Once in awhile, as you know, I post something that isn’t light and funny, and this is one of those. It is heavy, but it has a happy ending–I promise. Thank you for sticking with me through all the seasons of my writing, just as the one and only picture at the end shows a beautiful change of seasons as well.
I wrote this two years ago tonight, the Sunday after I returned home from the event I described. I have held onto it since then, and I decided it was the perfect time to post it.
Besides, just as last time, it wasn’t my Plan A. This post is actually Plan D, with Plans A, B and C to follow in good time–I promise.
No matter if it is Plan A or Plan Z, the important thing is that we all continue to GO ON.
AND YOU WILL GO ON
It took eight years, seven months and eleven days, but I finally did it. I had several dozen opportunities to take the short detour, but I never did—until tonight.
In my mind, there was a permanent, dark gray—if not black—cloud hanging over that spot. This evening, however, it wasn’t there. It was dusk, with a hint of daylight and the full moon rising. It wasn’t too dark to see it if it had been there.
It was the full moon that confirmed to me I had chosen the right night. Not just big and round, but full, as in, according to the calendar. My mother knew I loved the full moon. It rose clearly with crisp, sharply defined edges in the clear October evening sky as I took this road never travelled by me, not even in the years before that day.
That day, March 4th, 2008, was the day my parents died as they tried to cross through this intersection. I had thought many times about visiting this spot, this dreadful place where they drew their last breaths. It was a mere ten miles out of my way home when I had travelled many times to west Wichita to visit my brother, several friends, and, of course, to shop since that day. But I never did. It never felt right.
Today, however, it occurred to me that it might be the right day to expel this demon—or as close as it could ever be. It would never be right. I was returning from Tulsa after a Friday evening of unparalleled fun and memory-making with a dear friend. One of her quests was to see Toby Keith in concert, and I was game. To a lesser degree, it was my quest too, and Tulsa was the closest stop on his tour. Since we both recently had a Big Birthday—which we had already celebrated with a week-long girls trip—we were up for still more fun, so we made the trip. Besides, having fun is now a priority for me, since I learned the Life Is Short So Have Fun Now lesson the hard way. I remain an enrollee in the Life is Short class, choosing to study in it for the rest of my life, because this lesson is too important to forget. I am the annoying student in the front row, always raising my hand, asking questions and making comments to everything the teacher says. The other students roll their eyes whenever I speak up—again. I get my homework done ahead of time, do the extra credit; suck up to the teacher. I don’t ever want to forget The Lesson. I always carry an A-plus. I spend whatever time and money I can to Have Fun and Make Memories. My hope is that all the other students can learn it the easy way.
My friend came from Kansas City, and I met her in Tulsa from my small city in central Kansas. On Saturday afternoon after a late lunch, we went our separate ways. After 2½ hours in the car, I needed a break, so I turned west off the interstate in Wichita to my familiar favorite store. Then, on to another favorite store that put me even closer to that place. Perhaps this was an auspicious time to conquer this demon, to move past this literal and figurative spot on the map and in my mind. I wasn’t sure yet if I should go to that spot yet, and perhaps that’s why I lingered with no potential purchases in my hand in the second store as daylight waned.
“It will probably be dark by the time I get there,” I thought. “But maybe that’s good.”
I speculated there were at least 27 minutes of daylight left to make this trip as I checked GPS, which would put me there only a bit before dark. I left the store after a small purchase, and headed in that direction. I could still back out; I had several alternate routes I could turn on to take me home before I had to make the defining decision.
“Go West Young Woman,” a voice inside said. So I turned west, leaving those other two routes home behind me. This road, I realized as I headed down it, was the same road my dad took as they left west Wichita that day. I was, in essence, retracing their last steps.
“I’m really going to do this. This feels strange. I hope I made the right decision.”
After four miles west, the GPS told me to turn north, so I did.
There it was. The full moon, which had been first obscured by the city, then was at my back as I drove west, was beaming its approval to me through my passenger window. The man in the moon—and perhaps the woman too—let me know I was headed in the right direction.
Eighteen minutes later, I was there. I stopped at the stop sign, the same one my father stopped at. He did stop, it was reported, but then he did go. He should have waited. I waited. There were no headlights from either direction, but for a moment, I was frozen there. Then I accelerated with a quick stomp and drove through. Through the threshold they didn’t cross over. I pulled over on the other side into an abandoned driveway, and sat for a moment. This strange new world I had just entered into took a few moments to enter into me.
“I did it. I made it through.”
Just to make sure I had indeed expelled this demon, I drove back across the intersection, turned around and did it one more time. This time I kept going. Going down the road my parents would have gone on. Going down the road home, to my home, eventually taking a different road than they would have to arrive at their home.
And I went on.
I continue to go on. Every day, I go on my own road. I stayed on their road in some ways, but in many others, I took the divergent road. The road they paved for me by instilling their faith in me. Their faith in God, and their faith in me and my six siblings. This faith allows us to follow our own paths and make our own ways, lives of our own choosing, lives that let us be who we want to be, even if it’s not exactly what they may have expected or hoped for us. They gave us the metaphoric roots and wings.
We all continue to fly.
I believe in Heaven. I believe there is a place beyond this world that is free of all evil, a place that is an unfathomable, ineffable, fabulous evolution of love and the human spirit. These two elements of mortal life must carry on in some way. They are not accidental or secondary by-products of human life. They are why we are here.
I respect your beliefs if they do not agree with mine, but just for one second, please suspend them and think about this point my mother made about death many years before her own: if babies could choose to stay in the womb where it is comfortable and familiar—not that they could–they likely would. If they did, however, they would miss this incredible world that awaits them. The transition from womb to birth may be painful, but it is necessary to move on. Such is birth.
We don’t know what awaits us after this world, but if we chose to stay here—not that we could—we would miss out on something so spectacular that is beyond any life here, even if the crossing over is painful. Such is death.
If you have lost a loved one/ones, my wish for you is that you will embrace the belief that we are here to await a better place, and that those you loved are there. Grief is for the living only, the deceased don’t benefit from it in any way. I am sure of this.
There is so much life here to live, so much happiness that can be found, as sad as life can be sometimes. Still, there is so much love and so much good out here, if you simply stay open to it. Please stay open to it. Please choose to find this love and goodness.
And you will go on.
I recall something so profound that a priest told us after Mom and Dad died: “Grief is like the backside of a beautiful rug. It appears to have no beauty, no reason, but when you get to the other side, it all comes together, and the beauty is there.”
This post made me think of that, and this tree I saw yesterday made me think of it as well. The backside of this tree was nothing splendid, but when I saw it from this side, it took my breath away–in a good way.
That’s what I imagine it will be like in Heaven–at least, for starters.