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Michelle E. Steinke Headshot

Brown-Eyed Boy

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MICHELLE E STEINKE
Michelle E. Steinke
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With loss come daily reminders and lessons. While time does offer some relief and a new sense of normal, there are still countless emotions and sensations to muddle through. There is no roadmap or guidebook that works in all cases or scenarios and while the stories of others can offer guidance, they cannot tell you how your journey is going to unfold.

My stories almost always involve my kidddos because they have profoundly shaped my grief journey. I am who I am and I do what I do because of the two little beings that look to me to lead by example. These two little lives have helped me get up and show up for every day since their father took his last flight.

My children go to school about a mile from where my husband's plane went down. It's a wonderful school with an amazing reputation, but for a few moments after my daughter Addison got a spot off the waiting list, I had reservations about sending them to that school simply due to proximity.

The airport where my husband crashed is a busy one with two flight schools and lots of private flight traffic, so planes are always overhead and always on my mind. Some days I look at the planes flying as a way that Mitch is saying hi and as a reminder that he is looking out for us. Some days I look at the planes flying overhead and I want to run and hide and pretend that his passion didn't really take him from us.

Widowhood is full of mixed emotions. On any given day the same situation can hit me a hundred different ways. I can only explain the emotions as a roller coaster full of highs and lows that leave you breathless and at times screaming at the top of your lungs. There is no way of knowing what might set you off or spinning out of control in a tsunami of grief.

My son is the spitting image of my husband. Looking in his eyes is like seeing my past, present and my future and it gives me the opportunity to hold a piece of a man I loved dearly. I cherish this as a gift even though I have fleeting moments where it feels like a curse. I see Mitch in Matthew's expressions, in his laugh, in his smile. He is a carbon copy of a wonderful man who lived this life more fully than any other person I have ever met. The pain of missing their father is nothing compared to the pain of knowing they will never understand first hand his laugh, his giant bear hugs or his amazing heart. Call it nature or nurture, but both of my kids resemble their father in ways I cannot even start to put into words.

I take these painful moments and I try to allow myself to feel the pain. It can be difficult to know that for the remainder of my life, I will live with these emotions and nothing can be done to lighten the load or prepare me for the next big drop. Yet, from the top of the ride I can see farther than I was able to see before, and from the bottom I can feel depths of love I never knew existed. The drop in between often leave me nauseous and breathless, but grateful to be alive and ready to move forward yet another day.

Widowhood is full of mixed emotions and while it's a ride that nobody on this earth would choose to get on, it's my ride, it continues to shape who I am and since I can't change the past, I'm going to make my ride one worth remembering. I know it's a cliché, but Mitch would want nothing less for the three of us than to live a life full of passion, adventure and love. I choose to live my life that way as a tribute to him and as a gift to our children.

So while today the planes overhead symbolized sadness, tomorrow I just may see a message of love from above and a continued gift in my brown-eyed boy.