A Look Back, A Step Ahead

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Today is New Year’s Day. It would have been my parents 33rd wedding anniversary.

This holiday season brought so many firsts to my family without my dad. I turned 30 without him (which was surprisingly hard). We had our first Christmas without him. His birthday would have been the day after Christmas, and that was a tough day this year. And then my parent’s anniversary today. It was one thing after another, and our family would have had every reason to sit in a corner somewhere and just let the sadness consume us. I know we all wanted to at various points, but we didn’t.

We didn’t.

I think our holiday season was a beautiful representation of everything I have learned in 2012. Experiences this year have taught me that we are not limited to one state of emotion at a time. There can be sadness and sunshine together. We can cry and we can laugh in the same breath. We can remember and we can move forward in the same step. But I’ve also learned that it is so much easier to exist in two (or three, or four, or five…) states at once thanks to the grace of God and the love of a good family.

My dad’s unexpected passing in August has changed my entire life, but not in the way I would expect a death of a loved one to change it. I miss him – we all miss him – but I am learning to miss him, to remember him and, at the same time, to carry him with me as I walk forward. Because he was a man who deserves to be carried on.

Christmas was spent with family who filled our homes with laughter and our hearts with love and light. And though there were moments for each of us where the sadness rose up and threatened to overshadow it all, I was so proud of my family for feeling the sadness and yet choosing to still carrying on. And with each step forward we took, we carried my dad with us. I felt him there.

I decided instead of writing a long, boring blog post outlining every move we made over Christmas, that I would instead put some of our highlights together in a slideshow. As I sorted through our pictures, I was overcome with pride because you can see the joy on the faces of my family. We may not have been happy the whole time, but we were joyful and we were grateful. I hope you can see that joy in our faces. I hope you can feel the love in our family. It’s too strong not to share it.

I am proud of us for moving forward with new traditions without my dad and for carrying carrying him with us as we celebrated old ones. For the first time, we all played golf on my dad’s birthday without him. And we ordered Chinese food for Christmas dinner instead of cooking. But we also still said our family prayer when we sat down to eat, just like we do every year. And we still went to see Christmas lights in golf carts.

It’s a new year. And, though this morning it was hard to think about starting an entire year that my dad will never share with me, I am learning to walk forward while carrying the most important parts of my past with me. I’m learning to be grateful in the midst of grief. To be kind in the face of frustration. To be gentle in the waves of anger. To remember while moving ahead. That’s what New Year’s is for, isn’t it? To look back and ahead at the same time?

I think I’m ready to do that.

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27 Thoughts to “A Look Back, A Step Ahead”

  1. What a sweet tribute! Wishing you all the best for 2013!

  2. Elisabeth A.

    Oh Katie! What a beautiful post and slideshow. This past year has been so difficult for my family, although for different reasons. You’re such an inspiration for me to keep moving forward and not wallow in the corner. Thank you.

  3. Wonderful words to be said about losing someone so profound in your life, and the slide show was beautiful. Your blog inspires me and is the first one I check everyday for new posts. Happy New Year!

  4. Love the blog post. Love the song choice. Love the pictures. Tearing up over here. Just beautiful. 2013 will be a wonderful year!

  5. Alyssa

    I loved seeing those pictures. Gosh how much your kids have grown up. Where did little baby Gracie go?!

  6. Meredith J

    What fun it is to see you Christmas pictures! The last one of you whole little fam is SO CUTE! everyone did a great job sitting still AND looking at the camera. WHEW!
    You inspire me to stay strong in hard times when you write posts like these… thank you for that. My hubs’ grandma passed away a few months ago, and Iwas at a loss of what to do for him, but reading your posts helped, just knowing I needed to simply be here with him in his tough time. Thanks again Katie for being awesome. Happy New Year!

  7. Andrea in SC

    I love this!!! Happy New Year, Katie!! I can’t believe how big your babies have gotten…. I’m glad you got to enjoy the holidays with your family, despite your grief. Many blessings and best wishes to you – my favorite blogger – in 2013!

  8. Carlene

    Katie, I feel like I know you. We’re from Santa Rosa county, got married in October at PLT, moved to New England immediately after getting married rather young. My whole extended family is in the Orlando suburbs, and New Year’s Day is my parent’s anniversary too! Merry Christmas, God bless, and have a happy new year with you beautiful family!

  9. Great song choice for the slide show. I’ve been digging that song lately, and was just thinking the other day how it kind of reminds me of your “bloom where you’re planted” mantra. In this case, it’s not so much about being planted in a new location, but in a new life situation. Best wishes to you for the new year!!

  10. Stacey

    Such a sweet slideshow! 🙂 Thank you for sharing your experiences with us. Your blog is inspiring!

  11. Not only do I love the sentiment you’ve expressed here, it is REALLY well written. One of your best and the slideshow was a great touch.

  12. Paulette

    Katie, How wonderful for you and Gen to be blessed with such great memories of your Dad no one can ever take that from your heart. The slide show was a wonderful for you to share a great family. I’m very proud of your family for the way you have coped with such sadness.

  13. jamie

    absolutely beautiful.

  14. Kristin

    Such a a great post.

  15. jamie

    Oh Honey, I wish I would have had your Wisdom and Insight when I lost my Mother when I was 42 (I’m 60 now)…You are such a GIFT…not only those of us reading your Blog, but especially, to your whole Family!!! I’ve encouraged my Daughter and Daughters-In-Law to read your Blog…they too, have and will feel all of your emotion’s…powerful, and very real!!! Love and Light to You and Yours…I will keep sending that to you All!!!

  16. jamie

    p.s. Keep Writing About ALL Of It!!! You are going to be a Successful Author of Many Books!!!

  17. great slideshow! Joy is absolutely evident all throughout it. Happy New Year!

  18. Katie, your dad would be so proud of you. This is a beautiful post and the song is perfect. Hugs! Jen

  19. Great video! Everyone looks so cute 🙂 You should give us an update on Baby Tillman if you have a chance and your sister doesn’t mind 🙂

  20. Katie N.

    Katie – the slideshow is so beautiful! I thoroughly enjoyed following along with your Christmas vacation on Instagram. I just kept thinking all week what a blessing it was that all of you were able to be together for an entire week. A whole week! Your family is really something special 🙂

  21. Peggy

    Great post and video! Your Dad will live in your heart and spirit always! (P.S. – love you Mom’s new “do”!!

  22. I can’t tell you how much this post means to me right now. I just lost my father-in-law last week, and our family will be moving on in 2013 without him. It’s so nice to know that while it’s a difficult process, joy can also take place.

  23. Happy New Year! I need to learn how to make fabulous photo slideshows. Yours was amazing! Will you please teach me?

  24. suburbanmom2

    you described an emotion that i have been feeling this past week. I’ve been reluctant to start a new year that will not have my mom in it, she died unexpectedly (in her sleep) in october. the holidays have been difficult and i wanted to ignore new years eve completely. i was wondering if anyone else felt this way , the strong emotion i felt about the new year surprised me. thanks for making me feel i’m not alone!

  25. PK

    Great post, Katie. I didn’t know your dad but from what you’ve said about him, I think he would be proud about how you are all adjusting to your new life and that you are finding ways to honor and remember him while still living your lives.

  26. Sarah

    You are so brave and wonderful. Thank you for sharing this on your blog and I was truly heartbroken for your family when I heard about your dad. However, seeing how you guys are taking the good with the bad is inspirational. I hope you all have an amazing 2013 with lots of old and new memories.

  27. Courtney Sloane

    I’ve been a fan of your blog for a few years, but very rarely comment. This slideshow was such a wonderful picture into your Christmas celebration, and yet one of the big things I came away with was how beautiful your Mom’s new haircut is.

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