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One week later he'd be dead.

Mothers Day.


This time last year I was waking up in bed with the love of my life, in a rented villa at Turtle Bay resort while our two young children tossed and turned, ruffling the covers next to us. I opened my eyes to see Brian looking at me, smiling and kissing me before saying “Happy Mother’s Day, sweetheart.” We laid in bed laughing at the sight of Izzy sleeping sideways near our feet and Hudson with a big puddle of drool collecting on his chin. In a single look, this was happiness. At six months pregnant and from sharing a king sized bed with the rest of my family the night prior, I was in no hurry to wake up, so I enjoyed the moment, watching my sleeping kids and rubbing my swollen belly while Brian typed something on his phone. A few minutes later there was a knock on our villa room and Brian leapt from bed to answer it. I smiled as the porter assigned to our suite pushed a silver dining cart in with a giant bouquet of birds of paradise, my favorite flower and a plate of chocolate covered strawberries. He really thinks of everything. The kids woke to the commotion as Brian got back in bed with us, producing a pile of gifts and cards and pouring them on my lap. Izzy and Hudson, now wide away, now excited as their eyes grew wide at the sight of wrapped presents – obviously assuming they were for them.


We spent the next 30 minutes as a family of 4.5 in our boujie 1000 thread count hotel sheets as I opened a handmade photo frame Izzy and Brian had made with my mom in San Diego the week prior, a blue and pink nightgown adorned with anchors I’d wear while giving birth to the daughter in our belly two months later, and my absolute favorite, a giant box of lemon truffles from Sees candy. Brian typically went above and beyond for holidays, or any day for that matter, any excuse to show me how much he loved me, but this mother’s day was special. The year before he had spent Mother’s Day competing in the Oregon Offshore sailing race from Astoria to Canada on Stay Gold and he’d mentioned several times over the course of the year since that he wanted to make up for his absence on that day. This morning, this day, this moment, he had more than made up for it. A few moments later, my phone alerted me to a new facebook post I’d been tagged in, which I opened to see a terrible photo of me, pregnant, sweaty, exhausted from a 16 hour day of travel from Hawaii to Japan, with Izzy asleep next to me as we took a 1AM train from the airport to our hotel in Yokosuka. Great photo babe, thank you so much for this. But then I read the tribute:


Ashley,

On this Mother’s Day, I thought you should know how much I appreciate that you are Isabel, Hudson and Adeline’s Mom.

You constantly teach us how to be strong. To be independent. To love deeply, unconditionally and endlessly. To laugh, even if you’re the only one laughing because, fuck it, life is short and they probably aren’t as funny as you anyway. Your sense of adventure is contagious and I’m so happy our kids will (and will continue to) grow up seeing the world and all it has to offer. You teach us to chase our dreams and never let anything stop us. Your examples of stellar accomplishments in your life will continue to drive our kids to do amazing things with theirs. Most of all, you teach us how to...just enjoy. ❤️

As you lay here next to me in bed, with our kids asleep next to us, I can feel happiness radiating from you and that puts a giant smile on my face.

Our kids will grow up with the best Mom they could ever ask for and I’m so happy it’s you.


One week later he’d be dead.


This year of firsts has been hard. Brutal. Tragic. Devastating. Sad. Each holiday has been a milestone, a first without him, a harsh reality of what life feels like without him here to celebrate with. Each giving me a feeling of sadness but also determination. I might not want to do this without him, but I can do this without him, and I will continue to do this without him. I also knew Mother’s Day was going to be particularly hard because it’s the last of our firsts without him here. I’ve now celebrated an entire year worth of holidays without the man that once made me promise, “Let’s never skip over celebrating a holiday, ok?”


This morning I cried alone in my closet. I was really sad. Thinking back to this incredible Mother’s Day last year, thinking about Mama T and how Brian isn’t here to call her to wish her a Happy Mother’s Day, thinking about how I won’t ever have another handmade gift from he and the kids on this day. I could hear the kids fighting downstairs –fighting over whatever 2&4 year old siblings fight about - yelling my name wanting me to come sort it out, and/or tattle on each other. The fighting wasn’t going to stop anytime soon and Adeline was safe in her high chair so I knew I’d have this few minutes alone to get it out. This isn’t the first time I’ve stowed away amongst our possessions to feel sorry for myself, and I’m positive it won’t be the last, but I also know I’m not the only mom out there to need these moments. I know there are a lot of moms, a lot of women, out there with worse circumstances with me. Those who wish they had children screaming their name from downstairs, those who have lost their children, those who can’t afford a beautiful home with a closet/crying shelter for moments like these. I know that despite the shitty circumstances I’ve endured this past year, I still have it pretty damn good. My dad called to wish me a happy mothers day, to tell me he thinks I’m doing a good job as a mom, which of course brought on a whole new set of tears, but also then motivated me to wipe away those tears and head downstairs to these kids of mine to prove to myself and to Izzy, Hudson and Adeline that I am a good mom. The ones who have saved me in more ways than one this past year, the ones who have made me a mother and given me a reason to enjoy today. I walked down the stairs towards the sound of an angry 4 year old, a crying 2 year old and a happy 9 month old, past the multiple bouquets of beautiful flowers I’ve received from family and friends these past few days, reminding me just how loved and appreciated I am. I walked into the kitchen, used my best mom voice telling Izzy and Hudson to knock it off, and then started packing snacks because Chanda’s coming over and we’re heading to the coast to celebrate this beautiful day.


To all the moms out there who have found themselves crying in a closet at some point, or all you ladies who wish you had kids to cry over, or a closet to cry into.. I feel you. I hope you each find something to smile about today, something that brings you joy and makes you feel loved.


Xo


Final family photo of us. Taken Mother's Day 2017 at Turtle Bay Resort on Oahu.


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Lessons of turning tragedy into triumph 

from a military widow

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