My Most Difficult Year

2016 was the most difficult year of my life.

Most of my family, friends, colleagues and clients know some of the story.  Some of my family friends, colleagues and clients know most of the story.  Hardly anyone knows the entire story.

As I struggle to deal with my grief, worries, and regrets, I sometimes don't want to talk about everything. This post is for those of you who care about me and want to know the whole story.

I grew up in a family of four children.  I am the oldest.  My brother Stan was four years younger, my sister Diane five years younger, and my brother Chris eight years younger.

My mother was an only child.  My dad had two younger brothers: Don and Wayne. The youngest, Wayne passed away over 40 years ago.  Don and his wife Soph lived near Mom and Dad in the Chicago suburbs.

Right before Thanksgiving in 2008, my mom died of a heart attack.

At the beginning of 2016, there were five of us.  Clockwise from Dad: Diane, Chris, Stan, and me.

In May, my hubby Tom and I visited my dad and took him to a Cubs game.  As you can see from the photo, the temperature was in the 40s.  Dad lasted for six innings and the Cubs won the game.

We got a call from my Aunt Soph that Don was failing.  We were able to take Dad to see his brother before he passed.

My oldest nephew, Andrew, got married in July.  My dad said a prayer at the reception.  This is one of my favorite photos of Dad, Andrew, and my new niece Melissa.

My brother Chris sat next to me at the reception.  From left to right: Chris, me, Dad, Diane, and Tom.  This was the last time I would see Chris alive. 

My youngest brother Chris died of a heart attack at the end of July.

My husband Tom had a stroke in August.  Blessedly, the stroke was minor and he has suffered no lasting effects.

In September, Tom and I visited my brother Stan, his wife Kelly, and their two children. This is the last time I would see Stan alive.

In October, the Cubs won the World Series for the first time in 108 years.  I was so touched that my sister decorated Chris' and Mom's graves. They were both lifelong Cubs fans.

In December, Stan, Kelly, Sean and Mary Kate visited Kelly's parents in Vero Beach.  Stan died in a tragic accident. While standing on the beach, Stan was knocked over by a rogue wave and broke his neck. 

In February, Dad moved from independent living to assisted living.

In April, Tom and I vacationed in Florida.  We visited the beach where Stan died. I wore a necklace that Diane gave me containing both our brothers' ashes.  I released some white flower petals into the waves, read Stan's favorite Bible verse and said a prayer.

Dad, Diane and I were together on Easter.  While I treasure this photo, it's bittersweet.  There are only three of us now.

I know that Mom, Stan, and Chris are together in heaven.  But I miss them so.

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