Kate loved the song Happy by Pharrell Williams. Her mommy and Aunt Jamie really disliked it up until the day Kate and her Grandma went for ice cream and the song totally changed our minds. Kate had just gone toe to toe with chemo the day prior and having had just an awful time of it, Grandma thought she could use a little treat. Right there, in the middle of the ice cream shop, the song came on and Katie just danced. No care for what happened yesterday. No worries for what tomorrow might bring. She just danced her cute little bob up and down and shimmy her arms to-and-fro dance. It’s a favorite memory of mine and I wasn’t even there for it.
“Clap along if you fee like happiness is the truth…”
My friend asked me the other day if I ever felt happy anymore. She was quick to follow the question with a clarifying point of “before the guilt sets in, I mean.” (Her daughter died too. She knows there is no happy without pain.) That’s why she’ll understand why it’s taken me weeks to answer that question and that I do so with a lot of thought.
I really did think hard about her question. Happy? No, I’m not sure that I am. I have moments of happiness that cannot be denied, but I don’t know if (even many) happy moments over the course of two years make up a happy life. So I’ve been thinking a lot about it and it’s led me to understand how truly juxtaposed this life really is. Happiness can be found while living with excruciating pain. Just like Kate. Joy can be found in the hardest of times. Just like Kate. But how do I live more like her? How do I do my best to quiet my mind of yesterday and worry less about tomorrow?
“Clap along if you know what happiness is to you…”
In the past two years, I’ve spent nights where I’m six rows from Chris Martin and the dark sky is lit up like fire with xylo bands and confetti cannons…and in that moment, I’m happy. I’m next to my beloved hearing lyrics in a whole new way, and I’m singing them to heaven, but I’m happy.
I’ve stood at Churchill Downs dressed in my Derby best and sang “My Old Kentucky Home” with some of our dearest friends. I’m celebrating my 40th birthday on a 4-day weekend of nothing but beautiful horse farm Kentucky, Liquor Barn trips and dinners out with amazing new friends. I am celebrating a birthday while Katie gets no more. But I’m happy.
I’ve spent nights at our dear friends’ house where the champagne dream is flowing from a big, crystal pineapple and laughter is contagious and I’m happy. I’m totally aware of her absence because there’s no babysitter at home and she’s not with me. But I’m happy.
It certainly was not hard to feel happy in Hawaii. I woke each morning to the sound of the waves. We had no timeline, no rules. We just went and did and drank and ate and saw and loved. On that vacation, I think I felt the closest to really happy that I’ve felt this whole, long, painful two years. Everything I saw, I wanted her to see. Everything I tasted, I wanted her to try. But in the moments, I’m happy.
“Clap along if you feel like that’s what you wanna do…”
Lately, life has felt a lot like being stuck. I’m stuck in a tough spot of not wanting to feel so sad, not wanting to hurt so much but knowing that happiness is such an elusive thing now. I can’t say I loved life or was truly happy in my younger years. I had a fun and interesting life but I never had a future in mind. I didn’t know what it was going to be that sealed my fate of being HAPPY! I wasn’t ever someone who could just decide that today, I’m just going to be happy because I’ve WILLED it will be so. But then, I met Mike, we had Kate. Happiness was personified and gifted to me in the most beautiful package.
A lot of people have their ideas of what we should do to bring the happiness back and I know all of it is well-meaning, but it’s just simply…well…not at all that simple. Because for every happy moment, there’s a sharp awareness of absence. For every laugh and sip of that delicious cocktail, there’s a knowing that I’m only there because she’s not. For every concert. Every vacation. Every new experience. It’s all here for me because she can never be. So sure, while a new puppy or another baby would bring happiness, it will never bring back what taught me what happy actually was. And if she saw the condition I am in (and I believe she does,) she would be devastated for me. She wants nothing more than for mommy & daddy to be happy.
So we’ll keep traveling. We’ll keep trying to figure it out. One foot in front of the other, one day at a time, loving each other and her the whole way. Bringing her with us everywhere, bringing her into everything.
“Can’t nothing…bring me down… my love is too high…”