My life turned upside down without a moment’s notice on October 9th, 2009. The day, and the moments surrounding that period of my life are forever seared into my mind and have left permanent imprints on my soul.

I remember moments of almost foreshadowing before the accident. I remember the entire year hearing a voice deep inside me telling me not to sweat the small stuff, not to fight, not to be petty. I did not always listen…

That morning I recall waking up and taking mental pictures of him in my mind, I remember looking at him, feeling the need to really see him, once again not heeding my own gut warnings. Off he went; I can still see him backing out of our garage, the last mental vision of my husband and 15 years of my life.

He texted me shortly before take off and told me to look for him over our house, I was busy with work, hardly noticing his text until long after the crash. Going about my business, I put our little girl in my car and drove her to dance calling him on the way…. his phone going straight to voicemail. Instinctually I knew something was wrong. He always texted me shortly after landing, he always connected. I called again and again and as my worry grew I knew already that something was terribly wrong. I remember getting a call as I watched our little girl dance that would forever change all of our lives…. no confirmation on the call, but I was told there was a crash and it was the plane he was flying. I gathered my daughter and drove home, feeling my heart beat out of my chest. As I drove quickly towards our home the traffic slowed around me bringing our car to a near stop as we passed the exit for the airport…. the traffic was due to Mitch’s crash. Every fiber of my being wanted to divert and head to the airport but my beautiful daughter was staring at me from the back seat and I could not subject her eyes to such pain at such a young age. I drove home and waited…one of the hardest decisions of my life.

Over the years I have learned that these memories have deeply impacted the way I handle and tolerate stress. When I can’t reach someone I love on the phone, I often jump to negative conclusions, when I can’t connect my heart races and my blood pressure raises…anxiety is part of my damage and will forever effect how I process moments of pressure. Life can turn on a dime, so we have to treasure what we are given. I accept this anxiety as part of my life. It does not make me weak; it makes me human at the deepest level. I have been intensely impacted by what I’ve lived through…that’s my damage, I own it, I embrace it, I allow myself to acknowledge it.

Regardless of your struggles know you are allowed your pain, you are allowed your journey, you are allowed your anxiety. However, know that how you choose to process your damage is entirely up to you. You can choose to let it define you and destroy you, or you can choose to let it change you and restore you. We can’t change the past, we can only process it, grieve for it, and learn from it. I have made my choice, I will live the depth and breath of the remainder of my days – damage and all, and I will smile and laugh like he taught me to do.