This week marks the 1-2 punch of Anniversaries. October 10th, of course, marks the first anniversary of Laura’s passing and October 11th would have been our 22nd wedding anniversary.  There’s no way around not remembering these two days and the pain that we felt a year ago at this time. It’s been a year of “firsts” and they’ve each been a challenge: First holidays, birthdays, Mother’s Day, driver’s licenses, Spring and Summer, trips and vacations without her and so, so much more.

As painful as these days were and are, I am grateful for the memories and love we shared with Laura.  I’m grateful for the lives she inspired and of course the two amazing souls she created in her sons, Sam and Luke.  I’m grateful for our moments together, the love we shared and the life we built.

Time doesn’t necessarily heal wounds, but the passing of time does allow for compression and reflection.  I saw a group of colleagues recently who I spent time with just prior to Laura’s death last year, and there was a lot of love and support shared from them.  One of my colleagues and close friend remarked that he was proud of me for my strength over the past year.  I can tell you that any strength I have comes from the support of family and friends who I leaned on and learned so much from over the past year.  I so appreciate all the gestures, outreach, love and support that so many have extended to me and the boys.

One of the recurring thoughts I’ve had over the summer stems from a concert I attended in July; it was Dierks Bentley’s performance here in Virginia, and my sister, through her good friend, arranged for me and my crew that night to attend a private acoustic concert and then meet Dierks backstage before the main show.  Not only was it a great night of music, but I gotta say what an enjoyable and cool guy Dierks is… we actually had a brief conversation backstage when I met him for my photo opp.  We talked about our matching Lucchese boots, our SAE fraternity brotherhood and one of his songs, “Here on Earth”.  I listened to that song over and over and over on Christmas day last year, and if you’ve not heard it, give it a listen.  If you’ve gone through a loss of a loved one, you’ll understand what I mean when you listen to it.  Anyway, Dierks told me about when he wrote that song and how he felt when he wrote it.  I don’t think Dierks is going to weave our conversation into a song anytime soon, but it was memorable [for me] to connect through his art about those meanings.  The rest of the night was amazing – a beautiful summer night with great friends enjoying a great concert.  I took some inspiration away from that meeting and that night.  Dierks, being from Arizona, uses the Phoenix as one of his marketing brand images.  And being an SAE brother, there’s something unique about the Phoenix, and the story of rising from the ashes.  That image stuck with me, then and now, and that story resonates with me about rising from the ashes.

A year ago, the life around us burned down with the loss of Laura.  I was, and we were, at a loss of how to function: me, our sons, our family, our friends – we were all at a loss of how to function.  We were covered in the ashes of our grief.  We were choked by the heaviness in the air from the loss of our light and love, Laura.  As we inched our way forward, day by day and task by task at first, I can see that we began to rise together.  There were moments that I thought I was flying again, but I look back and see that I was falling, sometimes in a tailspin.  And I  thank those people around me for helping me pull the nose back up.

It was hard to make any sense of Laura’s passing, and it still bewilders me that it happened.  It’s hard to make sense about it and understand how to move forward; how to be a single parent; how to maintain work-life balance; how to engage with others; how to find beauty again after the darkest of hours.  But there is so much beauty in the world.  This summer I witnessed sunsets and sunrises and rain storms and lightning and full moons and shooting stars and fireflies and butterflies and mountains and oceans. And above all, the beauty of relationships.  Of the joy of being a parent
and a brother and a son and a friend.  And all these things remind of how beautiful life is.

Writing has helped me rise again from my depths and so, too, has riding through the sport of polo.  I thank you for allowing me to share through my writing; it’s therapeutic to write and another sort of therapy to put it out in the world and see what comes back.  And I thank so many of you for sharing in return with me.

The riding is something that has allowed me to channel so much energy and has given me so much in return.  The horses are amazing, beautiful and smart animals.  When in unison, the partnership between man and steed is magical.  Although it’s a horsepower of “one hp”, that power under the saddle is spectacular. To feel the pattern of trot and canter gaits as I sync with the horse, to open up one of these Argentine or Thoroughbred polo ponies on a long run on the grass, to feel the horse’s reaction, motion and muscles change as we execute a tight turn in an arena game, to strike ball with mallet squarely at a run, or to win a ride-off as my mount competes just as strongly to win that position against the other horse…. these are part of the adrenaline rushes that come with every moment of every match in the saddle.  Beyond the game, I am also appreciative of our polo community here in Northern Virginia, who have taken me in and offered support for my game and my life and I am very grateful for these experiences and relationships. And one friendship, in particular, that has allowed me to find that balance between grief and happiness, past and present.

I’ve seen the rise of the Phoenix through my sons, too. I struggle to comprehend how difficult this year has been for them, and how much the loss of their mother affects them. But I see their strength. I see it when I watched Sam lead his lacrosse team to a strong season, when I talk to him about his academic goals or about the experiences he had this summer in the Rockies. I feel it when I watch a football game with Luke, or watch him playing on the field at one of his games or listen to his wild and endless
sense of humor. I am seeing them grasp life and mature so quickly in front of my eyes, and I’m amazed and proud of the decisions they make. It’s a beautiful thing to watch your children chart their flight path in life. So much has been thrust upon them in this year, and they’ve handled it so well. Laura would be so proud.

To the topic of anniversaries… Laura actually gave me the choice of our wedding date between one or two other autumn dates, and I chose October 11 because I knew that 10/11 would always be easy to remember.  While 10/10 and 10/11 will forever be etched in mind, the idea of an “anniversary” feels too celebratory for the occasions, but I certainly do feel more to celebrate in the memory of Laura this year.  A year ago, the memorial service, often referred to a “celebration of life” was too tender, too excruciating to truly offer a celebration.  The juxtaposition of time and proximity from those dates a year ago help me to reflect more joyfully today, and I do feel the celebration of her life.  And there’s much to celebrate about Laura: her kindness, her support, her warmth, her inspiration, her smiles, her compassion, her love, her joy and her happiness.

I hope you’ll celebrate these days with me in the memory of Laura.

“There’s a song in the heart of a woman.  Set it free, Oh set it free…
…There’s a light in the depths of your darkness.  Let it Shine, Oh Let it Shine.”
-D. Fogelberg

Let it Shine!

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