one foot in front of the other.

I’ve been dreading this day for a long, long time. For more reasons than one, but mostly because I knew Brett would be broken. Even as I type this, I feel inadequate, because I know I cannot explain in words the loss and sorrow he feels right now.

Last night Brett said to me, “How are we supposed to move on from this? I’m not ready to move on.”

The memorial service is over. The calls and texts have slowed down. People are back to work, chatting about the incessant heat and whining about anything and everything on social media. If I’ve learned one thing this past week, it’s that social media should be avoided in a time of grief. You will never notice how much people complain about dumb things more than when you’re grieving about something of actual importance. I had to take a break because if I heard one more person whining about the weather, or that Starbucks misspelled their name, or that they didn’t feel like working out, I was going to scream. Note to self: don’t complain on the Internet. I have never realized how completely and utterly obnoxious it is.

How do we move on from here? I don’t have the answers. I have no idea, really. I guess we’ll pick up tacos tonight, like we always do on Tuesdays. We’ll give Everett a bath and sing Twinkle Twinkle before placing him in his crib and kissing him goodnight. We’ll crawl into bed and talk about our days, and of course, we’ll talk about Gene. We’ll call Brett’s mom to check in on her and see what she needs from us.

And then, we’ll wake up tomorrow and we’ll do it all over again. We’ll put one foot in front of the other and take care of ourselves and take care of Everett.

We’ll remember. We’ll cry. We’ll tell stories. We’ll pray. Tonight, tomorrow, six months from now, twenty years from now. We’ll work on our marriage and try to be better parents and have more babies and teach them all to play basketball. Why? Because that’s what Gene would have wanted us to do.

So, that’s what we’re going to do.

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52 Responses to one foot in front of the other.

  1. Amanda says:

    So true, I have to constantly remind myself that stupid little things don’t matter. People and family matter. Stay strong for you and your family, time can heal and I hope that the sad memories will eventually give way to the happy memories once again.

  2. Liz says:

    Thinking of you & Brett in this tough time, friend. When things are a bit more peaceful for you let’s get together, okay? Love you.
    Liz´s last blog post ..Holy Cap

  3. lacey says:

    this is beautiful ashlee, just beautiful. thinking of you and yours.
    lacey´s last blog post ..A FEW THINGS I’VE DECIDED I NEED.

  4. Regina says:

    Perfectly put. Your family is in my prayers

  5. Claire says:

    My dad died in an accident at age 45 when my son was 2 months old. This type of loss is hard and will be for a long time. I wish it wasn’t, but somethings just can’t be rushed. (Not that you are saying that, but I know sometimes I yearned with my whole soul for the process to be over) Grief really does have stages and we really do have to work through every single stupid one. It has been 8 years since we lost my dad and some days it still feels fresh. Some days I hear something or see something that reminds me of him so vividly I think I can call him up. Many, many, many days I thought the whole thing was a joke, that he would walk into my mom’s house and we’d all say “Hey! Where have you been??”

    My kids never knew him, but our son is so much like him. It is SUCH a blessing to see. Tyler even tells people he wants to be an engineer like his Papa Rich. The legacy of your father in law will live on in your husband and your son and it will be so beautiful, wonderful and good.

    And sometimes it is way easier to talk about the mundane than the things that really matter. Eight years later people still don’t know how to talk about my loss, or even if they can. I’m sorry for you loss and I have been praying for you guys.
    Claire´s last blog post ..Pumpkin Monday

    • Ashlee says:

      Oh my goodness, Claire. I am so, so sorry for your loss. You are right…..grief cannot, and should not, be rushed. It sounds like the legacy of Papa Rich is living strong in your family. I pray the same for us and Gene.

  6. Amy says:

    This makes me think of this Anne Lamott quote: “You will lose someone you can’t live without,and your heart will be badly broken, and the bad news is that you never completely get over the loss of your beloved. But this is also the good news. They live forever in your broken heart that doesn’t seal back up. And you come through. It’s like having a broken leg that never heals perfectly—that still hurts when the weather gets cold, but you learn to dance with the limp.”

    I don’t think that you ever really move forward — I think you learn to operate in this new normal. I’ll be thinking of your family as you learn to do just that.
    Amy´s last blog post ..Three Things That Made Me Think…

  7. JacPfef says:

    I can relate. Following my mom’s diagnosis, those things bothered me so much. I couldn’t be around people. Everything else that was going on seemed so trivial and pointless. It took time, but now I look at it this way: if the worst thing going on in someone’s life is that Starbucks spelled their name wrong, then fantastic. Each of those tiny little complaints make me so happy because this pain is hard. It’s brutal. And no one should have to go through it, especially not good people like you and Brett.

    There’s this exchange in this movie Rabbit Hole that has always stuck with me…

    Becca: Does it ever go away?

    Nat: No, I don’t think it does. Not for me, it hasn’t – has gone on for eleven years. But it changes though.

    Becca: How?

    Nat: I don’t know… the weight of it, I guess. At some point, it becomes bearable. It turns into something that you can crawl out from under and… carry around like a brick in your pocket. And you… you even forget it, for a while. But then you reach in for whatever reason and – there it is. Oh right, that. Which could be awful – not all the time. It’s kinda…
    not that you’d like it exactly, but it’s what you’ve got instead of your son. So, you carry it around. And uh… it doesn’t go away. Which is…

    Becca: Which is what?

    Nat: Fine, actually.

    It’s so hard. And I’m so sorry.

    • Ashlee says:

      I really appreciate that perspective, Jackie. I should start looking at it that way too. Thank you for sharing the Rabbit Hole quote with me. Saying a special prayer for you and your mom today….that God will continue to give you both strength, more good days than bad days, and moments of peace and comfort in the midst of a time where nothing makes sense. Xo.

  8. elise says:

    lovely, lovely post friend. Wishing you, Brett and his family peace.

  9. Camilla says:

    This really makes me think about my own actions on social media. I’m sorry if I contributed to that.

    I am thinking of you guys all the time. I am so sorry for your loss and praying for peace for you and your family.

    This is such a lovely sentiment.
    Camilla´s last blog post ..Oh San Francisco… you are such a trickster.

  10. kelly ann says:

    I hear you, friend… the social media/complaining thing is so true. I remember at the beginning of this year, when I was going through a time of grief and pain – I would read Tweets & Facebook statuses and they would fill me with anger. How can they complain about the lamest, silliest things? How can they go on with life so… normally? Why don’t they care? Don’t they understand how precious life is, how good they have it? It completely changed how I present myself through social media, and ultimately, how I view social media today. I still catch myself complaining sometimes and that’s when I take a step back and remember what life was like earlier this year, when everything was so different. When I would have traded my grief for annoyingly hot days or spilling coffee everywhere or locking my keys in the car… anything but the hurt I was feeling.

    Loss is the hardest thing, and it changes us forever. Sometimes, it changes us in good ways… we become more grateful, more present, more loving.

    Praying that Jesus meets you where you are and comforts both of you, as you take life day by day. Lots of love. xo.
    kelly ann´s last blog post york // part one.

    • Ashlee says:

      Yes, I feel the exact same way. It sounds dramatic, but it really made me re-evaluate the way I present myself online. The internet is not a sounding board for us to voice every little frustration, but sometimes I feel like that’s what it has become. I might need to take an extended break soon.

      I’m sorry for the grief and pain you experienced earlier this year, and are most likely, still experiencing. You are right though….loss is an opportunity to become more grateful, more present, and more loving. I have already felt that in a number of ways.

      Thanks for your kind words and prayers this past week. You are one of my most favorite internet friends in the whole world.

  11. Christina says:

    Ashlee, I am so sorry for your family’s loss. I wish there was something better to say, but please just know that I am keeping your family in my thoughts and prayers.

  12. Sarabell says:

    I don’t envy the situation you’re in, of course, but I envy your strength. Someday my husband’s parents will pass away and I don’t know how I’ll find the strength to do anything but lie there and cry. You are an amazing woman Ashlee, and Everett is so lucky to have parents so caring and intelligent and wonderful as you and Brett. Still praying that this grieving can pass quickly and that you can get through the pain, together, as easily as possible.
    Sarabell´s last blog post ..PhoBookClub Read: Saving CeeCee Honeycutt

    • Ashlee says:

      I knew from the time I started dating Brett that we would be in this situation sooner than later. I too, worried, a LOT, about feeling helpless and not being able to support Brett in the way that he needed. You can’t prepare for this type of loss. Your heart is never ready for it. You just cry when he cries and listen when he talks and pray when he’s aching. I think that’s all you can do, really.

  13. Janna Haynes says:

    My husband’s grandmother is currently awaiting death. It seems like such a cold, heartless thing for me to type, but that is exactly what is happening. As a family the decision was made to let her go, as she requested so many years ago before we could have known what we would be faced with now. However, she has not gone. She is still hanging by a thin, thin thread. For a week I have been sitting at my desk at work, staring at my phone, waiting for “the call.” The call in which my husband will be crying and I will be powerless to the grief that overcomes me as I listen to his brokenness. As a wife there is no worse feeling than the helplessness I feel in my husband’s grief.

    I cannot yet imagine what you are going through, but I know that in this darkness there is still light. I know that Jesus is carrying you both in His arms. I know that He sits beside Brett’s mom every night and holds her while she tries to sleep. I know that in a year when you look back on this time, you will grieve less. In two years even less. Soon the grief will be replaced by all those wonderful memories that Brett carries in his heart and has shared with you over the years. You will soon be grateful that Gene is walking with Jesus in heaven and not suffering on this earth. You be will overwhelmed with gratitude that Gene lived to see Everett born, to hold him in his arms.

    For now, these thoughts aren’t the salve to your wound, but they will be. Until then, keep putting one foot in front of the other.

    • Ashlee says:

      Janna, I am so sorry to hear about your husband’s grandmother. I relate to that more than you know….at times, it felt like we were waiting for “the call” as well. And no matter how much you think you’ve prepared, physically, emotionally, it’s impossible to prepare. Even expected death comes unexpectedly. It’s shocking. It’s final. It’s quick. Too quick.

      You are right. There is light in this darkness, and I know Brett and I have both felt it. We are grateful that Gene is in a better place now, in a better body, with a better mind. I know this would be a million times harder without that certainty of hope.

      Thanks for your encouragement. I’ll be praying for your husband’s grandmother, and for peace and comfort for your family.

  14. Katie says:

    Ashlee, I don’t know what else I can say other than I am incredibly sorry for your loss. I can’t even imagine how hard it is. I’ll be praying that Jesus will give you comfort and help you through each and every day. Hugs & love to your family <3
    Katie´s last blog post ..Hello October

  15. Katie says:

    Also thank you for making me be more aware of what I post online. It makes all those little complaints sound so silly and foolish. It is a true reminder to be thankful and happy with the days we have.
    Katie´s last blog post ..Hello October

    • Ashlee says:

      Thanks Katie. I complain about silly things too. Moving forward I’m just going to try to keep those complaints offline. I’m sure I’ll fail sometimes, but I’m going to try.

  16. Holly says:

    Thinking about you and your family a lot right now. My mother is in poor health and we’re often faced with the reality that this could be her sooner than later. It’s a scary thought, and knowing ahead of time doesn’t make it any easier to deal with or accept, either. I really wish there was some magical way of getting through something like this, there isn’t though. In time it might get a little bit easier & at least you know he’s in a better place.
    Holly´s last blog post ..Headed to Canada Land

  17. Mitzie says:

    Thank you sweet girl for being their for Brett. There is a such a powerlessness in the loss of Gene. I really do not know how we will get through this, but for God’s help. I just try to face whatever is in front of me. It is not fair that the boys are robbed of the wisdom of a really great man. I am so glad that you got to know him at his memorial for the Dad and Husband that he was. I was loved totally by Gene. His motto was that the best gift a father can give to his children is to love their mother. Gene did that and I see the results of it in Brett’s love for you. What you are doing for Brett is the most you can do. Love you sweetheart and thank you!

  18. Michelle says:

    Your post captures the feelings post-grief perfectly. My heart goes out to you and Brett and your unforeseen loss. Keeping your family in my thoughts and prayers. Best wishes in keeping fond memories of your father-in-law alive in your blog, journals, and through the stories you’ll share with Everett.
    Michelle´s last blog post ..Highlights of Fall

  19. LfT says:

    I can’t imagine this level of pain. Please know that my thoughts and prayers are still with you and Brett, and will continue to be.
    LfT´s last blog post ..Getting back into the swing of things.

  20. Becky says:

    As someone who has grieved and someone who is guilty of posting about non-desired workouts on twitter, I whole-heartedly agree that a social media break is necessary.

    I’m so sorry for your loss. I pray for you and Brett every day that each day gets a little easier.

  21. Holly says:

    This was a really sweet post. I’m so sorry for your loss & I’m thinking about you and your family.

    I completely agree with the complaining on social media. Two weeks ago when my boyfriend got in an accident I was reading updates about people complaining about the dumbest things & thinking, “He’s dealing with a BRAIN injury right now, and you’re upset about ________?!” Really drove me up the wall, but you’re right, just take a step away.
    Holly´s last blog post ..Happy birthday Mom!

  22. lauryn says:

    I’m so sorry for your loss. It sounds like your father-in-law was a kind, loving man.
    lauryn´s last blog post ..Wedding Photographer Laughs

  23. deeapaulitan says:

    I’m an orphan. In every sense of the word. I have no family left behind me. I find myself a very young matriarch. The grief ebbs and flows, but the stark realization (that I can’t call her to tell her of the kids’ antics, or have him run over to help me fix something and laugh at my attempts, …), that hits hardest, and at the most random times. You are right though, we move on because life does. Because we want to be parents who have children who are proud and dear and love the life they lived with us. Because we want to be grandparents who are cherished in memory and heart and in legacy. Brett is a legacy of his papa. Hard as life not slowing or pausing for our tears to dry is, the beauty of the movement is that a legacy lives on and there is much to share, and teach and instill. There is much to tell in story, in picture … in living. My prayers are with you all. hugs.

  24. Jamee says:

    Although I do not know you I know the pain you are going through. I lost my Mother unexpectedly 6 years ago and it was by far the most difficult thing I have ever went through (still is). There are no words to make it feel better. I felt so isolated as the world was carrying on and I was stuck in this bubble of emotions.
    The only advice I can give is to work through (a therapist helped me) the stages of grieving, just be there for Brett (hold him, love him and just be present for him), and talk about Gene-it helps.
    These important people were our parents and they should never be forgotten. Ever. Cherish and talk about all the wonderful times instead of thinking about the times you won’t have him.
    Most importantly, remember to still laugh with/about them (I still crack up thinking of my Mom dancing), they would only want you to be happy and blessed in your life.

    Jamee´s last blog post ..Day 1: Selfie. Legs.

    • Ashlee says:

      Jamee, I am so incredibly sorry for your loss. Thank you for your advice! I wish you peace and comfort as you continue to grieve the loss of your mother.

  25. Words seem less than adequate when you are grieving someone- but I will offer them to you and Brett anyway: wishing you love, laughter and a lifetime of watching Everett make free throws as you smile and remember Gene. Love, Katie.

  26. Love you. Looking forward to walking and talking next week.
    Tamara Powell´s last blog post ..10 Great Apps for Grad Students

  27. Alli Moore says:

    You couldn’t have said it better Ashlee! I feel the same way having just lost my grandma. It’s been a whirlwind of emotions and you just try to process as many of them as you can. We’ve laughed, we’ve cried, we’ve ordered pizza at my grandma’s house. It feels so strange. Yet, my grandpa needs us to now care for him and he wants to see us happy and smiling and remembering the good times. My grandma would want that too. I’m sad she is not with us, but I’m sure like you, I feel blessed to know they are looking down on us as the angels that they were here on earth.

    I will continue to pray for our families. Hope you’re doing okay friend, Alli

  28. Abbey says:

    Praying for your family through this difficult time!

  29. Jena says:

    So sorry for your loss. I know how you feel my best friends mom passed away this past weekend and I think the same thing. Where do we go from here?
    Your family is in my prayers!

  30. I’m so sorry for your loss. Praying time and remembering ease your pain.
    Katherine Michael´s last blog post ..A New Leaf

  31. Katie says:

    I’m sure you read Amalah, but if you for some odd reason haven’t found her yet (unlikely) – her post from today and your post here made me sad for the same reasons.

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