My granddaughter, Lauren, read me a story this morning, about the devastating tornado of 2011 that struck Joplin, Missouri. “The Evil Swirling Darkness” is a narrative of a family that lived through that twister. One of the three children was on the way home with his Aunt, Uncle and cousin when it hit. The truck they were driving in was badly damaged, and their home was completely destroyed, but they made it though the deadliest tornado that our country had seen in sixty years. In spite of the fact that the entire family survived, I’m sure that life has never been quite the same for them. The recognition of “what could have been lost” probably dances through their minds everyday. I suppose that, for them, the “little things” became the really big things. I cried because I can’t imagine not knowing if my children or grandchildren were safe. The emotion was so powerful that I had to sit with God for a few moments just to pull myself together.
There are things that are “the big moments”: births, weddings, graduations, birthday parties, trips, celebrations, holidays. Those tend to be days or events that we plan and spend a lot of energy (and sometimes money) on trying to “get right”. I’ve often heard people say that they invested so much time planning something that when they finally got there, they were so exhausted or worried that they didn’t enjoy it. The “moments of the experience” were lost in the planning of it. Last year when my daughter, Erin, created a vacation for us in Italy, we did a LOT of planning. In spite of that we had language barriers that we didn’t prepare enough for, and more than our share of times when we were lost. Nonetheless, we walked away with memories that we’ll always have with us and, now that we can laugh about it, an adventure that we shared together, through “thick and thin”.
Larry and I took Lauren to Manhattan this past weekend to celebrate her tenth birthday. We’ll do the same thing when Ethan turns ten in a year-and-a-half. It’s a plan I’ve had for years, but I can’t take credit for it. Two of my friends also give their grandchildren “experiences” for milestone birthdays. I love that. There are so many “things” in our lives that take so much time away from being in the moment. Too many of us have lost the joy of “life together” because it’s been replaced with possessions that keep us busy. In contrast, spending time together talking, exploring, learning and laughing creates memories that build a life of love, a life filled with what really matters.
We took the bus to the city and, while we were on the road, talked about what we would do and see. Lauren smiles a lot. She radiates joy in a way that I’ve rarely seen, and that makes her so much fun to be with. We checked into the hotel and began the adventure. One of our first stops was a restaurant where she was sprinkled with “pixy dust” and wore fairy wings while we ate lunch. Seeing her sheer joy at the simple things, not just the “big” things, makes me so happy. She texted her Mom regularly because she wanted to share with her the experience she was having. She danced in the water in Central Park and fell in love with a horse named “Harry” who took us on a carriage ride. These pre-teen moments will pass too quickly whether I like it or not. I want to make time for them now.
Yesterday, we took a ferry ride to see The Statue of Liberty. I looked at that statue with awe and respect for all that’s been sacrificed for our freedom. As we sailed past the hallowed ground where the twin towers once stood, I thought about those who died as a result of the September 11 attacks. I remembered where I was on that day, fourteen years ago. I recognized how darned much I take for granted everyday; how many “moments” I let slip through my hands.
Lauren chose to spend the last hour of her trip taking over a hundred photos in the Lego store because she just knew that her brother, Ethan, would love to see these. Even in her short trip, she thought a lot about him. We laughed in the bus on the way home and laughed even harder once we were in our own car. We pretended that Larry was our taxi driver and we used our “New York voices” to ask questions like “why aren’t there any tall buildings here?” and “why is it SO quiet?” We crammed a lot of living and laughter into those sixty hours.
I want to hold on to each moment, just like I wanted to with Sara and Erin and just like I will with Ethan. I want to freeze-frame each second. I want to memorize each time she reached for my hand or smiled or laughed or was in awe.
I love to hear my grandchildren tell me stories, about school, about soccer, about friends, about life. I love questions, even the ones I can’t’ answer or have to figure out HOW to answer. It reminds me of when Sara and Erin were little. Almost four decades have passed since I became a mother, and those years seem to have flown by in a heartbeat. A few weeks ago, Sara and I watched the movie, “The Second Best Exotic Marigold Hotel”. It was a beautiful film, but also a bit sad, because it was about folks entering the twilight years of their lives, facing the certainty of not much time left. For all of us, time will be gone in a “blink of an eye”. There are no “do overs”. This is it- this moment in which I write to tell you my stories of love and pain, of hope and failing, of faith and falling down, and of laughter, peace and joy.
As I write this, I think of how blessed I am to have had this past weekend with my husband and granddaughter. I think about how fragile and fleeting life is. I think about holding Lauren’s small hand in mine as we walk down the street. These are the moments that I hope stay etched in my mind forever.
I am so grateful.
I am so blessed to walk this life.
Thank you God for all I have. Thank you for the family I love so much, for the chance to experience life, for the tears that spill down my cheeks, as I write this, because my heart is so filled up.
Making time for what matters most. That’s really all we have, isn’t it?
©2015 Peace Full Home
p.s. from “The Checklist from Z to A”: #27. Learn to forgive; especially yourself…..