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  • Writer's pictureKatie Beucus

332 Days.

It has been 332 days since Aaron turned his head ever so slightly toward me, in the dead of night, as I watched his final breath escape his mouth along with the word “love”.  It’s incredible how clear it was that this was his final breath. We had listened to his Cheyne-Stokes breathing pattern for hours and yet in that final minute it was clear to my brother who had been sitting at the edge of the bed the entire day, that something was different. And he woke me from a sleep I didn’t even realize I had fallen into, likely only minutes earlier, before rushing down the hall to wake Aaron’s parents.  The greatest gift I could have been given, to be there until the very end just like I promised.

Selfishly I know we all wanted him to stay, but I also know what he went through. The anguish he subjected himself to, physically and mentally, just to stay for us as long as he possibly could. The courage he had to look death straight in the face and say I’m ready. To send your kids off to school with a hug and kiss goodbye knowing it’s the last, but pulling it off like it was just any other day. To look your wife in the eyes and describe how beautiful it is to be in the clouds and to see our daughter who was waiting for him in heaven. To tell her it’s time so she knows to let go, to say that last I love you and the most heartfelt thank you.

Cancer took the version of Aaron I married and loved almost two years ago and replaced him with a slightly different version of him whom I still loved. But my role in our marriage became drastically different, until cancer decided that some was not enough, and that it needed to take all of him instead.

I remember when he died, I was so exhausted, from the year and months and days and hours leading up to that moment. And yet I felt panic at the idea of falling asleep, because everyday I woke up was a day further away from the last time we were together. My brother and his wife stayed with me for days. And then my sister came. And I remember when my sister left at the end of February and for the first time it was just the kids and I in the house. And it felt very much like the first night you bring your first newborn baby home. I remember looking at the kids and around our house and saying to myself, “Alright, here we go. I guess I’m really doing this.”

I’m in a much different place now. And if you would have told me where I’d be almost a year ago I probably would have looked at you like you had four heads and then I would have said something offensive that would be forgiven because, grief. It sounds cliché, that living through an experience like this changes you, but it’s one of the most prominent things that has held true. I am not the same person I was when Aaron first started getting sick in September of 2021. I am more confident in myself and protective of my own needs. I am courageous. I have an entirely different view of my life priorities and they are so much simpler than they once were. I place a much stronger value in the quality of the relationships I have versus the quantity. My friendships are significantly stronger. When you truly know what’s at stake, when you know a loss this significant, it feels it would be impossible to be the same version of yourself.

I dedicated all of 2023 to fulfilling Aaron’s live list. We did it all and then some. I’m sad to leave this year, because it marks the beginning of a year Aaron will never physically be a part of yes, which actually has felt like the hardest “first” to come to terms with, but also because as hard as the year was, it was filled with so many truly incredible memories.

Bringing home the Bronco, planting Aaron’s tree on Easter, getting new tattoos, seeing Evan continue to excel in a sport he loves so much despite his grief, watching him throw out the first pitch at a Padres game to his idol, Joe Musgrove, reimagining my garden where I spent a lot of time healing, renovating 75% of our home, our incredible summer trip to Williams, AZ and the Grand Canyon and Lake Powell and Sedona and Slide Rock State Park. Haddie falling in love with dance. A truly memorable trip to Disneyland followed by a staycation on Coronado Island and then a cross country trip to visit my sister and then Aaron’s and his parents. Every adventure of our year, the big and the small, filled with so much love for the kids and I and a lot of genuine joy.

332 days, and yet today, for the first time, it feels like the real beginning of my life again. The marking of a New Year and a new, but still beautiful, life. One that despite it all, I am incredibly grateful to be living 💛

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