Turning Grief into Gratitude

Today marks one year since you left us.  365 days without seeing that beautiful smile.  Without being able to hold your hand, stop over just to say “hi” and without hearing your voice.  It seems like an unfathomable amount of time, but the truth is, it is just the beginning.

This past year was full of so many firsts – but not those firsts that we look forward to with a newborn.  This year we ‘celebrated’ Christmas, Mother’s Day, your wedding anniversary, your birthday and the rest of the birthdays in our family.  None of those moments felt right – not even in the slightest.  For one thing, no party will ever be the same without your level of party planning.  We all know that Lola threw the best parties.  You thrived on it.  Luckily, I inherited pieces of that from you, but this year I just didn’t have it in me and that almost made things worse. I felt like I failed you by not giving the grandgirls amazing birthday parties (and quite frankly COVID is partially to thank on that one!) and by not celebrating each holiday to its fullest.  You always made sure that celebrations continued, even when your strength did not.

Throughout your 14-year battle with cancer, you missed very little.  You pushed through.  You did your best to be there even when you felt 300 miles away due to pain and exhaustion.  And that smile was always there – I’m sure it was hiding the pain, but to the rest of the world, you seemed to persevere through all the curveballs life kept throwing you.  Maybe that’s what made this year seem harder on me.  You kept going and rocking life throughout so much and I couldn’t keep going.  I couldn’t function. I couldn’t plan the parties, remember to help with homework or even shower sometimes.  Basic life functions were no longer basic.  The only thing that was constant was heartache.  I was broken and my usual method of mending was no longer an option.  I didn’t have you there to help me.  And man, how I needed you when trying to teach Bristol (youngest daughter) short/long vowels during distance learning.  You were the only reason Briggs (oldest daughter) figured it all out because heaven knows I just can’t grasp it!  Some of those basic life functions have come back, but not to the extent that I’d like.

As the months passed, I tried to ease the tears and remind myself that you wanted us to smile when we thought of you.  You didn’t want us to cry, to be sad about your loss of life but to instead be happy for the glorious life that you LIVED.  Boy, did you live life.  So that’s what I did.  I got hard on myself on the days I couldn’t function and reminded myself that you’d absolutely insist on me doing it – not just for me but for the rest of the family, especially those beloved grandgirls.  There isn’t a day that passes that we don’t talk about you.

There also isn’t a day that goes by that we don’t pray.  We pray that you are living your best life in heaven, surrounded by your parents, your two sisters and your brother, and so many of our loved ones who have left us too soon.  We pray for strength to get through the day, hope for a world without cancer, love to keep us growing and laughter to remind us of the sweet simplicity of things.

I’ve tried to take my prayers from ugly cry sessions being angry that God took you into ones thanking Him for giving us such a glorious mom, but the truth is that it doesn’t always happen that way.  But I think that’s okay.  I’m learning to take these moments, hours and days as they come instead of trying to tackle it all at once.  Because quite frankly I can’t handle the thought of 365 days without you, but I can get through it, moment by moment.

They say time makes it easier, but I think it just makes us a bit wiser. It makes us realize our abilities and inabilities and teaches us how to live with what we have.  For instance, today makes 365 days since you left this earth, but I need to focus on the 12,743 days that God gave us together.  I have to remember the strength, determination, love and compassion that you showed me during those 12,743 days and carry them on each and every single day that I have left on this earth.  The good always outweighs the bad, the love outweighs the loss and the bond between mother and daughter can never be broken – even when separated by heaven and earth.

Lola Fern Royce Helmers : August 30, 1957 to September 17, 2019
Lola passed away on September 17, 2019 after a courageous battle with ovarian cancer.  She had a tremendous love for life, her family and faith.  Her strength was undeniable and dedication to bettering her community was unmatched.

About the author – Sami-Jo Helmers-Nelson
Sami Jo is a mom of two spirited little girls.  She is a volunteer firefighter and first responder, where she serves her community alongside her husband, sister and her father.  She works for the American Cancer Society, is a pharmacy technician and helps teach youth at FROG (Fully Relying on God).

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