7176 Hours of a Legacy

7176 hours. That’s it. When you think about your favorite 1 hour TV show, or your lasagna cooking in the oven, or your wait in traffic or a roller coaster line. How quick that hour goes. That’s all I had. 7176 of them.

This morning at 8:09 I was about to sneak out of the house with the boys to get donuts and coffee while Andrew and Abigail were in bed. It was my morning to wake with the kids and for Andrew to sleep in. I had already been up since 06:30, absent minded – not really anticipating what was about to happen next. I grabbed the phone and saw a text “Kristen, I need you to call me.” My heart sank a little and I immediately dialed Steve’s wife’s number. As she picked up sobbing, all she could say was “he’s gone Kristen”. It was like she was talking about someone else. About someone I didn’t know, a stranger. I instantly thought maybe she was mistaken. He was sleeping hard or she just was losing it from her lack of sleep. I asked if someone else was there to make sure, and they were. She was not wrong. This had happened. 299 days after the first time we’ve spoken and reconnected a long lost relationship, he left me, yet again.

So what is going through my mind? Shock, anger, sadness, confusion. I just don’t know. I’m a person who has to do something, because if I sit in the still or quiet it kills me. So I’m just trying to keep busy today. Laundry, grocery store, cleaning, writing a blog – but the minute I freeze – I fall to my knees and the pain is so sharp.

Just this week we started talking about services for him, obituaries, things like that. You talk about it to prepare – but there is no real preparation for that moment. And when it comes – you are left at square one –
Staring blankly into space wondering what are you going to do now. So, I just started writing his obituary. Because it has to be done right?

As I wrote, it broke me even harder. This man, didn’t have many friends. Didn’t have a relationship with the majority of his kids or family, hadn’t worked much and when he did it was jobs here and there – nothing to be proud of really. What was I going to write? I texted my mom and hardly being able to see my words on the screen through my tears – I wrote “he has no legacy”.

It took me a minute, through the fog of my mind to realize – he does. I once heard someone say “a legacy is seeds you plant that you’ll Never see grow, but someone, someday will reap what you planted”. How true is that about this relationship.

7176 hours ago, he planted a seed in me. He gave his legacy. One that he may not have ever intended or knew – but he planted the seeds. He planted the seeds of forgiveness, compassion, empathy, passion, honesty, strength and resilience. Because of our 7176 hours – I learned not every relationship starts out or ends picture perfect. Not everyone all the time is easy to love or forgive – but you do it anyway. I hope that his seed that he planted of selflessness lives and grows in me. I hope to carry on and live my life with no regrets and full of forgiveness, raise my family with compassion, teach my kids empathy and love fiercely – because now I know how precious an hour is.

There are so many people who come and go in our life, and let’s be honest most of them we have no option of. Our coworkers, our family, our neighbors. We continue on “tolerating” because we have no choice. I feel at peace now knowing the past 299 days, Steve and I opted to have a relationship because we both wanted it. Our conversations weren’t forced. Our love, though, different – was real, and there, and ours.

I’ll forever hold on to our last conversation. I cried and told him I forgave him. I told him it was okay and I was sorry. I told him I was sorry that his other children didn’t get to the place I was. I had never said “I love you” to him. I visioned this word “love” the way I loved the parents who raised me, the way I loved my husband or my children. And, my feelings didn’t come close to that with him. But in these moments, these moments where I “watched” him die. These moments where I fought hard with his providers. These moments where I cried, hurt and mourned already over what was happening – I realized I loved him. Though it was different – it was there.

The very last words I said to him yesterday as his wife held his phone to his ear were “I love you, you hang on, I’ll be there in 10 days”. The last words he mumbled were “love you.”

He didn’t “hang on” ten more days. Part of me is angry – but I know it’s what was right. I know he’s resting. He’s not hurting. He’s not in pain.

I don’t have many memories with him – but the few I have I’ll carry with me for a lifetime. Every time I hear Def Leopard I’ll smile, because I remember as a little girl him playing “Pour some sugar on me” on repeat in the car. Or the water tower in Virginia beach, every time I drive by, I’ll remember him telling me how he climbed up that tower and spray painted it. (He didn’t – at least I don’t think?) Or every time I see a dad pushing a little girl on a swing, I’ll remember the last time he ever took me to the park at three years old, before he moved to Texas playing “underdog” with me. And, his passion for the ocean. His dream was to come back to Virginia beach. He loved the beach – and he kept promising he was coming back. Though he never physically made it, every time I sit at the water and listen to the waves crashing – I’ll know he’s there. He’s there with me proud of the legacy he left within me.

So, Steve….we didn’t have much, but what we did have I’ll be thankful for and I’ll hold onto it forever. Rest your heart, and I know you’ll be looking after me and my family and in a different way, making up for the time we didn’t have.

Rest in Peace Steve. It’s okay.

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