Matt was the fun parent. I was the rule follower, always shushing them in public when they got too crazy. He would just smile and keep on doing whatever it is they were doing to drive me nuts. I loved that about him. He had a way to disarm me without telling me I was being unreasonable. Many times a day now I ask myself “What would Matt do?” He always had the answers, and usually they were totally different than the ones I had.
Cancer changed me. I used to plan my life meticulously in a paper planner. Every week was planned out ahead of time, every meal, every event.. I thought that by writing it all down I had control over it all. Cancer taught me that I had no control over anything. Cancer ruined our perfect family, but it changed our marriage for the better. For once in my life, I let go.
I started saying yes to the things I previously said no to. I started enjoying my life much more because it became abundantly clear to me that you can make all the plans in your pretty paper planner and everything can change in an instant. I learned to slow down, love harder, take big risks, tell people what they mean to me, and not hold back.
Loving Matt through cancer and watching his bravery unfold in the last year and a half of his life was a tragedy, but it was also a blessing. When you break down life to living or dying, you have no choice but to focus on what really matters. All that mattered was love, and we had it. He left this earth without a single person that he loved wondering how he felt. He was a big teddy bear of a man with an even bigger heart, but he wrapped his friends and family up in his arms and no one left our home without hearing “I love you”. If everyone loved like he did, the world would be a much better place to live in.
This week we had the opportunity to escape Alabama for fall break. I found a selfie exhibit in Atlanta and we laughed and took a million pictures. Then we escaped to the lake for my version of camping. Lord knows I don’t tent camp. I prefer to camp with room service.
I see so much of him in her. Her love of fun and her infectious laugh is a gift that he left us with. She will carry every wonderful part of him with her through this world, and I am in constant awe of how amazing she is. She loves with her whole heart.
She reminds me every day that life is not as serious as we make it out to be. We have good days. We have bad days. But we find the good in every single day because that’s the legacy he left behind for us. Seeing her smile and laugh gives me so much life. Watching her love others through her heartache gives me hope for the future.
I wish I could promise her life is always going to be easy. I wish I could protect her from anymore heartache, because she’s endured a lifetime of it in 7 short years. I know that, no matter what comes her way, she will always look for the good. She was fathered by a man who, even in the depths of despair, found the good. He was the good.
One day, she will grow up. She won’t think I’m as cool as she does now. But until that day, I will continue to throw caution to the wind. I will continue to give her the childhood he would’ve if given the opportunity. We will laugh, take funny pictures, and make memories together.
And I hope that, when I see his beautiful face in heaven again, he tells me I did an ok job. Until then, I’ll continue to fall short. I’ll make big mistakes and small ones along the way. But I will love with a fierce, unwavering love, because that’s what he taught us to do. He never for a second regretted loving anyone.
If you get the chance, go on that trip. Eat all the things. Drink all the wine. Laugh so hard you cry. Face your fears. Cry a little, and love a lot. Because in the end, the legacy you leave behind is worth more than anything you could ever dream of. In the end, the mark you leave on this earth will be carried on in the hearts of those who were loved by you. And that’s worth so much more than money can ever buy.