I want to share with you a letter that I wrote for my brother-in-law last year. He was preparing a Thanksgiving sermon to deliver at his church and wanted stories about being thankful through the difficult times and even for the difficult times.
A major driver for embarking on this full time RV life of adventure was the loss of our younger son. A disruptive life event like that forces you to re-examine everything in your life, including priorities and goals. It changed my perspective forever. Here’s the letter from a year ago:
For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future. (Jeremiah 29:11 NIV) I’ve always known that God’s compassionate hand was weaving my life’s tapestry. I’ve experienced too many unexpected twists and seemingly random “coincidences” that served to put me just where I needed to be. Some of those unexpected twists and turns seemed terrible at that moment, and it’s only by looking back at the pattern over time that I can see how those difficult experiences ultimately served my greater good. Like the time I was on the verge of losing my job, but then an opportunity for a much better one just fell into my lap. That new job lasted 25 years and provided handsomely for my family. Or the time I fell in love with a beautiful brand new house, but we just couldn’t quite swing it financially, and then someone else contracted to buy it. However, that sale on the house fell through, the developer instead used it as a model and office, and two years later when our finances had improved, we were able to purchase that very same, never-lived-in house at a discount during the developer’s close out sale. It was our beautiful home for 20 years. June 7, 2012, the worst day of my life, began like any other day. My husband and I went off to work. Our older son was away at college. Having just finished high school, our younger son, Nathan, was enjoying a few days of summer freedom before starting classes at the local community college. As usual, he had unspecified plans with friends. My mind was full of the minutiae of work, chores and dinner - until we received the phone call. There had been an accident and we needed to come to the hospital right away. It’s all a blur now – the frantic drive to the hospital, interminable wait in the waiting room, being taken back to a private room where a sad-eyed doctor said “I’m so sorry … we did all that we could”. Our son, my baby, was dead. What do you do when the unthinkable occurs? Initially, you just keep breathing, and do the next thing that must be done. Nathan’s death also meant the death of the hopes and dreams and future we had planned for him. We had to re-frame our entire lives around his absence. Despite it all I knew, even then, that somehow this was God’s plan for Nathan’s life. He got to experience all of the delights and frustrations of childhood, without having to go through the trials and disappointments of adulthood. Not a bad deal, really. So at this time of year when we especially focus on giving thanks, what do I give thanks for? I am thankful for the time that we had our son. Friends of mine recently lost a child just days after birth. I got Nathan for 18 whole years. I got to experience Christmas’s and Halloweens, first days of school, soccer games, and band concerts. We baked cookies, battled over homework and his messy room, laughed together and had adventures. I saw him grow from adorable baby, through terrible twos and turbulent teens, into a caring, sensitive young man starting to find his place in the world. Shortly before he died, Nathan told us that his friends voted and we won for “coolest parents”. How many parents of teenagers get to hear that? Nathan knew we loved him, and we knew he loved us. There was nothing left unsaid, no regrets. I am thankful for the incredible outpouring of love and support we experienced in the days and weeks following Nathan’s death. Our family, friends, coworkers and church family just surrounded us and lifted us up during those initial days of shock and grief. Their support and understanding helped, more than they can know. Now, knowing just how much that support means, I try to reach out to others who grieve. I can offer the perspective of someone who’s “been there” and gotten through it. I am thankful for the healing gift that time brings. It has been more than 5 years since that terrible day. It takes time to re-define your life after a major disruption. Gradually, we have been able to adjust and make new plans - wonderfully exciting plans - for an early-retirement adventure, living and traveling full time in a motor home. Had Nathan lived, we would still be helping and supporting him financially, and would never have been able to follow our dream this soon. I would happily delay our plans if I could have Nathan back. But I can’t. This was part of God’s plan for our life and we intend to fully embrace the adventure. We leave just after Thanksgiving. Most of all, I am thankful for God’s gift of eternal life. I have not “lost” Nathan, he is not gone – just transitioned back to the Spirit form, our true form. We are all Spiritual beings having a human experience. I often feel Nathan’s presence and I know that he hangs out with me. We can still be together, just not in the same way. Our physical separation is painful, but it is only temporary. One day, I’ll transition from this physical body and we’ll be truly together again. There will be lots of hugs! In the meantime, I choose to make the most of this life that God has granted me.
I am grateful that we are blessed with the financial means to take this incredible journey. I am grateful for our robust health, which allows us to take full advantage of this grand adventure. I am grateful for the family and friends that encourage and support us. I am grateful to Almighty God for His guidance and His Angels that protect us. We are incredibly blessed.
Happy Thanksgiving to all!