This weekend we started the process of navigating the holidays without Sam. We spent our time with friends and family feasting and drinking and laughing. If you had seen us slapping dinner together, heard our laughter and casual conversations, watched us play with our kids, you might not have noticed the huge hole in our life. To the causal observer, we might have looked happy. We certainly performed that way.
I thought about that all weekend. The disparity between how we acted – smiling, hugging, joking, eating, drinking, laughing – and how I felt. At first, I was horrified by the gap. I thought to myself, how dare we be happy without our Sam? How dare we celebrate? How dare we make a Montana cooler (look it up, it’s awesome) and enjoy the incredible weather and stuff our faces with turkey? How dare we for one second forget that Sam had brain cancer and died and that we are broken?
But then I realized that we were doing exactly what Sam’s life taught us to do. We were living in our moment and choosing happiness, love over despair, life over anything else. I used to believe happiness was a trait, something we were born with. Happy people and unhappy people. As I grew older, I thought happiness was a state, something created by circumstance and personality and drive. Happy lives and unhappy lives. Now I believe happiness is a choice. No, it’s more than a choice, it’s a lifestyle and it’s hard work. Happiness is a constant effort, a million little decisions we make everyday in hopes of getting closer to the feeling that it all means more than we know. I chose happiness on Thanksgiving. It was hard work and though I did not “feel” happy most of the day, I know that it was better than the alternative.
This post is a pledge to myself to choose happiness on the rough days ahead. I will choose happiness on December 9th, Sam’s 6th birthday. I will choose happiness on Christmas Eve and Christmas Day and New Year’s Eve and New Year’s Day and every single day in between. Because if I have to live the rest of my life without him, I am going to make it count. I will dare to be happy not in spite of Sam’s death but because of it.