The Hickman family today

I have been dreading this day for a few years. Very strange you may say. What makes this day, April 2, 2017, different from any other? This is the day that Tim will have been dead longer than he lived.

Very strange, I even say to myself. It’s a conversation you can truly only have with your very best friend or someone who has been in a similar situation. I knew this day was coming. I think when we crossed that 10-year mark, I realized that the next obstacle would be this day. We learned ways to share the other anniversary dates, Christmas, Easter and other family and community celebrations. We learned how to deal with change of decades. We attended weddings for best friends and shed quiet tears – or perhaps not-so-subtle tears. We have held babies and are welcomed dearly as a part of Michael and Sandra’s life and our grandchildren. We are very blessed and fortunate.

April 2, 2017, will pass just like every other day we have spent in the past 21 years. We will take time to grieve, hopefully time to share some of the fun times that Tim brought into our lives. We will honour a life that was well lived. Tim was respected in his circle of friends, who continue to keep in touch at least once a year at a golf tournament. The day of golf is sort of like a high school reunion, watching all these young people and what they are doing in their lives. Or hearing the dad of one of Tim’s best friends say, ‘it could have been us walking in the shoes you are walking in’.  Tim had swapped shifts that Saturday so he could go out to celebrate his 21st birthday. Now 21 years later, we all recall the day – with disbelief and yet we are able to recall some of the happier times we all shared.

I have learned a lot during these past years, this journey I never anticipated being on. I have learned that when Tim died, my love for him did not. There is nothing that can take that away. I have great support from family and friends. I have my memories of the times we shared individually and on family adventures. These memories are likely different from those of his dad or his brother or Tim’s friends or our friends. Memories are unique. We get to share those occasionally with others. I have learned that if I share memories too often, others aren’t able to hear. Why? I don’t think it’s that they don’t care; I think they each want to recall their own memories. I get to laugh when my granddaughters do something and I say ‘I bet Uncle Tim would have done that’ or ‘Uncle Tim and your dad did something very similar’. Unique moments we all get to share.

I have learned that when I meet another parent, we have an instant bond. An instant understanding of a journey we were not prepared for. Interesting that there were no books to tell us how to prepare to parent and there is no literature to prepare us to bury our child. When parents meet we can speak openly to each other and share what we would not be able to share with others. If we attempted to share with our neighbours or others we may know casually, they would likely think we were crazy – or ‘you need to get over it’. That is another lesson I am learning. I will never get over it. I am learning to live with it and I think that is a continual journey also. Most of the time I am ok with that; reminding myself that my recall of adventures, my journey, my love are mine. They help me with each anniversary and special occasion. They are part of what I will need on April 2.

There are many sad pieces on a grief journey. As a parent, we have all heard that we were not there to support our spouse nor our other children. I know that was the case for me. I was barely able to look after myself – barely able to get meals planned, get my work accomplished. We all remember those early days. What we also have to remember is that we did the best we could. I recall one day, when my husband came home and I was peeling potatoes and he asked ‘what is wrong’. You all know my response. The poor guy – only trying to help and the last thing he needed to hear from me was ‘just the same thing wrong today as will be for the rest of my life’. Probably wasn’t just the words – probably mostly the tone I used? Has that happened again? It may have. These past months, I have wondered, if I wasn’t able to help my family at the time of Tim’s death, how can I help them now? I don’t know if I have that answer. Grief is a personal journey and I think one we mostly have to walk alone. We each have different coping methods and hopefully continue to respect those. My husband will be busy building something in the garage, likely talking to his dog. We will continue to spend time together and recognize special days, special events, shed tears and hopefully share laughs.

Shirley Hickman