Thirty-one years ago today, I was preparing for the most exciting day of my life. Today my husband Tony and I are celebrating our wedding anniversary. As many of you who have celebrated anniversaries, birthdays, or any monumental moments in your life know, there is so much that marks each passing year. Yes, there are many times in my life that I would like to change, redirect, or eradicate completely, but alas! that wouldn't lead me to where I am today.
So where am I exactly? That's a great question, and I am sure there is a philosophical response out there somewhere. But for now, suffice it to say I am where I need to be. (Sorry, it sounds so cliche!) Okay, sometimes I really don't know where I am, or let alone know where I'm going. And unfortunately life does not come equipped with a GPS; so there is no voice reminding me to take the next left or that I am going in the wrong direction. Over the years I have found myself at times getting to my next destination unscathed, other times having had to make detours along the way, and still other times, totally confused and lost. Each wrong turn, each moment of total confusion, each dead end, led me to a new awakening, a revelation into who I was, who I am, and who I am becoming.
For those of you who do not know me, I love getting lost! Yes! I do. Always the adventurer, I will often take a wrong turn on purpose to see where it will lead me (unless my husband is in the car). I will take long drives (even though gas prices are out of this world), camera in hand, and just let the road lead me. On occasion, I will take a turn that leaves me a bit scared, frightened or totally disoriented. At these moments, I stop, say a quick prayer for guidance, and retrace my steps.
Life is so similar, we head out in one direction, finding ourselves going no where near our original itinerary. When I look back over these 31 years, I can see so many welcomed and unwelcomed detours, dead ends and seemingly endless roads. My life has been so filled with happiness and sadness, blessings and curses, new beginnings and sudden stops, and yet looking back, I wouldn't change it all that much. Not that I liked everything about it, but I do like who I have become, and where these bumps have taken me.
Like so many of us, we have all had our share of ups and downs, but if we allow them to shape and mold us, we become ever stronger, ever more resilient, and we learn to learn from these experiences. Thinking back to my wedding day thirty-one years ago, I remember being so full of anticipation, so full of hope, and so filled with a wonderment and the excitement of a new beginning.
Every day is a new beginning for each and everyone of us. Every new day gives us the choice of discovering who we are, and where we are going. I am no stranger to loss as you are all very much aware of, and losing my daughter was definitely one of those moments when I came to a sudden stop; when all of a sudden, I had no idea where I was, where I was going, or even who I was. To say I was frightened and scared would be an understatement at the very least.
It has been five years, going on six, and I am slowly finding my way. In that first year after my daughter's death, I was totally lost, totally in the dark, but somehow I continued to travel. Even though I had no idea where I was going, I chose to allow the road to lead me. I was very blessed to have wonderful people in my life who served as guides, who where willing to hold up road signs on my journey; and who occasionally would take the 'wheel' when I was totally lost. I also learned that I sometimes needed to stop and as for directions. For me it was finding a counselor, someone who would hear me, listen to me, and allow me to say anything and everything, that was jumbled up in my mind. Someone who had no personal connection to me, my life, or any preconceived notions about me at all.
If I may impart one small iota of advice, no matter what you are going through, do not attempt to go it alone. Find someone who is willing to listen, to hear you, and allow you to be who you need to be at that particular moment in your life. Counseling was a great help to me, also finding support groups with like-minded people (that is people who have experience a loss similar to mine), and just having family and friends who were willing to 'just be there' for me, helped me out of tight situations, dead ends, and wrong turns.
We all face change, challenges and crises in our lives, it is what we do with them that defines who we become. In the midst of all this celebrating, I am also celebrating my birthday, and when people ask me my age, they hesitate (one - there is the unspoken rule that you don't ask a woman her age; and two - there is the fear that you might just not be welcoming this new year), but I don't mind, I am actually very proud of my years. I have a mantra that I live by, 'I love were I have been, I cherish where I am, and I look forward to where I am going.' God willing I will have many more years ahead of me, both in anniversaries and birthdays, and I pray that I will always welcome the adventures that lie ahead.
Take the journey, live your life, and live it as fully as you can. Remember also, that even though our loved ones are no longer physically with us, they are always with us, always near, always in our hearts. They now serve as guides and companions in our life-long journey, an integral part of who we are. Their love surrounds us and protects us in ways we cannot fathom or understand, and that for me is the greatest comfort of all.
Blessings! and until we meet again.