I Can See Clearly Now (Well, Kind Of)
It was a glorious, sunny October day. Just a bit windy, though. Like every Sunday, we – aunts, uncles, cousins - were gathered at my parents’ home for dinner. Just as we were settling in someone noticed a tiny plume of smoke off in the distance. Several of the adventurous uncles, including my husband, Bob, decided to investigate. “We’ll be right back. Start eating without us” they called as they piled into a car. We laughed and began to eat. Fifteen minutes later they arrived home, pale and visibly shaken. In that short period of time a conflagration had been declared, the wind carrying the fire across streets. Close to 70 departments responded and by the end of the next day, 2/3 of the city had burned to the ground.
But, let’s back up a bit. Bob and I (and our two year-old daughter) raced back to our home – that for the present time was protected by a huge hill-however embers were landing on our roof by that time. As we, and our neighbors, waited outside for instructions, the police car came down our street, bullhorn blaring “Get your valuables and get out. NOW!!”
Bob and I looked at each other, then at our daughter standing between us, and we walked to our car leaving everything behind. A split-second decision made in the midst of high wind, acrid smoke, and increasing embers.
Were we scared? You bet! Did we know the end of the story? No! And during that long night when we had no idea if we had a home to return to, we kept reminding each other that we did walk away with what was valuable. We eventually were allowed back to our neighborhood to find that every home was saved. And life could resume as normal. What? I was changed forever by that experience – we never had a fire in our fireplace, I can smell the faintest whiff of smoke and still go into high alert, and I put every extinguished match into a small dish of water, just to be sure.
It’s been almost 50 years since “the fire,” and lessons have emerged to shape my life. Three years caring for my husband as he battled Alzheimer’s Disease eventually going Home four years ago, a variety of unexpected changes to “my plan for my life,” and now the pandemic, have given me the opportunity to see, with a clearer vision. As I enter my fifth year of “flying solo,” let me share five lessons I’ve learned and live by, in the hopes some, or all, may provide you with a path of perseverance and resilience in these uncharted days:
Open Handed Living – Research has determined that we open and close our hands about 25M times in our lifetime. That’s a lot of “letting go.” During this pandemic season, what is God asking you to hold onto loosely? Or to even let it go? Maybe it’s a grudge, some anger, a need to forgive? Ask Him to give you the strength and courage to release it. I’ve learned that everything I have is a gift from God. My job is to care for that gift for whatever time that gift is part of my life.
“Set your minds on things above, not on earthly things…”
Intentionally Pursue Gratitude – it will eventually become a habit. While we were very grateful that our home was saved and over time we could move on with our lives, we lived through a night believing that all we had in this world were the clothes on our backs-and each other. For us, that was enough. And at that moment when Bob went Home, and the future seemed so foggy, I once again chose to intentionally pursue gratitude. Choosing to be grateful for the years we shared and not grumbling about what we missed keeps me focused on the blessings still to come.
“Give thanks in all circumstances…”
1 Thessalonians 5:18
Life is short – be kind – Actually, this was my husband’s life motto. It’s much easier to be kind and to love others because God loved us first. Many people don’t understand the cruelty of Alzheimer’s Disease and the way it changes the lives in the family affected. A kind response to a thoughtless remark keeps my burdens light. It has become a habit (like pursuing gratitude) and each morning I ask the Lord to give me the opportunity to show kindness to someone that day – we certainly live in a time where a small act of kindness can make a world of difference to even one person.
“Love is patient and kind…”
1 Corinthians 13:4
Do It Afraid – This statement is attributed to many people – and I have claimed it for myself. Walking away from your home knowing that the next time you see it, it may be just a heap of ash, and learning to “fly solo” are similar experiences. Each involves doing lots of things for the first time, and both of these experiences are laced with fear. But I have learned to “do things afraid.” The first time I faced replacing something in my home, I was filled with fear. “It” was high and I couldn’t figure out how to reach it, I didn’t want to use a ladder (I lived alone-what if I fell), and I had no idea how to fix the problem. SO, I stood there for a long time wondering how I would solve the issue. Finally, I hoisted myself on the counter, and finding that I could reach while in a sitting position, the problem was solved. I did it afraid and rewarded myself with a little dance and a few Hip Hip Hoorays for me!! I, of course, don’t recommend doing anything foolish – my days of thinking I’d like to try sky-diving are over.
“The Lord is with me, I will not be afraid”
Grief Evolves – Grief is an interesting emotion. I have learned that it never leaves, it evolves, and eventually grief can become a kind companion. In the initial stages of grief, all I could think about was “that” final moment when life changed so dramatically. I also lived in the loss, the pain, and the realization that I had no idea what the future held. Over time, I can focus, and smile, about the wonderful memories Bob and I shared, how he would have delighted in our grandchildren’s growth (I delight for both of us!), and the memories now bring joy and not sorrow. In Bible times, most towns had a Tent of Remembrance where people would go to remember their loved ones who had died and, in their remembering, they would give thanks (intentionally pursue gratitude) for the memories and for the life they shared.
“…His compassions never fail. They are new every
morning. Great is Your faithfulness.”
Lamentations 3:22, 23
Trusting God with our unknown future – due to a city-wide fire, the death of a loved one, a surprise diagnosis, or a pandemic – helps us to hold things loosely, pursue gratitude, be kind, do it afraid, and savor past memories.
As we look ahead to the unknown in 2021, let’s keep our 2020 lenses clear, in order to see the world as God wants us to see it, and show His love to all.