Our lives are made up of a series of decisions. Some turn out to be good, some bad, some neutral. Some decisions have minimal consequence, and others have impacts that reverberate indefinitely.
When Ted was killed, he was at the prime of his life. He was at that perfect place where he had lived long enough to acquire the experience and wisdom that deepens one’s perspective and sense of gratitude, but he still had decades in front of him to continue making a difference in the world.
Ted was passionate about the things he believed in. He got tremendous satisfaction from helping others. He believed that anything of value was worth working for – worth fighting for.
Ted had the most joyful spirit of anyone I’ve ever known and he loved making people laugh. He also loved making people feel valued. Be it his loved ones, his employees, or his teammates – in Ted’s eyes, everyone had a role and every role was important.
He motivated others. He encouraged others. He even inspired others. He inspired his employees to work hard but also find a recreation to be passionate about. He inspired new parents to soak up the small moments of a young child’s life – because those moments are fleeting. He inspired friends to be unapologetic in their beliefs and confident in their faith. And he inspired everyone around him to appreciate today – because in the end, that’s all we’re promised.
His death has left a void deeper than words can describe. Like a mushroom cloud, the effects of this loss have extended out far beyond the initial impact.
The adage that, “time heals all wounds” is not entirely true. Yes, over time one can rebuild themselves into someone deeper, more resilient, and with greater perspective. But time also reveals more and more aspects of one’s life that are affected by the loss. As time passes, the layers of loss are slowly peeled back to reveal another layer we didn’t know existed.
Eleanor had just turned one when Ted was killed. She was almost two before she could see pictures of him without crying. But it was through pictures, videos, and talking about him that I was able to keep his memory alive in her heart. When she became old enough to express herself, she went through phases where she’d ask me not to talk about him. But a few months ago, out of the blue, she began asking me to tell stories about him with her when she was a baby.
Though it was incredibly bittersweet, I was so happy to be able to begin sharing with her the wonderful father that she had. She’d giggle at his silliness, and smile at his sweetness – she hung on every word. But after a short while, I ran out of new stories to tell her. There were only so many memories that a family can create in just 12 months.
Almost three years later, a new layer of loss was exposed.
Now, at almost four, she fills our days talking about daddy. She draws pictures of three stick figures and calls them, “Eleanor, mommy, and daddy.” She groups things into threes (be it her stuffed animals, snacks, or even markers she’s drawing with) and says there’s one for her, one for me, and one for daddy. When she brings home a craft from preschool she made, she asks if she can go up to Heaven and show daddy.
She has made him a central part of her life and for that, I am immensely grateful. But at the same time, it makes me miss him all the more. I miss him for me, but I also miss him for her.
When she had her first swim lesson, there were so many fathers there encouraging their sweet toddlers. I said a silent prayer that God would let Ted peer down from Heaven and see his little girl at such an important milestone. On the first day of preschool, she stood in front of her school with her tiny backpack and precious smile while I photographed her, but all I wanted was for him to get to see her too. At her first dance recital, she lit up with stage with her joy of performing and while I was so proud of her, I couldn’t help but to think how positively endeared he would have been by it.
But the hardest part is knowing that she also wishes he could see her. She wants to perform for him, she wants to make him smile, she wants to see his pride in her.
She wants her family back.
She doesn’t want a daddy, she wants her daddy. Just as I don’t want a husband, I want Ted. I want what we had – what we worked so hard to build.
As she grows, we will come up against more situations where his absence is palpable. The passing of time, though it will bring continued healing, will also bring forth more circumstances that widen the impact of this loss and deepen its affect in our lives.
My hope is that this incredible tragedy not be in vain. May we appreciate what we have, and who we have, while we still have it. But may we also be more thoughtful in our actions and our words.
As we go through our lives, we must make decisions. As we make those decisions, we must consider the potential impact to others, for those impacts may have effects that last a lifetime.