95%

It came early this year.  Generally, it’s two weeks out – like clockwork.  I begin to well up when certain songs come on the radio.  I get a pit in my stomach when I look at family photographs.  I long for what could have been.

I think the anticipation of the anniversary of Lisa’s death has been magnified this year.

Last fall I found some old pictures on my computer that I thought we had lost.  They captured the Tanner family from 2005 – 2006, four years before she became sick.  I recently uploaded them to Shutterfly and have been working to order prints and create one of their memory books.  It’s a task you should only have to do as punishment for a terrible crime.

Keeping up with family pics was not my job – until 2010.  Lisa held that responsibility, along with most of the other things I currently do that are unrelated to my work, tickling kids or putting them to bed.

I’ve dug through these pictures for two weeks, there were over 1,000:  beach trips, Disney World, The Grand Canyon, birthdays, Halloween, huge smiles at Christmas, a shot of the two of us dressed up for a night out.  I keep thinking, we had no idea… absolutely no idea that cancer was about to kick our asses.  If we would have known…

If we would have known, what?  What could we have done?

Ab-so-lutely NOTHING.  We could not have done anything except lived those last few years in fear.

This past fall I was told by someone that I hadn’t written a new chapter in my life.  That I had to put the past behind me.  I thought that was a ridiculous statement, proud of what I’ve accomplished – astonished at my fairly happy demeanor, blown away by my three daughters’ blossoming, excited about the new things in my life.  But maybe, in a way, this friend was right.  Or maybe, you do move on but in a different sort of way.

I will never, ever, be the same.  I will never fully get over my loss.  Perhaps those who have not experienced what I have aren’t able to fully comprehend my inability to slide through February unscathed even after significant time.

Yet, only I can ensure that I’m not stuck, unable to move forward with new relationships and experiences with real joy in my heart.

Occasionally I teeter between thriving and shriveling up.  Weird, these incongruent worlds.  Ninety-five percent of the time I’m ready to tackle the world, completely pleased with how I’ve grown, excited about today and the future.  Five percent of the time I’d like to curl up in the corner of the closet.  The wound fresh again.

It’s been nearly six years.  I am grateful for the 95%.  It’s been nearly six years, why isn’t it 100?

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29 Comments

  1. Maureen Carretta

     /  February 3, 2016

    I’m 16 years out from my husbands death and
    you have described the feelings very well.
    I still have days I would like to crawl in a
    hole. But I force myself not to give in. That to
    me shows I have come a long way. You will
    always have a hole in your heart, you will
    always think about what if….. When those
    times come try and focus on the time you had.
    It might have been short but you were blessed.
    Not everyone gets that in life.

    Reply
  2. Mel Ham

     /  February 3, 2016

    I have vivid recollection too. Mine is different but around the same person. I don’t have as many memories as you do so my triggers are not as frequent. Cam’s birthday is the day we lost Lisa. Anything I share about that day, the moment of knowing pales in comparison to your loss, grief, and endurance on this tragedy. You have grown…and there are days that are deserving of some tears, sadness, and grief. I love seeing you happy. Your girls have lost an innocence in going through such a difficult loss…you have too. I believe some of all of this is remembering how good great felt, that innocence of skipping through the routine with no account of cancer, and just the general weather, holidays of February. I love my Raleigh family immensely.

    Reply
  3. Beautiful. Thank you for sharing.

    Reply
  4. I’ll never forget telling you that five years was a turning point for me, and you looked at me with an expression worse than death — but I also told you that I had confidence that you would “walk and not faint.” That did not reasonate at the time either. Truth is 95% is a fabulous number. And it’s your number, your grief, your progress and when you get to 100% please come find me and we can have conference and you can make millions for all the girly products I never get to buy…for me 100% is an oxymoron — I’m proud of you! I’m confident in you! Your new chapter is in progress — keep holding on to the 95% and if you have a hard day, week or month, I’m always here to listen. How incredible that you are making a memory book. That’s amazing. As are you! Walk in love +

    Reply
  5. You never get over it. You just learn to live with the pain. Nobody can set the pace for you in which you recover; that is something that varies person by person. You’re doing an amazing job with raising those girls, working, writing, and being a wonderful father and person. You are writing new chapters – they are just a bit more slow to form because you’re missing half of yourself while trying to do the work of two people. Your strength is something we should all marvel in.

    Reply
  6. Elena

     /  February 3, 2016

    The 5% lingers because you are human and she was FABULOUS and perfect for you. You know she would make some cheeky retort about referring to the 1%. Be proud of how you have dealt – we surely are proud of you!

    Reply
  7. Mark Bros

     /  February 3, 2016

    You never quite “get over it.” My wife has been gone 6+ years, and yes, life goes on. My kids are going through their lives, growing up, finding themselves, and making their way in the world. I, like you, try to keep up but get pulled back by the smallest things. Your comment of the 95% is very apt. Hang in there, each day you move forward.

    Reply
  8. Yes, I was going to say also that it’s not 100% because you are human and you loved deeply. Thank God for that. So glad to hear you’re up to 95%. Sounds like you’re on a good, healing path. God bless!

    Reply
  9. Sherry B.

     /  February 3, 2016

    Once again you’ve put into words what it feels like to live with grief. Thank you for sharing your writing with the world so those of us that live with grief don’t feel so quite alone.

    Reply
  10. Sean

     /  February 3, 2016

    I completely know what you are going through. My father passed away December 1st 2012 at 8:00pm. That time will be forever stuck in my head and heart. The weeks leading up (especially Thanksgiving and Christmas) are tough for me. It’s funny you mention songs. It has been three years and I still cannot listen to Morning Has Broken by Cat Stevens. I should be able to but it is hard. Cancer Sucks!

    Reply
  11. I will never be the same, I will never 100% of the time smile as easily, laugh as freely and love as grandly. And I am okay with that. I am okay that the experience changed me. Sometimes I feel like my personality has been dampened, that I’m a shadow of who I used to be, and that is okay, too. We are supposed to change in life. 95% sounds like a pretty good number to me. I’ll take 95% and wear that proudly, and I think you should too. I think it is unrealistic to think that we’ll ever be the same again, and I don’t want to be the same. Yup, 95% sounds really good to me.

    Reply
  12. Connie

     /  February 3, 2016

    It can never be 100%. That doesn’t mean we aren’t whole. It doesn’t mean we aren’t happy. It doesn’t mean we haven’t moved on. It simply means there will always be a Lisa-shaped (or Alex-shaped) hole in your (my) heart. That is the cost of love. That is the good news and the bad news. Grief doesn’t end; it simply changes. But the REAL good news is that it lasts only during this life on earth, which will seem to have been but a moment when we reunite in eternity. I can live with that and be grateful.You can, too. Clearly. God bless you.

    Reply
    • Danny Tanner

       /  February 3, 2016

      When you have hope of what will come, it does make life here much easier. You’re able to enjoy the good and when bad, look forward to the future.

      Reply
  13. Paula Crane Thomson

     /  February 3, 2016

    You know my loss was different – a child and a spouse don’t leave the same gaping hole, but a gaping hole nonetheless. As I hear you say you have 95% days, you give me hope as I struggle with the regrets, the guilt, the memories – both wonderful and wounding, the overwhelming “never be the same again” of my life. Thank you for your willingness to share candidly and, many times, humorously about the life you built together and the life you continue to build in the “after”.

    Reply
    • Danny Tanner

       /  February 3, 2016

      It does get so much better. But man, it stings at times, even this far out.

      Reply
  14. Joe Mack

     /  February 3, 2016

    Hi Bruce,

    Always great to read your posts, I was thinking of doing something similar as I find the time in the days ahead. I know it can be very cathartic and therapeutic. I can’t fully explain what God is doing in my life right now, although I know it to be good—nor do I have to understand. I have recently been re-introduced to Scripture. I say “re-introduced” because early on in my adult life I read the Bible all the way through after a season of adversity about 18 years ago. The solution then as I discovered, was through encountering God at a deeper level through my faith and His Word. Suffering and carrying a cross will do that, that’s why joy and suffering go hand in hand as I’ve discovered. For when we carry a cross, we are closest to Christ. It opens us up to a new life that we see with new eyes and a renewed mind. I’ve tasted this again only recently. This time, the encounter with God is deeper and more satisfying than ever before—because the pain is deeper than ever before. When we are at rock bottom we discover that God is the rock at the bottom. Sounds cliché—but it’s true! Alright, enough of the preaching. You have done so much for me by just meeting with me and listening to my own pain that I want to share a resource with you that has helped me tremendously in recent days:

    http://www.desiringgod.org/articles/when-the-detour-becomes-your-new-road
    http://www.desiringgod.org/articles/does-joy-die-in-sorrow
    http://www.desiringgod.org/articles/joy-is-not-optional

    As you may find out, the resources on this website have profoundly impacted me by allowing me to find meaning to my pain through God’s Word. To know—no, believe—that there is a reality after this life should bring us joy in the here and now. I gained much in the past few days of pondering the thoughts of Paul as he said “For to me to live is Christ, and to die is gain”. I was sharing the meaning behind that quote during prayer time with my kids when my oldest daughter received a text stating that a friend and pillar of our Church just died from a massive heart attack at 57 years old, leaving behind a loving wife and nine kids (the youngest is in high school—so much older). How unbelievably timely, uncanny and tragic. This life is fleeting, then eternity awaits. His death only underscored that for me. I immediately imagined my friend David catching up with my wife and devising a plan how best to help us. What a privilege it was to know him. They made it—they are the victors—and we the victims. They are still very much there, but a thin veil separates us. Just knowing such a reality awaits US because we are intimately connected to Christ should make our worst days here into moments of joy as St. Paul says “For this momentary light affliction is producing for us an eternal weight of glory far beyond our troubles” 2 Cor 4:17. I think it would be impossible to have this perspective without faith—especially to see that joy can be had in the midst of suffering. I pray that this perspective does not wane because I have been profoundly impacted by the reality of it for the past three days. God is real. Heaven is real. This life is fleeting. Eternity awaits. Don’t waste a minute of it by giving in to anything negative… “Hold all thoughts captive, and make them obedient unto Christ”. That verse literally brought me clarity the moment it was shared with me—by my doctor. That’s essentially the modern day equivalent of CBT (Cognitive Behavioral Therapy) it’s just that the self-help “industry” has not given credit where credit is due.

    I may very well be where you are in six years at 95%, but praise God I hope that He will fill in that 5% and count it all as gain for the glory of God. God is with us there in our pain when we acknowledge what He did for us from the cross. This is just where I am TODAY. Please pray for me as I will do for you. Hope you don’t mind that I sent it to your work email—didn’t really intend for this to end up as a comment.

    Your friend,
    Joe

    From: The Real Full House <comment-reply@wordpress.com>
    Reply-To: The Real Full House <comment+eg86-j_k-o08uxkbbkzcn52@comment.wordpress.com>
    Date: Wednesday, February 3, 2016 at 7:32 AM
    To: Joe Mack <Joe.Mack@sas.com>
    Subject: [New post] 95%

    Danny Tanner posted: “It came early this year. Generally, it’s two weeks out – like clockwork. I begin to well up when certain songs come on the radio. I get a pit in my stomach when I look at family photographs. I long for what could have been. I think the anticipation”

    Reply
  15. Tammy Byrd

     /  February 3, 2016

    Why isn’t it 100%??? Because it can’t be. You are changed forever. You can never go back to what life was like before. There will always be moments it hits you and knocks the wind out of you. I don’t think you are suppose to be 100% and it’s okay. Considering everything, I think you and your girls are doing pretty well. 95% is pretty good! Enjoy your 95%. There’s lots of life to still enjoy and Lisa would want you to just that.

    Reply
  16. Jane Scott

     /  February 3, 2016

    Bruce, I am somewhat dismayed about you’ve not “moved on”. I remember well your not feeling 1 % on any day at any time. If new stage means being married, no you’re not married. But moved on? Survived? Helped 3 daughters adjust? Loved those girls and enjoyed their day to day lives? Have more friends than God? O k, maybe not than God, but a LOT of friends! Dare to write 95%? Man, I’d say you have entered every stage imaginable and I am so very proud of you! Grieve your soulmate, your partner, your wife, the mother of your girls. Grieve. How can you unlove? Not possible! Thank goodness you have remained true and faithful. One day different? Who knows? I’ve learned to “never sing songs to the broken-hearted”. But let my heart sit with your heart. And thank you for your honesty and for your blog. I have learned so much.

    Reply
    • Danny Tanner

       /  February 3, 2016

      You are kind. I guess I have moved forward in many, many ways.

      Reply
  17. Doc

     /  February 3, 2016

    I’m not sure it will ever be 100%. And I think that’s ok. That 5% (or whatever it grows into on any given day) can be a gift if we let it. Because there’s still more to learn from it.

    Reply
  18. Meghan

     /  February 5, 2016

    Wow, I cannot put myself in your shoes, but from my perspective, that 95% is full of having taken steps forward, found ways to laugh, loved and raised your beautiful girls. What impressive progress you’ve made. And ditto all the other comments that there will always be that pain, sharper at times than others, but because of your faith and love of those around you, it does not dominate. It seems to me you’ve written several new chapters. Maybe not a new one on marriage, but so many others. I applaud you and thank you for sharing all your experiences, because whether you meant to or not, you helped lots of others along the way. You’re allowed your feelings, of course, but feelings aren’t facts, and that 95% is quite impressive.

    Reply
  19. Hi! Hahaha I totally know what you mean about those Shutterfly books… So stressful!!
    As for grief, I am not in the same boat, but I’m in a similar one (as you said “Grief is different for all, and yet, it’s the same”?) as my mom died from Cancer almost a year and a half ago. I agree with those who mentioned that we may never get to 100%…I don’t see that happening for me. Only time will tell. (Are you all in Raleigh? My mom grew up in Louisburg)
    On another note, I wanted to tell you that I have been reading your blog for a while now and it is so great! Real and honest, yet so funny! I aspire to be like you. I started a blog dedicated to my mom (though I don’t only talk about my mom) on her one year death anniversary and I hope to one day move people the way you clearly do.

    Reply
    • Danny Tanner

       /  February 13, 2016

      I think writing is an incredible way to heal, move forward, and hopefully help others. Glad you’ve started one too. I’ll check it out.

      Reply
  20. Thank you for sharing your feelings. Like you, I lost my wife to cancer in 2010. Like you, I’m raising 3 kids on my own. Like you, I’m trying to ‘move on’ but it’s hard some days and easier on others. I found your blog a couple of years ago and have followed it since. Thanks for being able to express the ups and downs of our “new life” that many cannot understand (even though they try) and hopefully they never will. Keep up the good work.

    Reply
  21. Sabiha A.

     /  February 8, 2016

    I’m almost 4 years out. I just turned 30 a few weeks ago and he used to always say “wait till you turn 30. I’ll make fun of you.” The way I see it…that 5% void will always be there. But we just have to learn to fill it with the contentment that that 5% will forever and always be for our departed spouses. No one and nothing else can really take that place.

    Reply

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