After working an exhausting ten-hour day, I finally sit down at my desk for five minutes and pull out my phone to catch up on Instagram and Facebook. I pull up my Instagram app and relax to check in on my friends (and do a little social media stalking because you know we all do it) and that is where it all begins. The internal panic of “am I doing enough with my life?”. It starts with that friend who posted the picture showing her nightly perfect dinner. I then move on to the family member who posted her video of her daily workout, only to be followed by the co-worker sharing her post of her perfect table setting for the dinner party she is having, which looks like it is out of a Martha Stewart magazine. How do these women do this? How do they live such perfect lives? All the sudden, my mind starts spinning out of control. Oh my word, how does she keep her house so clean? How in the world does she keep in such great shape? How do her kids always look so put together and clean? Look at all the motivational books she reads, I really should be reading more inspiring books. Look at the power shake she just posted with all the veggies and fruits, I really need to eat better. How does she have time to cook such well balanced meals for her family? And all the sudden, I am mentally exhausted. Then I ask myself why do I do this to myself???? I then must come back into reality and remember who I am.
I am a 52-year-old mother and grandmother of five amazing grandchildren. I married the love of my life at 17 years old and had a baby girl six months later (and yes, I was pregnant when I got married). When my husband, Carl, and I got married we were stone broke. We counted pennies to put gas in our cars and sometimes could not afford to buy groceries, but we were in love so that was all that mattered. Well, that was until the bills started coming in. I don’t think the fairy tales included all those details. Two years later my amazing daughter, Amanda, was born (and yes, I was 19 with two children, a stay at home mom and loving every minute of it). Life was crazy, wild, hard and so much fun at the same time. My goal was to raise my daughters with all the love I could give them, show them all the support and encouragement they needed and let them know that they mattered and could do anything they set their minds to. I was married to the most loving, unselfish, amazing man who loved me with all his heart and loved our girls with his whole being. Life passed by so quickly, my girls grew up, started school, graduated from college and both got married to wonderful men and they started having babies and their lives were good. My grandchildren were all healthy. I had gone back to college and had been a paralegal for over 30 years. My husband had a great job and we were finally financially able to go and do, take trips, and spoil our grandbabies. Life was great and we were so blessed. I remember sitting in church and our pastor preaching about “even through the extremely trying times, God was with us”. On the way home from church I remember Carl and I talking about how blessed we were at this time in our lives. That was until January 27, 2014 when my 49-year-old husband had a massive heart attack and we were told that afternoon that he would need a heart transplant to be able to continue to live. My husband, and I by his side, stayed in the hospital for 3 ½ months until May 1st when he passed away from a brain bleed and my world ended.
How do I go on from here? How do I live without the love of my life by my side? Do I want to live without him and can I live without him? It was the hardest time of my life and sometimes I really felt like giving up. But then I remembered that I had two daughters that still needed a mother and my grandbabies needed their grandmother more than ever, especially since their Papa was now in heaven. So, very slowly after several years of extreme pain and loss, I started to pull it together. I sold my house, quit my paralegal job after 32 years and moved in with my daughters in North Carolina on April 1st, 2018. I look back to all the things I thought were so important in my life only to realize they were not that important. What matters is your family, friends, and the ones you hold dear to your heart.
So, this is what I have learned through my terrible loss and what I want to share. Your life is not going to always be picture perfect. Life is hard and good all at the same time, but you have to stay focused on the good. You are awesome just as you are. You are a strong beautiful woman. So what if the laundry is dirty and the house is a mess. You have to remember to enjoy life because those are the memories that you, your family and friends will remember. If your husband or boyfriend calls and wants to take you out on the town, go! If your friends call and want you to go see a movie, jump in your car and go! If your children want you to help them put together a puzzle, help them! Go to the park, hike that trail, pop popcorn and watch a movie with your parents! Take that trip to Italy, Greece and to the Grand Canyon. Don’t wait until you have more time or more money in the bank. Focus your time and energy on you, your friends, family, and your loved ones. The most important lesson I have learned is we are not promised tomorrow, and life can change in a split second. Memories are what you will have to hold on to. No one in the social media world may remember that picture or story you posted last week, but the people you surround yourself with will remember all the good times and exciting adventures you shared together. And don’t forget to take lots of pictures and yes print them, put them in albums or make books with them. Yes, include yourself in the pictures. I know as women we hate that. I cherish every picture I have of my husband and now my grandbabies cherish them. At the end of the day you will be able to hold that memory in your hand and smile in the delight of experiencing that day all over again in your mind. And most importantly, tell the people you cherish how special they are to you, how much they mean to you, tell them that you love them as much as you can, and make sure they know how you feel. My husband told me everyday that he loved me and how beautiful I was even when I looked my worst. And that is what I hold on to everyday, knowing I was loved. So enjoy life, have fun and even cry if you need to. But just “Be you”.
Pam is a super woman, splitting her time between mom, grandma, paralegal and Client Care Liaison for @GreenHousePickerSisters. After experiencing the loss of her greatest love, Pam works to encourage women at whatever stage of life they’re in. Pam’s greatest joy in life is loving her family, friends and people well. You will almost always find her in the kitchen, cooking her way right to people’s heart. When she’s not in the kitchen, you will find her spending time with her grand-kids or working in the warehouse to find that next perfect piece for your venue!
*Photo from Stocksnap