To Have Loved...

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Grieving

Joe wanted to give me ride home, but I told him I would be fine in my car. He told me that he or Emily or would call me when they get home and I nodded my head. I gave Emily one more hug before getting into my car and driving home. I knew my family was there so I wouldn’t be alone, but I took my time getting there.

When I parked my car in the driveway, I just sat there. Ian’s car was in the garage after a colleague of his drove it home from the station it was left at. My parents’ car was next to mine and the rental that Jake got was on the street.

I leaned my head back and closed my eyes and replayed the last few days over and over in my head. Then I replayed our lives together from the day we met. I was too numb to cry anymore, but I also strangely felt at peace…for the moment.

I finally climbed out of my car, grabbed my bags and went into my house. After closing the door and dropping my things by the stairs, I entered the dining room where everyone was eating lunch.

“Auntie Sarah…Auntie Sarah,” Hope and Haley came over and gave me a hug. I gave them the best smile I could and hugged them back.

“Hey girls,” I say. “Lunch smells good, what are we having?”

“Hot dogs and mac and cheese,” Hope says.

“Mmmmm, sounds delicious. Did you save me any?”

“Mom, did we save any hot dogs for Aunt Sarah?” she shouts into the room.

“Hope, there is no need to yell, I’m sitting right here,” Stacy responds, “and yes, there is still plenty of food.”

I walk with Hope and Haley to the table and they take their seats. I sit down in the only empty chair…Ian’s chair. I grab a plate and take a hot dog on a bun and a scoop of mac and cheese. I wasn’t really hungry, but I knew I needed to eat since it wasn’t just for me anymore.

“We weren’t expecting you home until maybe later,” Mom says. “We were going to head to the hospital after we ate and bring you something to eat. Are Emily and Joe there now?”

I shook my head no. “No, they are not there. We left together earlier this morning, but I took my time coming home.” I took a bite of my hot dog before continuing. “You do not need to go over there today, or anytime soon,” I finish.

“When?” Mom asked knowing what I was getting at.

“A little after eight this morning.”

“Oh sweetie,” she responds holding back a sob.

Dad reached over and squeezed my hand and I gave him a small smile.

“I was with him all night and was able to tell him ‘I love him’ and told him it was OK to go. He passed just before his parents came up to see him, but we prayed together and said our goodbyes. They went back home and I drove around a bit before doing the same.”

“Why didn’t you call us, we would have come to get you,” Mom said.

“I wanted to be alone and chose to drive myself. I’m Ok Mom, for the moment I’m OK.” She nods and Stacy gives me a reassuring smile.

“If you are OK with us staying here, we will stay until after the services and help as needed around here.” I nod letting her know that I’m OK with that.

“We did a lot of things over the past week in the hospital to make things easier for me. He called the bank and took his name off of our account so I would have full access immediately. He had put enough money in his savings to cover the cost of anything outstanding that might be in his name and the bank agreed to redirect any balance to me after a certain time frame.

His insurance paperwork was all updated and they are aware that he wouldn’t be with us much longer. I just have to call them to let them know the date and time. All shared property was transferred to me a few days ago, so I didn’t have to worry about anything being held while we waited for everything to clear.

The police and fire department have raised enough money to pay for a full funeral both here and in New Salem and will take care of everything once we pick a day. They will have a wake here and walk his casket downtown in a parade with everyone in full uniform. They will assist the hearse to New Salem and stay with him until we have a second wake at the church with a service to follow. They will escort us all to the cemetery and sponsor a luncheon afterwards.

I’m sure there are things that we missed and that I haven’t even thought about, but he didn’t want me to struggle with anything once he was gone. Even at his weakest when I should have been worrying about him, he was taking care of me.”

“Honey, we are all here for you and if something was missed, we will help you out. There is always red tape somewhere, but it sounds like he took care of the major things like your bank account and house,” Mom said and I nodded.

“He had made out a will when he joined the force and I have a copy of it in our files. Everything was left to me and any children we may have,” I looked down, placed my hand on my stomach and smiled a little.

“I know you wanted a child so bad sweetie, I’m sorry that it didn’t happen for you,” Mom says reaching over Dad to grab my hand.

I smiled again and went to say something, but Stacy beat me to it. “Are you having one? Oh my God Sarah, are you?”

I nod my head again. “Yes, I am having one, or I hope I am having one. I found out last week and told Ian just before we were told he only had a few days left with us. I’m about five weeks along, so I didn’t really want to say anything yet until I was far enough along,” I answer.

Stacy gave me a knowing glance at what I meant. I never did tell my parents about the miscarriage, so I didn’t want to say anything that might hint at that.

“Congratulations sweetie,” Mom said before stopping her excitement. “I’m sorry, I don’t know if I should be happy or sad right now.”

“It’s OK to be happy Mom. I am very happy to be having Ian’s child after trying for a couple of years, but yes, I am sad as well as I never expected to raise our child alone. Ian was overjoyed when I told him and I know he will be watching over us.” I can no longer hold back my tears and I close my eyes for a few moments.

Stacy came over and pulled me into a hug and I held onto her as she rocked me back and forth. I felt Mom and Dad nearby and heard them saying a prayer.

“Mommy?” Haley interrupted our moment. “Why will Uncle Ian be watching over Aunt Sarah instead of coming home? Where will he be watching from?”

“It’s OK Stacy, you can tell them,” I say.

“Do you remember when we talked about Uncle Ian being hurt in that accident?” All three nodded their little heads. “Well, he was hurt really bad and he needed to go to another place to be healed. He isn’t able to come back home, but will get to watch over Aunt Sarah from there,” Stacy tried to explain in their language.

“Is he in Heaven with God?” Hope asked.

“Yes, honey, he is,” she replied.

“Does he hurt anymore?” Haley asked.

I shake my head while Stacy answers, “No, he doesn’t. All those injuries he got are gone and he doesn’t have any more pain.”

******

There wasn’t a funeral home big enough to hold the amount of people that were coming in to pay their respects to my husband. I found out from some of his colleagues that the entire practically the entire city was planning on stopping by because of what he did to save those children.

The park in the center of town had the space and the city officials were more than happy to let us have his wake there. I know it was out in the open, but I knew Ian would have loved this as he loved the outdoors.

It was a hot day, but canopies were set up over the casket and nearby to keep me and our families protected from the sun. We decided to have an open casket, but I was nervous to see him still covered in burns. I was shocked when they opened it for his parents and me and his face was perfect…he looked like the Ian we all knew and loved. He was wearing his police uniform, which was something he asked for and I couldn’t say no.

Emily, Joe, Aiden and I were allowed several minutes alone with him to say our prayers. Then my parents, Stacy, Jake and the kids took their turns. Stacy had explained to the kids that Ian’s body would be sleeping when we saw him, but his soul is in Heaven watching over us.

Next to come up were Craig, Marci, Ricky, Angie, Sean and Shelby and their kids. They all gave me a hug and told me that if I needed anything, to give them a call. They have all been supportive so far and I knew I could count on them.

Then the public was allowed in and I nearly fell over when I saw the line. People were all around the park and the sidewalks waiting to see Ian. His fellow officers were lined up creating a path in full uniform. I didn’t know most of the people that came through personally, but every one of them expressed their thanks for what he did.

We stood there for what felt like hours as person after person came through to show their support. I didn’t know this until after everything was finished that there were still donations being collected and enough money was raised to not only cover the entire funeral, my house mortgage was paid off, both cars were paid off and I had enough money left over to finish my schooling and put into a savings account for my unborn child.

Late into the afternoon, the last person walked closed the casket. Eight uniformed officers and firefighters carried his casket from the park in a parade that went through the downtown streets until coming to the police station where a fire truck was waiting to carry him home. Ian’s family and I were in a horse-drawn carriage right behind him, while those who wanted to walked behind us. The display of support was amazing and I cried tears of both sadness and happiness.

Once he was placed into the truck, I joined my parents in their car and we followed the truck back to New Salem. Stacy and Jake took their rental car and Emily, Joe and Aiden followed in theirs.

As we drove from Bismarck to New Salem, people waved to us from their porches, or flashed their lights. Some had signs in their yard sending their blessings. So many people were touched by what he did that night and I was very proud at that moment.

The next morning, we went to the church where we were married to greet our community that came to pay their respects. We only opened it up to those from the area and our close family and friends from out of state, even if they attended the day before.

The line was still long, but it didn’t take more than a couple of hours to see everyone. After saying our final goodbyes, the casket was closed one last time and an American flag was placed over it. The pastor led a small service and a few people came up to speak about Ian. I was way too emotional to go up, but it felt wonderful to hear how much he meant to so many people.

Before the service concluded, I saw Nikki, Bethany and Jodi walk to the front of the church and grab a microphone. Then the music started and I lost it when they began to sing our song. Stacy held me close and I mouthed a ‘Thank You’ when they were finished and blew them all a kiss which they returned.

Once again, eight uniformed officers and firefighters carried the casket from the church to the cemetery which wasn’t too far away. There was only so much space, so only family and friends were here as he was placed to rest. The pastor said a few more words and two officers folded up the flag and handed it to me in dedication of his duty to serve and protect our country.

“I will always love you Ian,” I whispered as he was lowered into the ground.

A luncheon was held in the park where we had our wedding reception and many, many people stopped by. I continued to hear stories about Ian and how much he meant to so many people. I thanked the departments for everything they did and that’s when I was informed about the donations I mentioned earlier.

******

Stacy and Jake stayed with me for a few weeks before they needed to get back home. I loved having them with me and really enjoyed my time with the kids. We had told them about have a new baby cousin coming in the New Year and they couldn’t wait.

Mom and Dad came to check on me every weekend, but I admit I was growing tired of it. I was seeing a therapist for myself for awhile to help me cope, but I knew the one thing that would help was to go back to work.

I went back to work a week or so after Stacy left, after missing nearly two months of it and was happy to get back into my routine. Kim assured me that if I needed more time, I could take it, but I told her that I needed to do this to keep my sanity.

The more time I spent alone at home, the more my brain refused to turn off. I hated the silence and I hated the feeling that he would walk in at any moment only to be crushed when I woke up alone day after day. Going back to work helped me find a new focus and kept me going. Not only was the therapy helping my patients, it was helping me too.

I started classes back up in September and was determined to finish this secondary degree. I had thought about giving it up after losing Ian, but if I could get through this, I know I could be better at helping other through their difficult times.

I also heard my babies’ heartbeats for the first time. Yes, I said babies; I’m having twins. I went in for my three-month check-up in mid-September and Dr. Reynolds was able to find two strong, healthy heartbeats. We set up an ultrasound to make sure things were progressing as they should after what happened with my last pregnancy.

It was wonderful two see my two little peanuts in the monitor, but part of me didn’t want to allow me to be happy. I kept wishing Ian could be there to see this, but I knew he couldn’t be. Dr. Reynolds gave me copies of the scans and instructions to follow to keep complications at bay.

I knew part of those instructions was to keep my stress down and take things easy, but it was hard. I didn’t want to stop working, but I did listen to my body and take more breaks when I needed to and took better care of myself by eating better and maintaining exercise.

I had a second ultrasound in mid-November and found out that I having a boy and a girl. We had always talked about having at least one of each and now we will.

Then came the holidays, I spent Thanksgiving curled up in bed for three days straight. What could I be thankful for this year? I lost my husband, the love of my life. Sure I was thankful for the babies, but they wouldn’t have a father in their life. My parents stayed at the house with me and occasionally tried to get me to join them, but other than to use the bathroom, I never left my bed…our bed.

Can we skip Christmas this year? My parents dragged me, literally, to their car to take me home for Christmas Eve and Christmas Day. I was willing to work those days, but Kim told me to take off, no she ordered me to take off. Emily, Joe and Aiden joined us for church and dinner, but it just wasn’t the same without Ian there. Both families spoiled the babies with lots of gifts and I was appreciative of that.

I tried to celebrate the New Year alone. Everyone called me, but I refused to answer the phone. Then came the knocking on my door. Craig, Marci, Ricky, Angie, Sean and Shelby were standing outside and pushed their way in when I opened to door to see who was there. They didn’t want me alone and we sat and watched movies, played games and ate a lot of junk food. One night wouldn’t hurt me, I guess.

Stacy, Mom and Emily threw me a baby shower in mid-January when I was about seven months along. They invited all my female friends and family members and even Nikki, Bethany and Jodi came for the weekend leaving their families at home.

Let’s just say that I now have everything I need for both babies to last for at least the first few years of their lives. I was given two car seats and strollers; several packages of diapers of all sizes; bottles; bibs; blankets; clothes galore and so much more. I had toys they could play with as newborns until they were in preschool.

I honestly didn’t know where I was going to store most of it, but since the basement wasn’t used much anymore, I put most of it down there in storage except what I needed at first. My family and friends were amazing, but they weren’t finished.

The party was on Saturday, so on Sunday, Nikki, Bethany and Jodi took me out on the town. We went for a late brunch, got manis and pedis, got a hair makeover and spent a lot of time talking. It felt good to reconnect with them.

When we returned to the house, I was blindfolded by Stacy and led to what I was assuming to be the room I was planning on turning into the nursery. Sure enough, when the blindfold was removed, I was starting at a fully furnished nursery with two cribs filled with pink or blue bedding; a changing table; rocking chair; a dresser that was filled with clothes along with a full closet.

Two diaper bags were filled with diapers, a couple of newborn outfits, pacifiers, wet wipes and more. One that was ready to go with me to the hospital when the time came and the other to use as a backup. Stacy told me that sometimes you just don’t have enough time to pack up a bag, so a second one ready to go is needed. I think I can take her word on that.

After everyone left that night, I spent quite awhile sitting in that rocking chair singing to the babies, feeling them move around and talking to Ian. I asked him to help me and guide me through all of this. Even if he wasn’t here with me physically, I needed him to be there for me spiritually.

Each week of work was getting more difficult with how big my stomach was getting, but I wasn’t ready to take off yet. I planned on taking the full twelve weeks I was allowed off, but I already felt guilty being gone so long since I missed so much last summer. Kim was very supportive and reassured me that my job was safe and I had nothing to worry about except my new babies.

February was another difficult month for me, not just because I felt like I was ready to pop any day, but because Ian and I had a lot of memories from various Valentine Days and other events over the years. I kept busy at work, but the weekends were hard and again, I spent them locked away at home barely speaking to anyone.

The weather didn’t help either since it was so cold; and we had a huge snowstorm early in the month. I did begin my last semester of school and worked ahead in a lot of my classes since I knew I would miss some in March when I had the babies. Like work, it kept my mind busy not allowing me to think of Ian every minute of every day.

Since I knew that my pregnancy was nearing the end, I wanted to finish up a few things sooner than later. I had purchased several photo albums months ago and finally took time compiling hundreds of pictures of Ian and I at all different ages with the help of our parents. I also collected pictures we took of each other and together over the years and filled each book.

I also received two baby books during my shower and decided to start filling them out. I looked through each of them to see what was in each one and found a page for gifts. One page was baby shower gifts and the other was gifts after the baby was born. The page with the baby shower gifts was completely full in each book and an extra sheet was added – Stacy must have done this after the party.

I filled out the first couple of pages that ask about parents, grandparents, aunts and uncles. I included as much information as I could for both Ian and my families. I left the lines with first and middle name blank, but wrote in Grant under last name. I still didn’t know what I going to name them, and even though I had a few names for each picked out, I wanted to see them first. After they are born, I can fill those two lines in and the date they were born in the line below.

I just wish that Ian could be here when that day comes, but I know he will be with us all in spirit. After putting the books on the shelf for now, I crawled into bed and cried myself to sleep…again.

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