Tuesday, December 31, 2013

There but for the grace of God, go I

The year is coming to an end. In less than 7 hours, we’ll usher in 2014. At our house there will be a party with chocolate fondue for the teenage friends of our daughter, a traditional celebration. Another daughter has traveled to enjoy the evening with college friends. Our son has plans with his girlfriend. Since I'm down with a cold, my husband and I will watch movies here at home. A ball will drop in New York City come midnight and millions of people will make resolutions. 

No matter how they will mark the night, over the past few days I’ve seen several references to 2013 as a year people are happy to leave behind. “Forget the past year. Here’s to a pledge to make 2014 better!” is the common theme. But I’m having a little difficulty with that sentiment. Usually excited to make personal pledges and to “start fresh”, I have mixed feelings today.

The truth is, although we are richly blessed, the past three years have been incredibly challenging for our family. In 2011 our family’s sense of security was shaken by an unexpected outside force we had naively invited into our home and in the midst of that circumstance, our 16 year old dog Charlie died after suffering from dementia and seizures. It was hard to let go of our dear pet, but we knew we were so lucky to have had her as part of our lives for so long. A few months later, we found joy again when we adopted another pup, Ziva, a lovable, affectionate black lab. 

Then in 2012, while on vacation at camp, we learned Eric’s Mom was losing her battle with cancer. We came together as a family, meeting often at her home over the next few months. Barbara died two days before Thanksgiving, one day before our son Paul’s 13th birthday. It was, obviously, a sad time. The holidays were strange for us all. But as the ball dropped and 2013 began, I thought, “This next year will be a better year”. It certainly appeared to be going well over the winter months. Our first born Sydney was doing great as an RA at her university. In January, Eric and I brought Emma to New York to tour one of her prospective colleges. The next month Emma and I flew to North Carolina where we spent time at another school. It was thrilling to witness Emma narrowing her search for a college. Then in March, I was asked to take the leading role in a local community theater production. As summer approached, I was excited to share that experience with my parents who we were scheduled to visit with for our annual two-three weeks at camp. Emma graduated from high school in early June. A few days later, my world flipped upside down.

My 85 year old father had a massive heart attack on the morning of June 15th and within a few hours, he passed away. I’ve already written of how that affected me. To say my Dad was my hero is an understatement. In the past six months, I’ve grieved to the depths of my soul. The grief has been complicated by other factors. I have struggled but I have also held my head high, proud of the man my father was, secure in the love and the faith he raised me with, and determined to live my life with honesty and positivity.

Each individual life is touched with sorrow and joy. Mine is no different. The darker days help us better appreciate the brighter ones. The hardships offer us lessons and intensify the joys, the songs after the storms. I will always refuse to dwell in adversity. I choose hope. I choose service. I choose to see the light of the sun which continues to shine.

So, as the sun begins to set on 2013, I'll probably make a few resolutions. It's in my nature to set goals and to work diligently to achieve them. However, I refuse to forget this past year or any previous year. How could I and why would I want to?! Sure, there was pain, there was sadness, and there were trials I never saw coming. But I felt the love and the grace of God in everything that occurred. And there but for the grace of God, go I...into the year of 2014. 

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