New Year’s Day, 2011.
Here it Utah it is a brisk 11 degrees. The sun is shining brightly, and the snow covering everything sparkles so piercingly I have to squint my eyes to look at it.
What are you feeling this New Year’s Day?
Is it excitement to get going on the changes you want to implement?
Do you feel hope that maybe this year will be better than last?
Or are you feeling dread, wondering what new catastrophe might befall you this year?
My husband Marty drowned on January 14th. I remember the first year after he died, as January approached, I wanted to stop time. I didn’t want to have to live through that month, that day, that hour again. I didn’t know what to do on that day. Only a few of my seven children were living at home, and it was still awkward talking about their Dad, so I hadn’t asked them what they wanted to do, and every time I thought about that day I wished I could just skip it.
Finally, the evening of the 13th, I asked,
“What do you want to do tomorrow?”
“I don’t know. Nothing. “
I waited for another response.
“I want to go out to Dad’s grave.”
I’d been dreading that answer. I didn’t like going out there. To me it was only a place that brought up memories I didn’t care to review.
One of my children from out of town called.
“Mom, can we all go out to the grave together tomorrow?”
So, it was decided. All of the children living near enough to go would go. My youngest went only because the siblings talked her into going, and promised her she didn’t have to get out of the car.
She didn’t. The rest of us took blankets and bundled up against the bitter wind and walked up the snowy hill to the place where Marty was buried next to my Dad and my infant brother. It took awhile to brush away the snow and find the exact spot.
Nobody said anything. The children huddled together, wrapped in blankets, and looked down at the marker. I noticed muffled sobs from one child; others just had tears running down their cheeks.
My oldest son finally broke the silence.
“He brought a lot of good into our lives. I miss him.” Heads nodded, and I heard a few more sobs and sniffles.
I couldn’t say anything. My son put his arm around my shoulders and held me tightly.
After a few more moments I could hardly stand to be there any longer, and I asked quietly, “Are you ready to go?”
One by one they turned and began walking back towards the car. When we got back, the child that had stayed in the car looked down, not wanting to make eye contact. We piled in, started the car and got the heater blowing at full force to thaw the frozen fingers and toes, and drove for a few minutes in silence.
“We should do something today. Like go out to eat,” one daughter suggested. Wanting to lighten the mood, I quickly agreed, and asked for everyone’s input on where we should go.
We settled on a place, went home and changed and drove to the restaurant.
It went pretty well. Not too many awkward silences; some joking and laughter, and by the end, the old good feeling of being together was back.
For a few years, we re-played a similar scenario. I always dreaded the day because I didn’t like that awkward start, and the trip to the cemetery was always unpleasant to me.
After a few years, I made a proposal: How about instead of gathering on the day he died, how about we do something on his birthday? Then we are celebrating his life and the good that came from it, not commemorating a day we would all like to forget.
It was agreed, and we made the change.
I now don’t dread January. I look at it as a time to make a fresh start, a time to re-evaluate where I am and to set my sights a little higher, and to feel the excitement of moving toward goals that I am anxious to reach.
Yes, on January 14th I still feel that little twinge in my heart – the wish that things could be different – but I trust the saying “When God closes a door, He always opens a window.” And on January first, the sun shining through that window looks warm and safe and inviting.
I feel God inviting me to remember that others have lived through terrible disappointment and tragedy – and have found peace, and purpose, and joy once again as they moved on. He promises each of us that no matter what we’ve been through, He will heal us as we turn to Him. He will be with us and help us find our purpose. He will give us strength when ours is spent, and He will hold our burdens when they get too heavy. He is calling us to move on – with Him.
And so I’m moving on. This day, January 1st, is just one more new beginning; one more chance to feel that ‘fresh start’ feeling, and to know that, with Him, I can do a little better this year, and I can find more peace, and that there is good waiting ahead.
I am learning that no matter what has happened in the past, I can determine how I
will face the future. Will it be with dread? Or will it be with hope, and faith, and even excitement for what the future holds?
I pray that on this January 1st you will find comfort, and courage, and renewed hope!
With all my heart, I wish you a truly Happy New Year!
To your healing and happiness,