I know there are days when she wishes she could simply pick up a phone and call her - if you haven't read Mitch Albom's The First Phone Call From Heaven, I highly recommend you do so - and the finality of it means that's just not going to happen. So we hold onto saved phone messages, letters, notes, emails and the like. And as comforting as they can be to keep close, to linger over, they're just not the same. Like virtual stand-ins for the real thing, they remind us of what we no longer have. That we can't simply go back in time and have that one call, one conversation, one hug.
I lost count of how many times people have told us that life goes on. Forgive my informality, but duh! Of course it does. We go back to work, go back to school, make breakfast, lunch and supper, go out with friends and return to some semblance of a day-to-day routine. We learn to live with the newfound sense of emptiness and figure out ways to make it through days like today when it's all around us and there's no way to avoid it. But there's no real recovery in the true sense of the word. Loss changes all of us, and that, too, is an inextricable part of the universe's plan.
Yet two years on, I hope you'll forgive my innate bias in sharing this: My wife has figured out how to move into that uncertain, frightening and admittedly colder next chapter. She's focused on us, making our home even more of a home. She's been there for me, not only saving my life outright, but helping me get back in the game and raise my play - as a husband, dad and journalist - to another level. She's been there for her dad - batch cooking for him from hundreds of kilometres away, calling him anytime to ward off the silence, making the trip back home to spend some quiet time together. Anyone else might have allowed unfathomable loss to break them. Instead, my wife got stronger in the process, and used her strength to make us all stronger, as well.
None of this gets us back to where we were. Much as I wish I could come up with the right words to put us back in the middle of a Friday night meal where we're all gathered around the same table, the simple fact is we can't reverse any of this.
But as I look around the smaller table on a Friday night, where the sights and smells inside still banish the coldness and harshness lurking just outside the window just as they did when my wife was a child, when we were dating, long before February 22, 2013, I'm reminded that we didn't lose everything on that terrible day two years ago. My mother-in-law not only taught my wife well. But my wife took those lessons and made them her own. She's taken the best of her mom and made them an integral part of our family's life - and we are closer and better because of her.
Legacies, apparently, outlive those who initiate them. And it's up to us to carry them forward. Thankfully, my wife has done just that.