Looking towards the Heavens
The road we do not plan to travel
I was scrolling through my Facebook friend list last night looking for friends to share a great article with when I started to notice the number of names on my list of friends now deceased. As a woman under 50, this is a fact I find rather upsetting. Those on the list are also friends who, like me were quite engaged in this life. Working, enjoying their families and friends, looking ahead towards the future. It truly makes one stop and take stock of where we are in our lives at this very moment.
I had my first loss of a friend when I was a little girl. My mother had a friend from work whose house we used to go to for play dates while she chatted with her friend. This woman's oldest child had a brain tumor. I was far too young at the time to understand loss when he passed away but I still remember him sitting in his chair while the rest of us ran around the house being regular kids. My oldest brother sat and played with him because he could not do much in his condition.
When I was a teenager, one of my brother's best friends was killed riding his bike. This day I remember as if it were yesterday. I had lived through the great loss of my maternal grandmother at this point in my life, but losing a beloved grandparent still does not prepare you for how you feel when you know that a friend, close to your age that you have grown up with has left this earth. 20 is way too young to depart from a life that was filled with promise for this young man.
Almost a year and a half ago, a dear friend from High School succumbed to cancer after a long, hard battle. As sad as that was, she had fought long and hard. She was suffering and it was time for her to find her peace. We can find reason with that, we can mourn, but we can accept this, knowing it was better for her.
What I can't accept is the losses that followed hers. Last fall, my husband lost a friend suddenly. A wonderful devoted father who was fine until a few hours before his death. He was close to our age and it was a terrible shock and a loss to all those who knew him. We struggled for a reason. Why? Why was this young man taken from his family? Why was he taken from all the activities and events that he worked so hard to plan so that others could enjoy the fruits of his labor, while he stood back and smiled. A community of people truly mourned this loss, this empty spot in their lives, as a memorial game was named for him and memory shirts at sporting events were given out. We were baffled, but of course, life is stronger than death,
Late one night I received a phone call from a friend. I answered it and as he said " I hate to be the bearer of bad news..." I immediately thought that my son had done something wrong at the scout meeting he had just attended, or that one of the older people we knew had passed away. But what he told me was that my dearest friend on this earth, who I likened to a sister, had gone into cardiac arrest suddenly and passed away.
I consider myself a very strong person. I have an autistic son. I struggle and fight every single day of my life. I work hard, I come from good stock of people who say no matter what you keep working, you move forward and you stay strong. But I crumbled. I screamed into the phone as someone I did not recognize. "No! please, no! No not my friend, not her!" I cannot say I have ever had a shock in my life that equals this one. My friend who had just been texting me regarding plans to spend time together this summer since we were so crazy during the school year. Godmother to my precious daughter, who reveled in her successes as my child was her child as well. The person who climbed into bed with me the day after I came home with my newborn. My sister. The person who cooked, cleaned for me and bathed my children when I feel into a deep depression over my son's diagnosis and the struggles in my marriage while accepting it. How do you ever repair that hole?
It has been 4 months and it does not get better. She was very active, had a lot of friends and whenever you saw pictures of her, there was always a big, beautiful smile. There was nothing phony, what you saw was the real deal. I used to talk to her many times, on the phone while I drove my children all over the place from one event to another. Now I am in the car, and I listen to music. There is no more sister on the other end. It is quiet. I talk to her in heaven, because I know that is where she is. She embraced Jesus, she was a very strong believer that this was where she would go after her time here was finished. Into the arms of her Lord. Therefore I look to the sky. This is what comforts me. Knowing that she was and is at peace. She had so much more to do on this earth, so much more to see. But I have to believe that she is here, she is watching and she is sharing in all of the joys, achievements and sorrows of her children, her family and her friends, as if she were walking along side of us.
So much of my life has not gone as I planned. I never planned that my son would be disabled. I had no idea that I would have to give up my full time job to fight so hard for him to have help or services. I never thought I would be blessed with the amazing and interesting part time job I now have. I never counted on having very difficult pregnancies and births that would result in premature babies. I also never thought I would have my daughter, who to this day remains the most wonderful and fantastic surprise of my life.
I married a man who I at the time, I knew was my soul mate. He was a great friend that I enjoyed spending time with. We had so many of the same interest and shared dreams. I knew that marrying my best friend would be something I would never regret. Almost 22 years later, I do not regret it for one minute. But I certainly was NOT prepared for the serious trials and major life events he and I would have to endure together. We have gone through some terrible times that if you asked me about 23 years ago when I sported my pretty engagement ring and excitedly made plans for the future, whether this would happen to us, I would certainly have proclaimed "no! we will never go through times like that."
The best laid plans, I have learned are not always the best. What is best for us is to accept what life has to throw at us and forge ahead. Push aside the trees that fall in our paths. Climb over the rocks that have fallen from the mountain tops. Keep climbing, keep walking, keep swimming and most importantly...keep breathing. I remember 4 years ago I attended my parent's 50th wedding anniversary mass at St Patrick's Cathedral in Manhattan. An older couple spoke about their life together. They said it was a life filled with sorrow and struggle. But that this was what made their marriage better. They built a strong foundation that weathered all. Disappointments as well an happiness.
We are all here for a reason. I am a firm believer in this statement. There are no accidents. A path is laid for us and forks are put in that path. Obstacles are thrown our way. What we do with those obstacles will define us. How we handle the change in circumstances will allow us to carry on...or lay down and give up.
O Me! O Life! by Walt Whitman
Oh me! Oh life! of the questions of these recurring,
Of the endless trains of the faithless, of cities fill’d with the foolish,
Of myself forever reproaching myself, (for who more foolish than I, and who more faithless?)
Of eyes that vainly crave the light, of the objects mean, of the struggle ever renew’d,
Of the poor results of all, of the plodding and sordid crowds I see around me,
Of the empty and useless years of the rest, with the rest me intertwined,
The question, O me! so sad, recurring—What good amid these, O me, O life?
That you are here—that life exists and identity,
That the powerful play goes on, and you may contribute a verse.
I did not plan to travel this road. I planned for my son to be different. I went to college, got my Master's Degree and thought I knew where I was headed. I married my best friend.
I had a dear friend, She and I often planned on what we would do together when the children were grown and we were old ladies sitting in our chairs reminiscing. Never for a moment did I think this would not come to pass.
There is illness, there is struggle, there is loss, there are disappointments. But there is also joy, triumphs and new discoveries everyday.
"the powerful play goes on...and you may contribute a verse."