Last weekend we had our first major “first” without Kara: Story turned 6. She wanted a few friends and a Rock Star Birthday Party. No games—just a 6-year old hangout party. So that is what we did. Harper and a friend made all the decorations. I asked a neighbor, “What snacks do rock stars eat?” Her reply, “Laxatives and celery.” We opted to stray from the theme a bit for better snacks. Mickey made the cake according to Story’s specifications—lemon cake with lemon frosting and eyeballs. 

And we made it through; I did it, I cried, I laughed, I ached. 

These are the events that I dread. I remember asking Kara to help me plan this year of firsts. I assumed a long and hard conversation, I would take notes and then feel better about the plan. But instead Kara’s answer was, “You will be great. You will know what to do!” Not the answer I wanted but it was the answer I needed. I needed to know that I could fumble through this, that I would do okay. That I could process through decisions without her input. I needed to know that whatever we as a family decided to do was okay. I so appreciate that freedom she gave me. 

I ache for the other firsts; this Sunday is Mother’s Day. I have talked with the kids about this day and the great crafts they are making in school. I want to give them freedom to make things for their mom, or me, or anyone who loves them. Or to just opt out. Each of them has made a different decision, and they are doing well in their grief. 

The other day Harper said, “Dad, you cry more than any of us.” I agreed and may have started to cry more in that moment. I cry more maybe because I look at these kids and hurt for the future they have lost with their mom. But in that loss of future, Kara was gracious to give us freedom.  

I can see how easy it is to be bound up by the wishes of those who have died. To live life looking back for approval. I am realizing the blessing of how Kara loved our family in her death, the freedom she gave, how she trusted us. None of it takes away the ache of grief but it does take away a burden. I feel free to cry and laugh, even in the same moment.

For freedom Christ has set you free.
— Galatians 5:1

How do you live bound to people, or things, or thoughts? What fears drive you to bind and control those around you? What does freedom look like as you love those in your life?