You never think it could happen to me. We all know that teenagers have this tendency to indulge in risky behaviors because they don’t believe that the things that could happen will actually happen to them. And somehow we believe that we outgrow this mindset. And in some ways we do. We swap the risky behaviors for more responsible ones, but we still never think it will happen to us.

I was widowed at 29. Now I am raising a little girl who will never know her daddy. I am doing the best I can and some days I think I’m doing great, and other days I wonder if what I am doing is enough. It isn’t easy to be a widowed mom. The widowed mom is different from the single mom. The tasks are the same but our demons are different, the widow has an extra layer of complicated emotions and spends a lot of time on the brink of emotional meltdown. I’m not saying the single mom has it easier, we all face our own set of challenges. But I know that trying to be a mom and a widow and human, all at the same time, can feel defeating. It can feel impossible.

My daughter and I just celebrated her daddy’s 40th birthday. I wanted this day to be special and memorable for her, as memorable as something like that can be for a two year old. But how do we celebrate daddy’s birthday when she barely knows who daddy is? So I decided that she needed to do the other children do on their parents birthdays. She needed to give her daddy a birthday card. So we sat down with construction paper and made a Happy Birthday card to send to daddy in heaven. We got a bouquet of balloons and attached the card.

We released them in the park and watched them go. It was hard. And as soon as we released them my daughter had second thoughts (she is two and balloons hard to let go of). So I told her, “We can’t have them back. Now they are leaving us and they will take our birthday messages to heaven.” She was OK with that, but as soon as I said it I started to cry. In that moment, the imagery hit home. I was watching these balloons float away and I couldn’t get them back if I wanted to, if I tried. There was no way to bring these balloons back to us. And there is no way to bring Matt home.

I never thought that when he left the house he might not come home. I never thought I might have to raise our little girl without him. I never thought that there would ever come a time when I would use balloons to send my daughter’s construction paper birthday card to heaven. It wasn’t going to happen… and then it did.

So as I try to keep finding ways to keep my little girl’s daddy in her life, I want you to look around at your life and be grateful for all that you have. Because every day I look into my life and think about everything that I am grateful for. This beautiful little girl who calls me mommy. The man who so lovingly called me his wife. I know how he died, but I will never know why he died. Why him? I don’t need to know. I don’t want to know. The only thing that I need to know is that I had him, for a little while. And I have her. And everything else in my life may come and go, but I will always be grateful and I will always work hard to live a beautiful life. Because I had him.

So to my husband in heaven, Happy Birthday. We love you. We miss you. And I am so grateful for everything that I have in my life because I had you. You have given me everything. I love you so much more than you know. To the moon and back, forever and always.