On Sunday we were driving home from Rhode Island after visiting Matt’s family.
Matt likes to take back roads and it used to drive me crazy.
As the road curved first to the left and then to the right over and over again I thought about how many times I had traveled this path and how many different ways I chose to do it.
When the kids were little and we needed them to sleep through the trip for our sanity, these back roads were my nemesis. One lane back roads always require unexpected stops – and with each unexpected stop the little ones would start crying.
My husband never seemed to understand his road choice was the problem but I’d make it known. Seething I would whisper through my teeth, “Why do you insist on going this way EVERY time.” I’m surprised the heat pouring from my eyeballs didn’t burn him on the spot.
Eventually Matt agreed to forgo the back roads in favor of the highway (probably to avoid my wrath). We traveled that highway road for years before I benevolently told him one year we could return to his beloved back roads. It probably coincided with the year we got each kid a kindle. (Electronics rock – I will not apologize!)
It is easy to sit here now and laugh at myself. I was so tightly wound … needing everything to be done exactly as I knew it should for the best outcome possible. Understanding so little about the gift of surrender. My husband patiently agreeing to all of it.
Eventually I learned surrender … probably the hardest way possible.
As we continued to ride along I thought about the first drive home from Rhode Island after my mom died. It was a month or so after she had passed. I was still wrapped in the tight grief that makes you surprised you are able to get up each day and put one foot in front of the other.
What made that time worse was that I wondered every day if there was something more I could have done to keep my mom alive…. A cancer treatment we didn’t explore or a green juice we didn’t make.
I just didn’t understand the role forgiveness needed to play in grief. But my mother-in-law did. She looked at me before we left and said “You did everything you could. You are a good daughter.”
I love my mother-in-law very much but she is not one who will say something she doesn’t mean. She doesn’t believe in making someone feel good for the sake of feeling good. She tells it like it is.
God I was so grateful for that quality that day. As we drove that winding road home it was the first time I could believe I had done right by my mom… precisely because my mother-in-law said I did. It was also the moment I realized I needed to start letting go of “what could have been” and accept “what is.”
A few more years passed before we were traveling that same road having just witnessed my father-in-law pass from this world into another. He was one of the gentlest souls I know.
As I looked at Matt, driving home to a world without a dad, I knew there was no way to touch his grief. All I could do was be there for him. That was the first time I realized the unexpected gift my mother’s passing had given me… the wisdom to support a grieving person.
I couldn’t predict what the days and weeks to come would hold for Matt but I did know I could be there for him and that was a very-big-something. A “something” I didn’t understand before my own mother died.
There have been so many milestones contemplated on that 3 hour journey we’ve taken from Rhode Island to our home in Connecticut.
What struck me most on Sunday as we drove those winding curves one more time is how blessed I truly am. Even with the grief of the first Christmas without my dad, I could feel it…
*The grounded truth that my children are healthy and know that they are loved.
*The fact that almost 20 years later, I don’t just love my husband but I’m “in love” with him.
*And finally that I get to do work that matters, that I care about and can provide for my family with it.
I even loved the fact that that I had no idea what was waiting just around the next curve. The unexpected stops no longer irritate me.
I’ve learned that there is magic everywhere. It can be in the tractor trailer that decides to turn around in the middle of a two lane back road and causes a 20 minute delay. It can be in the sudden change of plans that come because of something unexpected. It can even be inside great loss.
Because what this decade has taught me is that if you give life (and the Divine) enough time She will reveal the magic .. you just need to be patient, let go of white-knuckle control 🙂 and focus on love.
I have heard from many that 2019 was not an easy year. I truly hope you are not one of them. I hope you are rejoicing in all the gifts this year (and decade) have brought you.
But if you are one of the many people desperately waiting for January 1 to bring you a fresh start here is the prayer I’m saying on your behalf…
Divine, reveal some of Your magic right now.
Yes, yes, I know. It is there already … just make a big splashy show of it.
Being human isn’t always easy and for some it is quite the climb.
Wrap this person in so much love that your presence is unmistakable.
Let this person feel safe enough to fall into your embrace and relax into the truth that they are loved and most certainly not alone.
With all my love,
P.S. After sending this off to Josie, my Online Business Manager to get this blog prepped and ready to post to you I realized something was obviously missing. No where in this letter had I mentioned all the messages I received from my mom and dad and how helpful they have been. So I checked in with them and asked them if they have one last message this year for you. Here is what they gave me….
From Mom: So much of what you think matters, just doesn’t. If you can give yourself a little room to take care of yourself, what truly matters will become so clear. Trust your heart.
From Dad: I have done many, many things wrong in my life and when I got here none of them mattered. The only thing that mattered was how much I loved and was loved. I hope something I’ve said to Patty this year helped you develop that truth for yourself but I’m not going anywhere. Patty and I have a lot of work to do together so you’ll see me plenty in 2020