Friday, September 3, 2010

Seventeen Years Ago Tomorrow

Just a little over an hour ago, the date on the calendar beckoned to me and for the first time in a long, long while I remembered the significance of tomorrow. I scribbled numbers on paper and quickly worked out the math to figure out how many years had passed because I no longer remembered. Seventeen. I didn’t realize it had been that long ago now.

Seventeen years ago tomorrow, also on a Saturday, I was a bride.

It’s all packed away in a box now … the scrapbook filled with photos, some dried flowers from my bouquet, the white dress, a napkin embossed with two names and a date, cards and letters that span the fourteen years of life shared together now held together by a rubberband. I’m saving those things, not because I need that connection to my past, but because my children need it. Someday they will want to see it and touch it and remember that it wasn’t always broken. They will want to know of the beginning of the story, just as they know the ending.

Just last week, the oldest one asked, “Momma … do you miss Daddy?”

How can that question possibly be answered? There is a flood of history there that I cannot, I will not explain to my child … certainly not now. Too much for his small soul to bear. Too much for him to carry right now … maybe ever. Children are meant to love their parents, not to harbor uncertainties about actions that played out into events difficult for even mature adults to understand.

Besides … the memories of that life have become faded. It’s become harder to recall. And the fact remains that I do not miss their father anymore.

What I miss are snapshots of time … snippets of happiness and laughter that are emblazoned upon my mind.

What I miss is not having achieved what I wanted ... for myself and for my children and for my children's children. The legacy of togetherness. The celebration of something golden in the distant future with my children and my grandchildren all around.

What I miss are the possibilities … the hope of what it could have been.

No one plans to fail, but failing to plan often leads to failure. Life somehow happens and our best intentions are swept away. I never thought the ending would turn out as it did, and sometimes the regrets are so strong that I fear I cannot stand against the rushing tide.

I've learned in the past four years that when the waves of pain and regret hit hard, to simply pause and thank God for His mercy in my life, for forgiveness He so graciously spreads all over me, for second chances to try again. And the longer I stand in acceptance of Christ’s forgiveness and mercy, neither of which I deserve, the stronger I become, the easier it is to stand tall, the less overwhelming the pain becomes.

In the beginning of the end, someone I love very much told me that soon it wouldn’t consume my thoughts every hour of the day. She said that there would come a night when I would crawl into bed, realizing that the brokenness of my marriage had not been my main thought that day. She said that eventually I would realize that I hadn’t even thought of it at all for several days or weeks in a row. I could only nod my head in response, so deep in my grief that I could not begin to imagine that would ever be true for me.

I realized just over an hour ago that day has arrived … tiptoeing in without any fanfare, so quietly that I never even noticed. The end has been completed and the next chapter of my life is being written, with new hopes and new dreams for a very different future than one I had previously imagined.

And yet, even as I embrace my present life and anticipate my future, my past can never truly be erased. There are certainly many regrets, but I do not regret the life I’ve lived.

Because of seventeen years ago tomorrow, I have three children.

Because of seventeen years ago tomorrow, I have friends all over the United States.

Because of seventeen years ago tomorrow, I have fourteen years worth of life experiences to my credit.

Because of seventeen years ago tomorrow, I am who I am today … a better woman in the end for having walked that road.

And I am grateful for seventeen years ago tomorrow and what that has meant to me.

She is clothed with strength and dignity, and she laughs without fear of the future. Proverbs 31:25