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Reflecting on 'Terwinniversary' Weekend in Atlanta

"If some of your memories are still very painful, let yourself experience them anyway. Don’t try to run away from them-as if you could. Just like difficult feelings, the best way to take the sting out of painful memories is to recognize, accept, and express them. Share your memory with a trusted friend, talk about your feelings as they surface, and let your tears and emotions flow. You may need to talk about the painful memory-and the feelings it stirs up-more than once. Each time, it will lose a little of its power over you." - Kenneth C. Haugk, Journeying Through Grief

TLDR: I had a good time here and look forward to visiting Teri, friends and family in Atlanta again in the future. Thank you all for your love and support.


Good news, I made it through my mostly unplanned "Terwinniversary" weekend in Atlanta. Just like all our other trips here, Teri wouldn't have wanted it any other way because I got to take it slow, see family and friends, and eat a lot of great food. As you'll see in the photos below, the weather was perfect. While riding the emotional roller coaster this weekend was far from easy, I feel like everything worked out in the end and I really had nothing to worry about. There's no doubt that I've spent more time thinking about this anniversary than all the anniversaries (and perhaps birthdays) since we were together. As you'll see, there is a lot of detail I put into these posts just like Teri did with all her journaling. It doesn't mean though that I should have done things differently with past celebrations. I am thankful to share all of these moments here.

To continue from my last post, August and September have been difficult months for me. Part of the difficulty was feeling anxious about what to do or how I would feel to celebrate my wedding anniversary here. Here's what made me feel anxious and made me even second guess the entire trip:

  • I've spent a lot more alone time. Having another weekend mostly alone in Atlanta (even at her gravesite) without Mayo made second guess if this trip would provide any comfort or healing.

  • I've never really had the need to visit Atlanta on my own. When I came in the past, Teri set the schedule and I didn't have to make any decisions or reach out to people on my own.

  • I didn't have a set schedule for the trip (I love set schedules). I simply told Teri's family and a few other close friends that I'll be here but knew that not everyone would have the time to meet up.

Reflecting on all of this helped me have even more appreciation for Teri making the move out to California. I always felt like she could reach out to any of my friends and family when needed, and that people wanted to spend time with her. While that may have been true for both of us, its easier said than done.


Thursday, 9/7 (pre Terwinniversary):

It was a long work week that felt even more busy because of Labor Day weekend. I was originally supposed to fly in on a red-eye Thursday night (arriving Friday morning), but instead I flew out on Thursday afternoon from Phoenix due to a last-minute decision to take a business trip to visit one of the Orora facilities in Tempe that is part of an IT project. While traveling tends to exhaust me, I'm thankful for this last-minute change because I feel too old now to do red-eyes and was worried I would be tired all day during my anniversary.

While it was a bit hot, I had a great time in Arizona. I felt a renewed appreciation for my job and the work we do for our customers, as I tend to be behind a computer most of the time instead of being on the factory floor with the people making all the difference. I guess this could mean more travel to the 40+ other sites across the country. We also have a site in Atlanta which I guess I could have visited. Next time.


I arrived at ATL around 10:30 pm, got the rental car, and John's house (Teri's brother). So far so good. I drove under this big tunnel next to the airport that Teri would always find so fascinating. We would always stay at his house since he has an extra room and most of her furniture that she had while she was single ended up going here when he bought his place in early 2018.


I can probably list 100 or so times during the entire trip that reminded me of Teri that made me feel emotional. I will try not to share all of them here. The first encounter was seeing the Truist ATM at the airport (photo above) and the pictures of Teri and me on John's fridge (photo below). The Marta station in the airport brought back memories since her old place in Chamblee was next to a station so I would take the train in/out of the airport. Some make me smile, some make me tear up a bit.


At the house, sleeping on her bed was familiar and comfortable, but lonely. What always made me smile was when I was last to bed and have Mustard be in my spot, next to Teri. She would insist I sleep around him and not bother him (since he was usually already sleeping), which was rather difficult on a Queen mattress.


Her room at John's house has all her furniture, but mostly empty from giving away almost all her belongings when we came in April for the funeral. Some memories bring a smile to me, some make me feel sad or discouraged. It was a lot to take in. But it was time to sleep since it was already 1AM.


Friday, 9/8 (the big day):

Like always when I fly to the East Coast, I woke up a lot later than I usually get up. While still in bed, I thought it would be appropriate to watch the recording of the Celebration of Life service for the first time:

I haven't really checked on this video since I first posted it, and was surprised to see that it had 2.5K+ views and some comments. I'm not sure who else would watch it since Teri and I don't even know that many people and didn't go out of our way to publicize it. Either way, I'm thankful that the service was recorded and edited and can be a part of my routine to watch on my anniversary.


Watching the service turned out to be the most emotionally difficult part of the weekend. Hearing myself talk about her doing the hard things in our relationship and the last day at the hospital was most difficult. When tears flow for me, I just tell myself that they are tears of healing and it's good to be human and not a robot (she sometimes called me this). While I haven't even made it to her gravesite, I felt encouraged about the legacy she left us and a bit relieved.

Afterwards, I finally got out of bed to get ready for the day and took a few meetings for work, with one of them ending early. This allowed some time to have lunch with John.

I took the "healthy" route and got a side salad instead of Mac and cheese with my sandwich (they also had Pizza). The rest of Teri's family also agreed to have dinner at his house today, so we stopped by Sam's club (since Costco was too far) to pick up some food:

Shortly after we got back from shopping, Marie came to visit. We took a brief drive to visit Teri, then had a nice celebration at the house with the rest of the family:

It was a beautiful day and was so thankful to have some time to catch up with Marie and my family. It felt like the usual routine we would do every time Teri and I would visit, just with one fewer chair and more leftover food. I would complain about the food being too spicy and everyone insisting I just get used to it. We watched the US Open, an event Teri was always hoping to watch in person. We took a brief walk after dinner on the same path that Teri and I would do. I was most encouraged to hear about Teri's brother Kevin starting a new job this Monday. Congrats Kevin!!


The rest of the weekend:

The rest of the weekend turned out to be exactly what I needed, starting with waking up to a text message from Anna:

Hi Erwin! I read on Muir Rock that you are in town this weekend. Liz, Christina, and I (Anna) have plans to visit Teri tomorrow pSunday] at 9am and grab brunch/early lunch right after. If you're available, we'd love to see you.

It was nice that someone took me up on my offer to meet up! I know I should just be proactive and tell people what I need like I usually do with my friends in California, but on this trip I didn't want to impose.


Anyways, I spent the first half of Saturday in Flowery Branch visiting Matt and Amy. It was nice walking into a house to see photo of their wedding with Teri in it:

Amy and Matt were one of the first people I met when I came to Atlanta for the first time in 2017. Catching up on life and also sharing stories of Teri really made me feel a lot better. We also talked about grief and loss regarding other family members no longer with us. We watched the Georgia Bulldogs play and reminded me of the heartbreaking loss Teri and I watched in 2017 to Alabama.


Matt works in Information Security, which always is interesting to discuss. I felt like I could have stayed there all day, so most likely next time, I will, as long as we go biking in the morning ;)


Afterwards, I was treated to a wonderful Sushi lunch (still trying to be healthy) with Foley and Cherry:

This was the first time sitting down over a meal with them. This really special couple to Terwin played such an important part in Teri's life before I met her. They spent a few years together as roommates and were with her during some significant moments. I was encouraged to see the picture collage gift Teri made them that hangs above their fireplace (first photo above) and see other photos of Teri I've never seen:

We could have also spent all day talking and sharing stories of Teri before we became Terwin. I feel like this is still what I need these days from time to time. Not from everyone I know, just the few that are genuinely interested in talking about Teri and grief as much as I do. Sometimes I get discouraged thinking that I may be living in the past, but then I remind myself that it's only been five months since she passed away and that everyone grieves differently. I guess my love language during this season is quality time. I'm thankful they're just a phone call or text message away in case I need them.


After we parted ways, the best plan I could come up with was to get a haircut and go to Costco to buy the $200 hybrid bike that seemed like a great deal.


Even my time getting a haircut was meaningful. I found my hair stylist to be genuinely interested in getting to know me better and why I was in town. I shared about the loss of Teri and she shared about her recent loss of her father. We exchanged stories on what we wish people didn't say to us and reminded each other that its OK that we all grieve differently.


I wanted to buy a bike so I can ride the Silver Comet Trail or Stone Mountain trail. Both places brought back fond memories of my time with her (and her friends):

Sounds like a good idea, right? I can also always use a bike when I am in town. Problem is that the bike I was looking for was no longer being sold, I guess its out of season. I then looked on Facebook Marketplace but didn't see any good deals. But everything worked out. I just went to Teri's gravesite to catch up on some journaling, and an hour later, Mom and Kevin came to the gravesite (I didn't tell them I would be there). We stayed for a bit and said some prayers, and then went to dinner at one of our usual spots (Pho Dai Loi):

And that is how I spent my Saturday. Come to think of it, buying a bike just so I can do a few rides with it when I'm in town probably didn't make sense vs. borrowing a bike from a friend. I got back to John's house feeling even more relieved and thankful that I made the trip out here.


On Sunday, I slept in again (did not wake up at 5AM like I usually do) and had wonderful morning at the gravesite and Dim Sum with Anna, Christina and Liz:

Like the rest of the weekend, I was so thankful to catch up with them about how we are all doing and share stories about Teri. Some made us laugh, some made us cry. They're all so fun and I can see why Teri had so many fond memories of them during her childhood. All three of them went to church together with Teri, and all concluded that we wish we had more time with her. I had even more insight on why Teri became the way she is and this inspired me to keep learning about her and my own childhood. These ladies are also really busy with family, work, travel, etc., so getting a morning with them and not feel rushed to get to the next event really made me feel really loved. The weekend concluded with one more stop to Costco (I still wanted the bike that was not in stock) and then a four hour drive to Nashville to visit some other friends for a few days before I fly back to California. This is a familiar drive that Teri and I have made several times together when we drove to/from California during the pandemic, which I'll save for another post. I had a lot of time in the car reflecting on the weekend and how blessed I am to not just be loved by the friends and family I saw in Atlanta, but also by the many at home that took the time to check in with me to see how I was doing. Thank you everyone.


Conclusion and Lessons Learned

My "Terwinniversary" weekend in Atlanta turned out to be a meaningful and emotional journey filled with memories of Teri. Despite my initial anxiety and uncertainty about the trip and what to expect, I found comfort in reconnecting with family and friends, revisiting familiar places, and reflecting on the legacy Teri left behind.


At this moment, I feel a lot better than I ever have during the months of August and September. I'll continue to take things one day at a time. This weekend reemphasized the lessons about the importance of reaching out to loved ones and sharing our grief and memories. Life is short. It reminded me that healing often comes through connections with others who are willing to listen and remember with us. I experienced first hand that it's okay to cherish the past while still moving forward, and that grief really is a personal journey that unfolds at its own pace.


If you made it this far, thank you for reading another long post. As I continue to navigate life without Teri, I'll hold onto the moments and connections I made during this "Terwinniversary" weekend, knowing that they are a source of strength and a testament to the enduring impact of love and friendship. I look forward to seeing everyone I saw on this trip (and perhaps a few more) in the near future when I'm back in Atlanta, along with catching up more with my friends and family back in California.


Have a great week!

Erwin

Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged, for the Lord your God will be with you wherever you go.” - Joshua 1:9, NIV (Teri's favorite bible verse)


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What an amazing trip Erwin!?!? Feeling really happy to read about the many ”ups” during this trip and the meaningful connections.

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Jenny Scott
Jenny Scott
Sep 12, 2023

Very special post Erwin. I am so glad your trip was memorable in so many ways for you. So glad you made it home safely. Thanks for sharing all the details about your trip. Loved it!

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Tiffany Wong
Tiffany Wong
Sep 12, 2023

Thank you for sharing, Erwin! It sounds like you really stepped out of your comfort zone for this trip but it ended up being really good for you to reflect and be blessed by your Atlanta friends and family. :) really happy to hear they took good care of you. :)

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