I came to a fork in the road on July 24th, 2013. But first we must talk about the day before. July 23rd. July 23rd 2013 was the worst day of my life. On July 23rd I let myself cry and fall apart, and feel every bit of my pain deeply. I let myself feel as though life had come to an end and was broken beyond repair.
Then July 24th came. July 24th was the day I had a major decision to make. No, I'm not talking about the decision of funeral plans and all of the awful things I should never have had to make at the age of 31. I'm talking about the moment where I stood at the most daunting crossroads of my life.
I so clearly had a picture of my son as a teen. He was sitting and talking to his friends about his family life growing up. I saw two scenarios playing out.
The first one went something like this:
"Yes, my Dad died when I was young. From that moment on life changed. My Mom was never quite the same without him. It's understandable, I mean, she loved him so much. But she hasn't quite ever gotten through it. She's still sad a lot of the time and wishing things were different. It makes me sad too." The second conversation went a little something like this:
"Yes, my Dad died when I was young. From that moment on life changed. But my Mom? She was determined to keep our family moving forward and to find some kind of purpose in this. She did her best to make sure that everyone knows how amazing my Dad was. She's been through a lot, and she sure misses my Dad, but she's the strongest Mom I know."
I could vividly see either of those situations taking place. I knew it had to be one or the other. It wouldn't be a little of one mixed with a dash of the other. No. My family would travel one of those roads. Which one would it be? I knew the outcome rested solely on my shoulders. I knew on July 24th I was making decisions that would affect my family for possibly generations to come.
I saw one road where I stayed in the midst of my pain. It seemed the safer place and even in some way a small tribute to what I had lost. No one would fault me for traveling that road. But if I wasn't healthy, what would that mean for my son? If he grew up seeing a broken mother still hurting, and not moving forward, what affect would that have on his life? What affect would that have on his future? And the future of his family?
Then there's the other road. This one seemed far less safe. It seemed rockier and difficult to traverse. It lead to greater things but the terrain seemed nearly impossible to navigate. Could I even do it? What could be in store for my family if I chose to grieve in a healthy way? If I refused to let myself be defeated by my circumstances? If I consciously chose to rise above it all, literally carrying my little family on my back when necessary. What would that mean for my son? What affect would that have on his future? And the future of his family?
I was at a clear crossroads and I knew the choice was truly mine. How would I respond? Which way would I go?
On July 24th I made the decision to take the rocky path. I was determined to fight through the pain. I was determined to heal properly. I was determined my family would not become a statistic of lives ripped apart by tragedy never to be whole again. I was determined to fight for our future, cling to hope and stumble towards grace. This choice drives me every day. In everything I do.
Life is what it is and not everything is within our control. We certainly can't always control what happens to us. But we can control how we respond to it. In ways we are a product of where we came from. Our past can leave its mark. But our future is limitless. And the choice is in our hands. What decisions we make. Which way we go. What path we take.
The right road isn't always the safest. Certainly not always the easiest. Sometimes you move forward, against the fear, with your heart beating wildly. And in that moment, in your heart of hearts, you can clearly know- you're traveling in the right direction.