Today I am 53 years old and i understand officially turns 3!
What a journey it as been and often times throughout I have questioned - why does one have to go through so much pain? Losing Rob was only the beginning of a domino effect of heartache.
My journey has included: pain, devastation, loss, illness, abuse, depression, anxiety, and being lied to and cheated on by people I thought were special. These experiences have given me a real life understanding of what many others deal with in their life as well.
I look at my birthday so differently today. In the past, it was was fancy dinners, champagne and white cake filled with raspberries topped with butter cream frosting, and gifts! We believed we really knew how to celebrate and of course, it wasn't a birth-day, it was a birthday month!
The last birthday I had with Rob was spent at our cottage with our kids and friends. It was a pretty low key celebration. We all went into town for dinner at my favorite place, sharing fun and laughter. As we were headed back, Rob said he needed to run into the supermarket, so I continued home while he made his stop. When we were all back at the cottage, I opened gifts. Rob handed me a plastic grocery bag and said, this reminded me of you. I pulled out an Incredible Hulk stuffed figure. I really didn't know what to say or how to react. I honestly thought he must have just forgotten a gift. Yet, one of Rob and Chase's favorite things to do together was collecting super hero figures and comic books. Rob was very much into Iron Man and Chase loved Batman, so I figured he was including me in their realm of superhero collections with this Incredible Hulk stuffed figure.
Rob died less than 4 months after my 39th birthday. The Incredible Hulk was the last material gift I received. A few years later, a friend who witnessed the Hulk gifting said to me, "Vonnie, do you see the message in that gift? The Incredible Hulk has the power of super strength and enhanced healing abilities. Rob knew and wanted you to be reminded of your strength and knew you would heal yourself and the kids."
That comment really made me think then, and continues to make me wonder years later. Could it be? Could that really be true? Did he know his fate four months before his death? Did he want to remind me, or have hope that I would have the strength to get through and have the ability to heal after he was gone?
It has taken a long time to heal and quite honestly, I will be healing for the rest of my life. i understand has been the best gift since that Incredible Hulk all those years ago. Do you want to know why?
- i understand allows others to perhaps find peace through understanding things that are so difficult to comprehend.
- i understand is a safe and comforting community for people who can say, I get it. Stigma is real and we're here to support one another through pain, loss, and everyday struggles. It means the world to know you're not alone when others truly don't understand.
- i understand reminds us to remember those for how they lived, not how they died. Remembering our loved ones in this way brings comfort.
- i understand that love never dies; it actually grows as time goes on, and to accept our journey through the power of love, wherever we can find it, validates that love heals.
by Vonnie Woodrick
About the Author
Vonnie Woodrick created i understand in 2014 in loving memory of her husband Rob who lost his battle with depression in 2003.
Help support Vonnie's work with i understand by attending a free community event or fundraiser, making a donation, or by simply participating in the "Wear, Care, Share" campaign to raise awareness for mental health.