With four major FIRST milestones behind me (Jax’s birthday, anniversary of Justin’s death, anniversary of Justin’s funeral, and Father’s Day), I felt I had the right to take a deep breath and give myself a mental break. Having so many FIRSTS in this first year without Justin, I hadn’t begun to process what was soon approaching in July. I would be facing my “first SECOND” a day I had agonized over all year long, our wedding anniversary. Last year, Justin passed away five weeks prior to our 11th anniversary. I was in such a tremendous fog that I could barely process it. At the time, my mom suggested that having Justin and I’s closest friends and family surrounding me would be best. I was in no state to consider other options or care for that matter. I used people, food, and alcohol as a distraction to get me through the day, which at that time I thought was best. Thinking back, I am amazed I didn’t completely fall apart. This year would be a horse of a different color. I was off my Lexapro and my drinking had been back to social levels for a while now. Along with this, my emotions and feelings were raw and I was dreading it! I had cried so much leading up to it that I wondered how I would handle the actual day. Sometimes I find myself anticipating a holiday or anniversary so much that I tend to get a lot of depression out prior to the actual day. Not only do I mourn Justin, but I mourn our life we had together and our life we should have had.
With a week of tears behind me, I made it to July 26th. I had made plans (once again) with friends and family. The only exception was, this year, I didn’t feel a need to bring any attention to the significance of the day. Instead, I wanted to treat the day like any other and try my hardest to enjoy it instead of sulking around being depressed. July 26 had always represented something so positive and beautiful to me for 10 (almost 11) years. Justin was very romantic when it came to special holidays. For our wedding anniversary, we usually had a fun trip planned. For our fifth, we went to Ireland and New Orleans for our 10th, and last one together.
He also loved to shower me with gifts and was pretty unique with his choices. Very rarely would he be cliche by sending me a dozen red roses or a piece of jewelry. He loved to surprise me with fun things and take me on personal shopping trips. He always told me, “I just love seeing you smile”. Making me happy was a top priority, which he always succeeded at, and I know it would have been this way forever.
I ended up spending the day on a friend’s boat and the evening with my girlfriends watching reality TV. These options may sound abnormal or strange, but they were just what I needed. I was able to soak up some beautiful gulf air and sunshine with Jax as well as watch some trashy TV with my girls. The day did still have very depressing moments but all in all I can say I pretty much enjoyed it. I believe Justin was looking down on me knowing how hard it was for me to crack a smile. He did show me in a few ways that he was with me. It may sound strange to say he gives me signs from time to time, but I do believe it with all my heart, as I don’t much believe in coincidences. Besides our anniversary being on the 26 of July, my birthday falls on the 26 of April. Therefore, Justin and I developed a mutual love for the number 26. We coined 26 “our number” and would see it everywhere. We’d pump gas and accidentally stop the counter at 26 dollars. Our receipt at Target would total $26.26 and we would be seated at table number 26 at restaurants. It was usually pretty surreal and no one else understood it besides us. We decided when we went to Las Vegas or Biloxi that it was our “winning” number and we’d spend all night at the roulette table betting number 26.
We actually hit pretty big a few times but it never failed us. We would hit 26 eventually and it always made our day. It made us feel like we had a secret no one else knew..
So as for the number 26 this year, well let’s just say it followed me everywhere. At the grocery store waiting for my turn at the deli, I was number 26. I was on my way home when the radio dj announced the next song and it just so happened to be number 26 on the countdown. I pulled into my driveway and listened. It was a Michael Bolton song named “I Promise You”.
The lyrics were as follows:
I’ll love you forever, I promise you
We’ll be together, our whole life through
There’s nothin’ that I, I wouldn’t do
With all of my heart, I promise you
When I was in the water with Jax, I felt something underneath my foot that felt strange. Instinctively, I grabbed it to investigate and to my surprise it was a beautiful starfish. I smiled and quickly grabbed my phone to take a photo. When I looked at my phone the time was displayed and it just so happened to be 2:26. I held that starfish tight as I thought back to a day on our honeymoon in the Bahamas. While snorkeling I distinctly remember Justin discovered a starfish in the ocean. We were ecstatic to have found this while snorkeling as no one else in our group had much luck besides a few seashells. At the time, we saw it as a sign that our marriage would always be blessed. And it was very blessed! Even though it was cut short and wasn’t free from it’s own challenges, it was certainly blessed. As time marches on, I continue to see so many blessings in my life. From my beautiful baby Jax, to my kind and loving parents (who everyday help me raise my boy), to my wonderful girlfriends willing to drop everything just so I have some company on a tough day, to Justin’s mother Vicki taking off work whenever I ask to keep Jax. Vicki always reassures me what a wonderful mother I am while reminding me how happy I made her son. In the wake of losing Justin I have to constantly remind myself of these blessings. No matter how much time passes, I will never forget how blessed I was to have had him in my life and how blessed I am to be the one raising his beautiful baby boy.