, beautiful photos from the funeral, little things of Martin's that meant something special to them, a copy of his novel, the music he wrote, his poems, an article of clothing or scarf etc, the letters I typed out for each of them as Marty weakly told me what to say, the little things they made for him for father's day, a dried rose from his casket spray, etc. I have the boxes on a shelf for when they get a little older, and whenever it think of something else I add to them. I expect that sometime soon I may have to get them bigger trunks:)
Just as I feel I'm at my weakest while simultaneously being at my strongest, I think the same thing is true for the girls, because while losing their dad at such a young age has been hard for them to understand and go through, they'll always have this time to remember that if they can go through that and keep their sweetness, that they can go through anything. I want my girls to know that, and little John too:)
I want to teach my daughters what it means to be a strong woman, especially with the recent women's' march and everything it meant to people. I want to teach them that they don't have to follow the crowd and do what everyone else is doing, but that they must also never give up love and respect for others that make choices differently than we do. There are so many dark forces at work in the world to tear our little ones down and tell them they're not good enough, and it's our job and privilege to tell them that they are so much more than good enough.
I want my daughters to know that I believe in them. That when no one else thinks they can do it, that I know they can. That I support them and want them to succeed, and that ultimately everything I try to do as a mother is to keep them safe and healthy and happy. I want to expect more from my girls, so they expect more from themselves. I want to let them fail so they will learn vital lessons about working for what you want and not giving up. I want to encourage their quirks and unique character traits, so they know that it's not only okay to be different, but that it's their differences that make them beautiful. I want to work on my own confidence and to always remember that my daughters are watching, that they're learning every day from the way I treat myself and what I say to the woman in the mirror. I want my daughters to know that when it may seem like everyone in their lives is telling them what they're doing wrong, that I will try to always be the one to tell them everything they're doing right. I want my daughters to see that when all else fails, kindness always wins out.
I'm so proud of my little ones. I'm so proud of their strength and their tender hearts. I hope someday to help them see how much they've taught me, and how they gave me purpose to keep going when I didn't think I had anything left to live for. To fight for. I hope that they'll always remember that they are braver than they believe, stronger than they feel, smarter than they think, and loved more than they ould ever know.
Alright that's the end:)