Love goes on
A couple weekends ago, we made a trip to see our family in North Dakota. Sadly, the reason for our trip to my sweetie’s childhood hometown was to say good-bye to our former brother-in-law. He had always been good to us and we wanted to be there to support the rest of our family. Since Reed is buried there, we knew we would go and tend to his grave. I would rather be spending money on some great adventure for what would be his college years, but instead we make sure that he has flowers and mementos to commemorate his life.
Neither reason for our road trip are ones that make me just giddy to get out of bed. Seeing our family – yes, dealing with another life gone – never. Tragic endings are rough on families. Of this, we are living proof. The journey is hard when “so long for now” comes much, MUCH sooner than we had expected. These thoughts swirled through my head with each wheel turn of the more than four hundred mile journey.
On the day of the service, I watched a morning news show where an interview with a mother-daughter author team caught my attention. The daughter shared about how her mother’s resilience in the face of difficult circumstances really shaped much of her life. She summed this up in one sentence and as an educator, my interest piqued, wanting to paint her words on all the walls in school.
“Failure is an event, not a definition.” ~Francesca Serritella
Trying to keep my emotions in check throughout the day, this thought continually swirled around in my head as we plunged forward through the tough stuff. I could numb my pain thinking of these words and how I might apply them to the doctorate courses I am taking. Then I thought, “Wait a minute! Teaching children to be resilient and persist when the going gets tough applies to when tragedy hits a family too!”
“Tragedy is an event, not a definition.” ~Kandy Noles Stevens
This has been my driving force since the day we woke up after the bus crash. This horrible, terrible event would not define our family. We weren’t sure how life would go on, but one thing was certain, love would. Our love for each other, including Reed, would endure and faith would carry us through all the tough stuff. Life wouldn’t always be pretty, but we weren’t going to allow sadness to be our forever garment. And through it all, God would be with us. That knowledge alone was more than enough.
When one defines tragedy as a moment in time, it becomes second nature to see that like the refiner’s fire life’s hardships shape and prioritize much of life. But the parts often unseen in the struggle are the unabashed moments of praise are wrapped up in unexpected glimpses of joy even when we are mired in the muck.
While I was understandably sad about the circumstances of our weekend, God still has joy in his repertoire. The first of which arrived in the form of a text from a young man, whom we have adopted through an “adopt a college student” program through our church. The e-mail was to tell us that our now “adopted granddaughter” had arrived.
The next moment of joy came when our nephew and his family stopped over and I finally got to hold our great nephew who has Reed as one of his middle names. Humbled, thankful and awed is the best way to describe how it felt to hold a little boy who has carries forward my sweet son’s name. A blessing greater than I had ever dreamed possible!
In both cases, the joy and the heavenly praise ascended were preceded by God’s unfathomable love for us. The same love that picked us when we weren’t sure if we would be able to do this hideous thing called grief. Every time the pain was overwhelming there would be some small God sighting that would remind us how incredibly loved we truly are. Even though Reed and Scotty were no longer with us, our love for them wouldn’t end. So it was on the long drive home from our not long enough visit.
My sweetie remembered a local casino always has an amazing fireworks show annually on July 3. Although a little bit out of our way, he rerouted our path home to take in the celebration. Part of his reasoning was to remember and honor, Scotty, who loved putting on fireworks shows for the kids each year. We tuned into the radio channel where patriotic music is timed to the lighted brilliance. We “ooh-ed” and “ah-ed” at the show, enjoying one American tune after another.
And then it happened, Reed’s absolute favorite song of all time, Toby Keith’s Courtesy of the Red, White, and Blue, began playing and this was the firework that went off exactly as it did. In my imagination I can only dream that maybe in some corner of heaven, Reed, Scotty, and Jesus said, “That ought to get their attention.”
Sure! Plenty will look at this and say it was purely coincidence. I know differently. A single moment of illuminated display over the windswept prairie was God’s way of reminding us that love can and indeed does go on.