Today, it got much more real that you are gone. Really gone. Today we turned your office into our school room. When we moved into this house back in 2007 there was really nothing in the basement except bad carpet. You looked at it an knew right away that we could have a storage/laundry area, a living room, and the office you needed for the business you were about to start. Though you had never done anything like this before, you got your idea on paper and you got to work. We had some help from friends and family, but for the most part, you just did it. All of it. Dry wall, mudding (that's where the help from friends and family really came in handy), electrical, tile, everything. When it came time to do the carpet you knew your limit and hired a member of the church family who was about to head out to the mission field halfway around the world. You dreamed up and designed your office and you put it together on your own. At least, I don't really remember anyone helping. (Forgive me if I am forgetting someone. It was a long time ago and a lot has happened since then.)
As I began dismantling all that you had put together I was overwhelmed by so many things. First of all, I have no idea how in the world you put this monster together on your own. It was a beast to take apart. All at once I was marveling at and cursing you for building things so well. Your attention to detail was amazing and your determination to make exactly what you wanted work is unmatched. (And made my task that much harder.) That was one sturdy desk! By the time I got to the last piece I had to have the kids help me!
I was also overwhelmed by how much I've changed since you passed away. I'm not sure you'd even recognize me. (Not sure whether that's good or bad!) I remember one of the first things the counselor at Valley Hope said to us was that, with addiction, there's no such thing as "you're back!" You are never the same again. The "you" you were before addiction is forever changed. There are bits and pieces of that person that will still be there, but as a whole, that person no longer exists. I am here to tell you that's not just true for addiction. It's true for grief, too. (Well, really, it's just true for life.) The "me" before March 10, 2016 is forever changed. This part of my life will always be "after Kevin." I cry more, I feel more, I ask for help more. I am stronger (physically and mentally) than I ever dreamed possible. Did you ever, in your wildest imagination, think that I would just go grab a drill and dismantle that monster of a desk? Never would that have happened before March 10. I wouldn't have called a company to schedule them to come do something for the house. I wouldn't have called and fought with health insurance. I wouldn't have accepted meals or clean laundry or new floors. It would have never felt so good to put so much sweat into a new room. I never would have prayed so fervently or with such a sense of urgency for the salvation of our children. God is doing a work. I am not sure what that work is, yet, but I can't help but smile at the thought He may have already given you a glimpse.
I had to give a little chuckle at the fact that it was a school room we were making! Never, in a million years, did either one of us think we would even need a school room. Homeschooling was not something either of us planned or hoped to do. We were a little blindsided when we felt God telling us that's what He wanted us to do for our children. If we'd had the space, you would have made me a room when we started homeschooling back when Sophie started Kindergarten. If I had an option, I'd give up the school room in a heartbeat to have you back instead. All three of us would. But, that's not the life we've been given, so I'll just thank you for providing us a room and a blank canvas to make it our own, even though that wasn't your intent for making this room all those years ago.
I was overwhelmed by how much wood was in that room! It filled the living room once I got it all out. But now, I am so thankful you had all of that. All but a little over 20 small pieces of wood that we used in the school room were some part of that monster of a desk. I love that! I love that your hard work is still all over that room. We'll see it and know it every time we enter. The kids love it, too! They feel so big knowing they are sitting at daddy's desk in daddy's comfy office chairs. (Thanks for not getting rid of the old one when you got the new one, by the way! For once, your refusal to get rid of things worked in my favor!) The most expensive thing we bought was the paint. You always looked out for us, and this time you didn't even know you were!
I was overwhelmed with gratitude that you insisted we be debt free (well, all but the house.) Honestly, that is the only reason we can even homeschool now. You worked hard to pay off my student loans, pay off the credit card, and pay off my car. You worked hard in your business to afford paying cash for your truck and you worked even harder to be able to pay cash for our van. You never bought a piece of music equipment without selling something else to pay for it. Again, you had no idea how well you were taking care of us for the future by doing that at the time, but we are reaping the benefits today. Without that, we wouldn't even need this room. I know I never thanked you for that when I could, but I truly am so thankful for your intentional, hard work in this area.
I was overwhelmed at the finality of it all. No more office. No.more.office. I honestly couldn't even picture it. I wasn't sure the day would come. And at the end, I couldn't really even make decisions anymore. (Huge thanks to my family for just doing it and making it work. Which, in and of itself, was a beautiful tribute to you because you would have done the exact same thing!) Erasing your handwriting from your white board was nearly my undoing. But I knew it had to be done. We love you so much. We miss you more than our mere words could ever express. I want to stop time and reverse it and go back to hold your hand one more time. Give you one more kiss. Sleep in with you one more morning. Have just one more conversation. Watch one more episode of The West Wing. But I can't. And I can't live in that. I can't let the kids live in that. Sure, those moments will come and, like John Piper says, we'll "Occasionally weep deeply over the life you hoped would be. Grieve the losses. Then wash your face. Trust God. And embrace the life you have." I admit, I took a few moments before I started taking apart the desk and sat in your chair at the desk one last time. I leaned over it, just the way you were when I found you that terrible, ugly beautiful morning (ugly for me, beautiful for you) and just cried. I cried for all the firsts you've already missed and will miss. Cried for all the times our kids will feel alone and left out because they are the only ones without a dad. Cried for all the anniversaries we won't get to celebrate. Cried for all the birthdays, recitals, graduations, weddings, grandchildren, and so much more we won't be experiencing together. I cried for the years when the kids are out of the house that I'll spend without you by my side. I cried for the family mission trips we so longed for that will now have one less person. I cried and cried. Then I washed my face (OK, not literally, I would have had to walk upstairs to do that and you and I both know I am just too lazy for that when there is work to do in the basement), laid it all at God's feet knowing I could trust the outcome to Him (after all, He saw all of my days before even one of them was lived), and got to work embracing the life I have. And being grateful for it. How many people have family who would give up their whole weekend to redo one little school room? Even after their truck broke down on the way here. And they were up at 1:30 that morning taking their child to the airport to leave the country for the first time. And when they couldn't come themselves, still sent their husband even though it meant being at home with a very sick child all alone. My.family.rocks. They just do. I wish everyone could have them. Except I don't want to share them. I am (hashtag)blessed. And I mean that. There are too many fish to count. My net is bursting wide open!
So, my love, here we go. The next chapter truly will be starting when we have that first day of school (which will be much later than usual because I have done not.one.thing to be ready for the school year. I know, you're shocked. I am the queen of being ready too soon and being overly prepared. We'll just consider it an homage to you!) I am not sure I am 100% ready, but then again, I am not sure I ever really will be so, here I go. We're jumping off the cliff. I wish we were holding hands and jumping together, but I know that God's got my hand and, as much as I love you, His hand is better. Stronger. Wiser. Perfect. With God, all things are possible. Even continuing to move and breathe and live life when it feels like half of me has been ripped away. Even finding His beautiful gifts in the midst of the messy and ugly and chaotic of this broken world. Even taking apart a monster desk that weighs more than our children.
Lord, give me the strength to keep my eyes on You. Give me the courage to keep moving toward You when life gets to be too much; when I want to give up and let go. Use every moment of each day to reveal more of Yourself to me and to my children. Call Sophie. Call Ethan. Adopt them. Give them new hearts and make them new creations. Fill them with Your Holy Spirit that they may spend their lives pouring themselves out in Your name. Give them a hunger and thirst for your word, for prayer, and for true righteousness. Oh, Father, use all three of us for Your glory! Use this school room to draw all three of us closer to You and to enable us to have the skills needed to share You with those near us and those around the world. Lord, we have but one life here on this earth. Teach us how to make it count.