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Atlanta Trip | Joe & Jenny's Wedding

When I haven't blogged in over two weeks, it's because I haven't felt like I'm my usual self. Needless to say, it's been difficult. I've also been at a loss for words. April 2 is also one week away.


This morning and like most mornings these past few weeks, I woke up feeling exhausted, overwhelmed and anxious. I'm trying to make sense of what's been happening with me lately. So is my therapist and psychiatrist. It's complicated stuff. Please keep me in your prayers. I'll try to write some of what's been happening this past weekend before I resume my busy workweek. Just like working out in the morning, writing here usually helps, not hurts. I hope it works today.


Joe and Jenny's Wedding Weekend


Late last week, I traveled to the east coast to visit Teri and attend Joe and Jenny's wedding. It was a much needed time to reconnect with Teri, friends, and family. Joe is cousin of Teri and I am so thankful to have been invited to celebrate with friends and family at the wedding:

Congrats Joe and Jenny!

My Slideshow with more photos can be watched here.


It was a bit of a journey to get to Atlanta. I first took a red eye flight to Nashville on Wednesday and then planned to drive the rental car to Atlanta on Friday morning. While it would have been more efficient to just take a direct flight to Atlanta, I love the four hour drive through from Nashville to Atlanta through Chattanooga, as it gives me some much needed downtime to just think, pray, and catch up on my bible reading.


Friday Morning


Friday morning, I woke up around 4:30am to drop off my friends I was staying with at the Nashville airport and then proceeded with my mini road trip. The first destination was to visit Teri at White Chapel Memorial Gardens and then do a family brunch with the extended family.


I didn't think too much of the drive at first. I was a bit anxious because the plan was to meet them at around 10:30AM, but since I left Nashville later than planned, I was going to be ~30 minutes late. I wasn't a big deal since I knew I could visit Teri on my own. The anxiety was also because I had an important meeting for work at 1PM that I needed to prepare for. In other words, a normal day for me with being a bit late and having to finish some things last minute.


During the drive, I caught up on my bible reading plan (3 days ahead as of now) and listened to the book of Joshua. I was comforted making it to this book and hearing Teri's favorite Bible verse:


So far so good. I was fine until I reached the halfway point in Chattanooga reminded me of my upcoming race in late May. It's a milestone race for me since it was my first race I signed up for after she passed away. Why this race? I was motivated to choose this particular race after posting about her triathlon and all the fond memories the city of Chattanooga brought to me about Teri, even though we only went there once:



Lately I've felt discouraged about the race because I'm not even close to trained for it. Maybe I will defer if that's even still possible. Even if I was ready, it's just no fun to think about doing these destination races without her. Sometimes I feel like I need a new sport or hobby. Coach Tony and his wife will be racing as well, coincidentally they signed up too. As of now, I just want to go by myself and not even think about it. Late May just seems so far away.


Around 9AM CST, I started seeing a bunch of Microsoft Teams messages from work pop up on my phone and was reminded of my upcoming meeting. I got even more discouraged, as I'm sure if Teri was here she would have mandated I take the day off and just be present with family today.


I thought about why I still tend to fill up my schedule and rarely want to take any days off, even when I travel. There was a family dinner on Thursday night in Atlanta I could have made it to, but I ended up just working.


 The most unexpected part of my trip was when I made it through the rest of Tennessee and saw the Georgia sign with a peach on it. I felt overwhelmed with sadness. How could Teri really be gone from this earth? I got even more emotional to the point of crying because of how much the drive reminded me of all my times with Teri.



I don't get it. I've made this drive so many times. Why all of a sudden did I feel this way? I'm not sure.


I'm no stranger to to have lots of emotional ups and downs since Teri passed away last April. I love writing about my journey. I usually am OK with all of the feelings. This time was very different. It was very overwhelming. I also felt like feeling this way was what I should have been feeling this whole time. I guess I knew it was a matter of time. Perhaps, grief has been patiently waiting in the corner, waiting for me to get through the busyness of work, holidays and E40. I guess better late than never.


I then REALLY wanted to stop and get gas at a particular exit that has a special place in my heart for no real good reason. It was the first stop from our drive from Atlanta to California in late 2021 with Mustard:



Unfortunately, I couldn't figure out where the stop was. I actually did exit once, thinking I was in the right place but just got back on the freeway. I then realized I was running late and didn't even need gas, so it was better to just get to White Chapel Memorial Gardens as soon as possible.


Throughout the drive, there are many signs about "Ruby Falls," a place Teri visited frequently during our childhood. She always mentioned that we should go together, but we never made it a priority. I still haven't visited this place. I felt even more sad knowing that we have a bucket list with many places we never got to visit.


Then I made it through Ackworth and drove past Lake Allatoona. Driving by place always reminds me of Teri's first triathlon and the video I posted of her several months ago:


By this point in the drive, I just felt so hopeless and discouraged. I then said to myself, Why did I bother even coming to Atlanta in the first place? I could have declined the wedding. Why didn't I just take the day off of work? Why do I even bother working in the first place? I really thought I was past all these big feelings and off the emotional roller coaster. I then reminded of what I've written in the past to myself about how it's a good thing to have feelings instead of "being a robot."


So I just let the tears flow, and added more fuel to the fire by listening to the worship songs that remind me of Teri the most. I threw in some classics like "Without You" by Mariah Carey so I can have my own karaoke session. I felt like I was back in the hospital with her, the day before she passed away:



Today is Tuesday. About a year ago, Tuesday was the weekday she got admitted for the 4th time to the hospital because of breathing issues, and little did I now that it would be the last time she was admitted. I was working that day in the office, but thankfully our friend Minna was working at our home and was able to drive Teri.


I guess this is what it means these days for me to do hard things. It's simply easier to just work and be busy and find excuses that I need to simply "move on" from thinking about Teri. It's also easier to be distracted by the idea of dating again when deep down I don't feel even close to ready. Maybe one day the hard thing will be the opposite of what I'm doing, and it will be to just get out there again. I don't really know what to do, besides pray and keep taking things one day at a time.


"By embracing the pain, by looking into it and beyond it, I have come to see God's presence in even the worst situations." - Joseph Cardinal Bernardin, The Gift of Peace

Back to the drive. With about 30 minutes to go, I drove past Northside Hospital and was reminded of our journey through her first cancer battle. I felt a bit of regret, wondering if we stayed in Atlanta and if we could have caught this second cancer a bit earlier. Teri wasn't really thrilled with her care team in California. She did the best she could and was on schedule with all her check ups. It still really would have been nice if we didn't have to find out about the cancer when it was too late.


At around 11AM, I finally arrived at White Chapel Memorial Gardens. While I was over 30 minutes late, I was so thankful to see my Atlanta family still there, praying in silence together. Many were crying, which reminded me that I'm not alone in this journey of grief and loss. It was nice to give everyone a hug and also meet our newest family member, Jenny, for the first time. I was also reminded that there's not really anything more important for me to do than to be with family this weekend to remember Teri and celebrate Joe and Jenny at their wedding.



The Rest of the Weekend


While I still feel quite sad and discouraged trying to put all these thoughts down, I'll try to end this post on a positive note. I'm thankful that on Saturday between the wedding and reception, I got to spend some time catching up with Amy and Matt at their home in Flowery Branch. Seeing their boy Russell grow up so fast was a reminder about how precious life is and for me to keep making the most of it.


On Palm Sunday, I had the opportunity to attend C3 church with Marie and then be treated to a healthy sushi lunch with Foley and Cherry. It was a meaningful time of fellowship and great food:


After a long week, it was a much needed time for of worship. I was reminded of the sacrifice Jesus was about to make for all of us on the cross and that he is really with me during this difficult time. I also felt thankful that Marie was attending a good church that reminded me of both Mariner's North Irvine and FCBC. During service, we sang Hosanna, one of my favorite songs I haven't heard in a while:

Heal my heart and make it clean Open up my eyes to the things unseen Show me how to love like You have loved me Break my heart for what breaks Yours Everything I am for Your kingdom's cause As I walk from earth into eternity - Hosanna (Hillsong)

Like Friday, I was quite emotional, but more in a hopeful way. I concluded my time in Atlanta to visit Teri on my own:



As you can see, the weather was beautiful. I felt more at peace and relaxed during the ~2 hours I was there. I had no where else I needed to be. I listened to the Mariners service with Teri like I do every time I've visit her on a Sunday. I took a brief walk around the entire garden for the first time, seeing others visiting their loved ones that are no longer with us. I left feeling a bit better knowing that our precious Teri is really in a better place, free from physical pain and having to deal with grief and sorrow. I know she's proud of me, whether I do hard things or I need to take it easy and rest. I really can't wait to see her again when I get to heaven.


I'm on my flight back home and will be in the office in a few hours to get back to work. I'm still at a loss of words to describe what's really going on with me these days, but perhaps this weekend story was somewhat helpful. I hope you can be encouraged by it or at least give someone you love a big hug, especially if they're next to you. Life really is short.


Thanks for reading and praying for me along this journey. One day at a time is all I can really do these days. If there's anything I can do or pray for you about, please let me know.


Have a blessed week,

Erwin

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Erwin, this was so beautiful. I am so sorry you have had a difficult week, and am so sad that you were sad during your drive and wish we could’ve been in your car and on your road trip to give you a big hug. I know the Lord was right there with you. Thank you for sharing your difficult times in grieving. I’m so glad you enjoyed the wedding. Your video was beautiful. I love Teri’s triathlon video and love how she was such a fighter and warrior. So strong and never gave up through life. I admit her strength. She was so cute!

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Grief is indeed complicated. Praying for you, friend.

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I'm praying for you, brother. Grief is hard and unpredictable. But God is our rock through it all. I love the old hymn "Rock of Ages"—love that I can hide myself in the arms of Jesus, who comforts me with the gospel. May His presence in the valley grant you comfort and courage.

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Hi Erwin, thanks for sharing your heart on paper/screen! Joshua is especially significant! And it’s so hard to be strong and courageous in grief. You are not alone. God is with you. Praying for you friend.

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