That's how long it's been since I took Natalie to Cold Stone Creamery on this day, seven years ago. We went there again tonight as we have done for the past seven years. It's one of the ways we honor Natalie, by celebrating a special time she and I shared. I've written about our visit to the Cold Stone Creamery on Thayer Street before. That store has been gone for many years, so now we go to the one in Seekonk. It's not the same, but then nothing is really as it should be anymore... because Natalie isn't here with us. Still, I got the usual two flavors -- banana and chocolate (they didn't have the dark chocolate, which was a bummer) in a plain waffle cone. Chris always gets something with blueberries mixed in. We ate quietly and enjoyed the peacefulness of the moment. Then Gabriel leaned over and stole a bite of my waffle cone. We all laughed. And he had many more bites after that.
There's a good chance this year might be the last one that we go to that particular Cold Stone Creamery, because Chris is convinced it won't be around for another year. A few years ago, the thought of not going there would have been devastating to me. But not anymore. I know that it's not really the specific place that matters. It's going out together as a family to honor Natalie in this special way. It's about remembering and being together. It's interesting to see how far I've come on this grief journey -- a journey that will never end until I'm gone, but one that is forever changing and unpredictable.
Chris and I have both been extra sad for the past couple of weeks. It always happens when March rolls around. I've cried into my pillow more nights this week than I have in awhile. I'm just so very, very sad. It still feels so unbelievable, yet it is so painfully real.
And so it goes.