July 28th...

Author: Rachael Hill

On July 28, 2012, it will be two years since I sent my husband to work for the last time. Two years since I last hugged and kissed him good-bye. Two years since I last heard him tell me he loved me. Two years since the four crew members of Sitka 43 took off for the very last time.

Rachael and Jeff Hill

Has it really been that long? Has another year really gone by? Where did it go? What did we do? It is still hard for me to believe that it has been two years since Jeff’s accident. Most days it still feels like it was just yesterday, but it wasn’t and now my second year of widowhood is coming to an end. It has been a year of difficulty and sadness, longing for the life I used to have, and missing the man of my dreams. It has been hard, but there have also been times of smiles and happiness, old memories remembered and new memories made, giggles and belly laughs, and even some triumphs along the way. 

Many people think that the first year after your loved one’s death is the hardest but for me that was not the case. The second year has by far been harder than the first. My first year of widowhood was a year of survival. I just did what I had to do to get through that holiday, that event, that day, or sometimes even that hour. When it was done, I could put it behind me and move on to focus on the next holiday, event, or day. There was an unending amount of support and I was constantly reminded of the love that surrounded us by our family and friends. There was an unspoken understanding or even excuse to get out of things I wasn’t able or ready to do, but as time goes on things change, situations change, and people change.

In my journey this past year, I have started to feel like I have become socially inept. Jeff still consumes my every day thoughts and I often feel like I can’t even make normal conversation anymore because I just don’t think about anything else. Current events? No, not really. Politics? Yeah, right! I also feel like I can’t really talk about Jeff and my situation anymore because at this point people are tired of hearing about it. “It’s been two years…shouldn’t you be over it by now and just move on?” 

Move on? What exactly does that mean anyway? When someone has been a part of your life so deeply for so long, you can’t just let that go in a short period of time and to me, two years is still a short period of time. That being said, I have learned that no matter how hard they try, nobody else is going to get it, or get me. So I have to be confident in myself and the decisions I make, knowing that I am doing what’s best for me and my boys. People are naturally going to judge me no matter what I do and ultimately it doesn’t matter what they think anyway. As long as I am content with my choices and my kids are healthy and thriving, then I am doing my job.

Year two has been a year of realization. It is no longer just trying to get through those holidays or special events. Now I find myself looking around and thinking, “this really is the rest of my life”. I am now trying to figure out how to maneuver in this new life and am slowly starting to find my way. It is hard and I am definitely not a big fan of it, but I will always continue to push through and I will never give up. It can be overwhelming at times and I do let myself cry and take the time that I need, but then I pick myself up, wipe away my tears, and reevaluate my plan of attack. 

More than anything, I just want Jeff to be proud of me. I want him to see what we’ve been doing and to feel his heart swell with pride the same way mine does whenever I think or talk about him. I want him to know that everything I do, I do for him and our two boys. I take the boys camping, 4-wheeling, snow-machining, I ran a marathon, I started a scholarship fund in his name, I went skydiving, and I continue to share my “Jeff” memories with the boys whenever I get a chance. We have done a lot this past year and I have to say, I am definitely proud of myself! Is Jeff proud of me? I don’t know, but I sure do hope so!  

Sometimes I look back at old pictures of us – so young and so in love.  I look at two 18 year old kids with such a bright future together and I wonder, would I change anything? Knowing what I know now and feeling this hurt and emptiness in my heart today, would I do anything differently? My answer? ABSOLULELY NOT! I will always be thankful for the 13 years I got to spend with Jeff and the love that we shared was, IS, enough to last a lifetime. How could I ever want to change that?