• Holly Norris

Power of Three

The Past

“We are products of our past, but we don't have to be prisoners of it.” ― Rick Warren

It's hard to separate yourself from something traumatic. Difficult really doesn't even come close to describing the soul-sucking feeling from trying to move on from an event so life-changing, all-encompassing, perspective-changing as what hit me in 2019. But those words are all as close to what I feel kind of accurately portrays becoming a widow will get.

And I promise, this blog will not be as Series of Unfortunate Events as that first paragraph was. But I do think it's important to know where you've been before you can talk about where you're going.

When you picture your life as a little girl, there are a lot of things you imagine; growing up to have a successful job, preferably with lots of cute shoes; finding and marrying the man (or woman) of your dreams; starting a life with that person, having children, the whole shebang. But I'm willing to bet you never pictured any of those things taking place in a hospital; saying I do without being surrounded by your family, spending the first month of your marriage by your partner's bedside watching him lose what little strength he had left.

That, my friends, is what 2019 gave me.

In the last ten years, my life has changed so dramatically. I wish I could go back and tell the girl I was in 2010 that all of the hard things she had to deal with would sort of prepare her for the decade to come. While it wouldn't be totally true, at least it might help. And though many of the people reading this may already know what I'm about to write, I think it's important that I share these words with those who may not have been as close to me during these tough years, but have stepped up to support me in the last six months.

In 2017, my boyfriend of over a year, Trevor, was diagnosed with Anaplastic Asyrocytoma, a type of malignant brain tumor that in his case, had mutated to become very aggressive. The average life expectancy after diagnosis for this type of cancer is two years. Trevor, as always, said "let's do this," and we set out on a journey to rid him of this horrible disease.

In 2019, Trevor's cancer had spread to his nervous system, and eventually took his ability to walk. In June, we married in the hospital chapel with one of our best friends officiating and a photographer. We chose to keep things small and private, because that was who Trevor was. These moments were for us, not anyone else.

In July, Trevor began losing the ability to breathe. The cancer, by that point, had spread into the part of his brain that controlled speech, eating and breathing. He was moved from a wonderful hospital to a long term facility, where he passed in the early morning July 28, 2019. It was two days past his two year diagnosis anniversary.

As I write this, I can still feel his hand in mine as he slipped away. I can hear the cruel alarm of the machines in his room that blared every few minutes, as if reminding us he was getting worse and worse. I can't step into a hospital or doctor's office without going back to that night, watching his oxygen levels drop further and further until he was gone.

In the months following Trevor's death, many things happened. I battled through a fog of losing my best friend to organize and pay for a beautiful funeral service in Missouri, where requested to be buried, despite being severely in debt and awaiting any confirmation of life insurance benefits. I juggled car payments and rent and incoming hospital bills, while, worst of all, fending off attacks on my character from some of those claiming to love Trevor. People who made me feel like the three years I spent as a supportive partner, spouse, and ultimately, sole caregiver, were absolutely unrecognized and spit on in favor of wishful thinking and shame-fueled spite.

But despite their attempts to make my life miserable (which, I will admit, succeeded for a while), the months since Trevor's passing have been filled with so many beautiful moments that so overshadow the hurt and betrayal I've felt.

I've had wonderful days with friends and family who have surrounded me, held me up and reminded me every day that I am so absolutely loved.

The Present

“The future depends on what you do today.” ― Mahatma Gandhi

Today, I am pretty damn happy with my life.

Don't get me wrong. I miss Trevor every single day. I think about him every time Koa, our oldest dog, snuggles his head next to my computer while I'm working. I think about him when I'm watching SVU, or texting one of our friends.

But today, I live for myself, trying to make sure he's so fucking proud of the life I'm building.

I work from home, so I spend a lot of time with our dogs, working on various marketing projects for the amazing company I am so lucky to work for. And when I'm not, I'm working on making a house a home for me and my dreams, along with my fabulous roommate, Nicole.

The past six months were hard. But every day in the present is one day I'm living my life in honor of the man we all lost in July. Unfortunately, I think what's forgotten when someone passes is that their life is so much more than their spouse, their family. It's all the people they touched that may not be blood related, but in some cases, matter more than family in the end.

Those people are who I've filled my present with. People who knew and loved Trevor, like me, but have cheered me on as I try to build this new life without him.

The Future

“Knowing too much of your future is never a good thing.” ― Rick Riordan

I don't pretend to know what's coming in the days, weeks, months or years to follow. I do know that my past, my present and my future are all part of who I am. But my past does not define me, my present does not trap me and my future does not scare me. I step willingly into the unknown (Frozen reference totally intended) knowing I have the full support of a great group of people behind me.

I also know that in the last six months, I have received such an outpouring of love and support from people I never knew cared so much, that I feel it's important to start sharing my life again. I spent so much time closing myself off from the world to support my growing mental load that I forgot what a relief it can be to let others know your thoughts and feelings.

So this, my friends, will not be my last post.

More to come, Holly

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