Columnist Leslie Streeter with her late husband Scott Zervitz on their wedding day in 2010 in Palm Beach, Fla.

Since 2015, I’ve referred to July 29 as “The Bad Day,” with capital letters. But honestly, capitalizing the words doesn’t properly convey the dread with which I have approached that date lurking on the calendar. It should be in bold, with maybe thunder and weeping emojis on either side.

After all, that’s the day that my husband Scott died in my arms of a sudden, unexpected heart attack, spiraling my life into the unknown. Even thinking about that date was triggering, a thing I had to get away from so badly that I wanted to crawl out of my own skin. That was impossible, so on that day I avoided staying in Florida, where he died, making a tradition of visiting my sister in Annapolis.

The first anniversary was a haze of boxed wine, sobbing and fried seafood from Pit Boys, Scott’s local favorite. It didn’t bring him back, and it didn’t make me less lonely. But I got to be hazy for a few hours and not have to explain day-drinking from a box of wine.

But today, the 7th anniversary of that terrible loss, there’s no sobbing on the agenda. This year, July 29 is the day before my mother’s wedding, which was originally scheduled for Father’s Day weekend, but rescheduled when someone in the wedding party got COVID. When they told me the new date, it took me a little while to make the connection. My initial reaction was “Hey, that’ll put a sweeter spin on that day,” and not, “If you need me, me and my box of cabernet will be curled up under the altar.” It was a good sign that things are changing. For the better.

Today, sorrow has been replaced by excitement, misery with mani-pedis and a joyous salute to matrimony at a wedding eve slumber party in a hotel suite. The memory of a lost love will now forever be shared with new memories of a love regained — not for me, but for my mom, who I would not have survived without. I don’t miss my husband any less, but it doesn’t hurt the same. It’s not debilitating like it used to be. I will never be over it, but I have moved forward. Like you’re supposed to. And when you move, you leave space for joy.

That’s a good thing. This day is a good day.

Leslie Gray Streeter and her late husband Scott Zervitz at a wedding in Charlottesville in 2012.

In our culture, we have always commemorated the anniversaries of terrible things, like 9/11 or D-Day, as both a sad tribute and a solemn promise to never let those things repeat themselves. To be vigilant. But personal death anniversaries are different, because it’s impossible for them to be repeated, thank God. That person is gone, and they can’t die again. But that anniversary can make you relive those initial emotions of the actual loss — the confusion, helplessness and all-consuming devastation. It makes you want to stop what you’re doing, hit pause and retreat.

This year, this date can’t be about pausing anymore. It’s about the way that life can beam in, silently and strong, through the cracks of pain, and illuminate it with something beautiful. It’s a light that honors the past and those who are not here to share our present, while remembering what they would have wanted for our future. It makes sense. And now I’m humming “The Circle of Life” as I finish this, and I know that Elton John and Tim Rice were onto something.

July 29, 2015 was a bad day. July 29, 2022 is a good one. Those things balance themselves out, and make me want to remember all of the things about Scott that came before, that made me miss him so much. I am no longer dwelling so much on the way the story ended, but on all the good stuff that came before.

And all the good stuff to come.

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