Well Friends! I would like to share with you a bit more about our journey through grief. This will be a look into both the ‘past’ of the grief and the ‘present.’
Last April we happened to be in Florida this exact week. A dear, dear friend of mine lived in the Keys during the winter and when she found out we were going to be in Florida, she asked if I would come down to Marathon Key and do a concert at their church. I took six months off after Chad died, and the concert in the Keys was my first concert ‘back.’ The concert was on April 6th, and it just so happened that April 7th marked the six month anniversary of Chad’s death.
At the concert that night, there was a very sweet man named Captain Jim who asked if we would all (there were eight of ‘us’ there) like to spend the next day out on his 52 foot yacht. Would we? My heavens! Those of us who live in Michigan RARELY (if ever) get the chance to spend a day out on the ocean in a yacht! Yes, yes, and again . . . yes!
You know . . . there are days along the way . . . on this journey I call grief . . . that are significant. Days that no matter how you look at them, or which direction you come at them, they are ‘big.’ The six month anniversary was one of those days. It represented a ‘half way’ point. Everyone would tell me that if we could just get through the first year . . . through all the firsts . . . that we would make it. Yet, there in that month, we were still facing such deep, deep grief. The pain was still SO relentless. It just felt like we would NEVER get to a year!
Now enter . . . the yacht! Monday morning, April 7th, 2008 . . . we all walked up the plank and onto our first taste of new . . . AND good! Oh, we had had a lot of new . . . but this day would be our first taste of new AND good mixed together. It would be a sign that someday we would be happy again. . . even without our beloved. It was our first look at laughing and making new memories . . . . GOOD memories. . . without our precious daddy. This day would be SUCH a blessing!
We spent most of the day out on the yacht. Captain Jim and his wife Jo were so gracious and hospitable. Others had joined us for the day, as well. But honestly – all I remember is me and my babies smiling and having the time of our lives!
I spent most of the day out on the bow of the boat (I hope that’s what it is called and how you spell it) with my sister, sister-in-law, best friend Hillary, and my Mime’s (the one who asked us to come down to sing.) We laid in the sun out there ALL day . . . and marveled at the unbelievable color of the water in the Keys. Captain Jim would anchor the boat along the way and we would jump in and swim around in the ocean. The kids all jumped off the boat from high atop the back deck (I think about a 15 foot jump.) We had a lovely lunch out on the water and spent some time driving through the canals and gawking at the mansions and the yachts.
We had to head back in according to the tide and if I recall correctly, we had to be in around 2:30 in the afternoon – or else we would have to stay out until evening. I will never forget as we were heading in . . . our trip about to end . . . someone spotted a family of dolphins off in the distance. Captain Jim whipped that boat around and off we went in the direction of the dolphins! It was two adults and a baby dolphin. Right there in the middle of all that water those dolphins danced around the yacht like they were putting on a show for us. It was absolutely thrilling! What a sight to see. Not the dolphins . . .the smiles on my children’s faces as their eyes danced with glee for the first time since their daddy died. What a precious gift from our Heavenly Father . . . and Chad!
Well, by the time Captain Jim headed back in through the channel – he was kickin’ up dirt in his prop the entire way. As we went through the channel we saw sting rays go flying through the water as the boat went by. We said our goodbyes and went on our way. Jim and Jo said that if we ever got back down their way to let them know and we would go back out on the yacht.
We went home to continue our journey through grief. You know, the ‘going home’ was always difficult. I will NEVER forget the first ‘going home.’ It was, may I be blunt? Hell! Going home knowing that Chad would never be there again was absolute Hell! I will never forget the second ‘going home.’ We had been in Nashville and when we got home it would be our first night in our house alone – just the kids and I. Again, Hell.
Well, this time was no different . . . except that we had had a taste . . . a small picture or glimpse into the fact that someday . . . eventually. . . we would laugh again and, yes, even be happy again. We had been given a window into someday. We had been given hope along our journey.
Now fast forward one whole year . . . When I got to thinking that we were going to be in Miami all this week it occurred to me that we wouldn’t be too far from Marathon and that maybe . . . just maybe we could see Captain Jim and Jo. I sent an e-mail and before I knew it the plans were all made. We drove down there (about 3 hours from where we are staying) Tuesday night . . . ironically . . . April 7th. The 18 month anniversary of Chad’s death. Yesterday, we spent the ENTIRE day out on the yacht. Once again . . . it was an absolutely delightful day. Fishing, swimming with the fish on a reef, snorkeling, and yes, once again . . . dolphins! This time not only did they dance for us – but they swam right with the boat! It was just wonderful.
It never ceases to amaze me how there are no strangers in the body of Christ. . . just family. Captain Jim and Jo are wonderful people (as well as the others who joined in for the day and are truly family, as well – we love you Gay Ann, Robin, and Kirsten!) who love the Lord and love people and will forever be near and dear friends of ours. We may only connect a couple times a year ~ but they are a highlight of our year and some of our favorite people in the world.
There was one major difference this year. While the day on the yacht was much the same as the year before . . . WE are not. You see ~ last year the family on that yacht was broken and wounded and limping along without the biggest part of their body . . . trying desperately to figure out how to walk on without that part. Last year ~ we had a small glimpse into the future . . . into happiness . . . into what life might someday be like.
This year . . . we are living ‘someday.’ We ARE happy. This year, we have learned how to stand on our own, NEW, two feet and what that looks like and what that feels like. This year we didn’t make a first memory . . . we continued along this journey called our healing process.
Oh, please don’t get me wrong . . . each and every day we miss Chad. There is not a day that goes by that we don’t think of him, talk about him, and dearly, dearly miss him. But the reality in our lives is that we HAD to heal. That broken, wounded family of April 7th, 2008 HAD to give way to the ‘living again’ family of April 8th, 2009. I am so thankful for our days on the yacht, for Captain Jim and Jo, and for time . . . which truly does take some of the sting out of grief.
If you are walking some sort of journey today that is long and painful – please rest in the fact that GOD IS FAITHFUL! He is so loving and kind and will give you ‘glimpses’ along your way. Please be looking for them! God is our healer . . . and while time really helps . . . God is the balm. Psalm 46:1 says, “God is our refuge and strength, always ready to help in times of trouble.”
Thank you, Father, for being my refuge and strength . . . and for yachting . . . times two!