This past weekend, the girls and I used our Christmas presents and went to Dollywood. We all had season passes and since it was a holiday weekend, we figured it was the best thing to do. We had a great time! It was our second trip with just the three of us. We spent the entire weekend together and never saw one person that we knew. It was kind of odd…we always see at least one person that we know in the mountains!!
On Saturday I stood in line with Maggie and Linnie at the Fire Chaser Express. This ride is dedicated to the firemen (a strange coincidence…) of Sevier County, TN. As I stood in line, I absently clicked onto Facebook to pass the time. That’s when I saw my friend Miranda’s post. She was letting everyone know that her awesome husband had gone to Heaven early that morning. The tears rolled down my face in waves as I read her status. My heart broke for her in a million ways. The girls saw my tears and asked me what was the matter. I told them about Michael and that he was now in Heaven with their Daddy. We all just stood there and cried, because we knew all to well how much pain Miranda and her girls were in at that moment. I just tried really hard not to ugly cry…the poor people next to us just tried their best to not stare at the three of us crying our eyes out. I immediately sent Miranda a text and said a prayer for peace to invade all of their hearts.
Miranda and I had talked many times over the last few weeks. We both knew that this day was coming. We both realized that we would be kindred spirits knit together in this blanket of grief for the rest of our lives. We knew it was gonna happen in our minds…but nothing prepares your heart for when it actually does happen.
The next day we made it a point to be at church inside the park. Dolly Parton had the most amazing idea ever when she decided to put a real church inside of her amusement park. It is open to everyone each Sunday all year long. The little wooden structure is perfect. There are long wooden pews with song books and Bibles scattered across the tops. People pack in and even fill the choir loft so that more people can fit inside.
Mrs. Rose is the song leader. She has worked at Dollywood for 31 years…and she has lead the singing at that little church for the past 20 years. It was a blessing for me to sit there and sing with people from all over creation. I am sure Mrs. Rose thinks it is a blessing as well!
On this particular day the regular minister was away, so Bro. Mark filled in for him. I have heard Bro. Mark speak on several occasions over the years and he always has a great message. One thing that makes him so great is that he is a Kindergarten teacher! Bro. Mark is in his late 50’s I would say and he is wonderful! Think Mr. Rogers’ Neighborhood…so kind, so smart, and so understanding! His messages are always clear and easy to understand with a good dose of humor thrown in here and there. This week his message was entitled, “A Passionless Life is a Living Death”.
Bro. Mark said that living without passion…every day…is not really living. He encouraged all of us to live a life worth sharing. When he said, “It is not what happens to you…it is what happens when what happens to you happens” I was dumbfounded! He is so right!! God did not put us here to just go through the motions…he put us here to LIVE. But how are we supposed to live when our worst nightmares come true? His answer: Live FORWARD!
When we spend our life looking back, we loose sight of the possibilities of what is ahead. There is a purpose and a meaning for our past. We can learn from it. We can cherish it or we can hate it. Either way, the only reason to ever look back on it for more than a few moments is to learn from it. That’s the only reason to ever look back. We shouldn’t look back hoping to have what was…we should look back to learn what we want and need in the future. Isn’t that an awesome truth?
He used an example from the movie City Slickers. In the movie all of the characters tell about their best and worst days. Each person goes through his best day…and why. Then, each person tells about their worst day…and why. Bro. Mark challenged us to do the same thing. So, I did.
I looked back on that Sunday nearly one year ago, and I realized that my worst fear came true. I lost the one man I had ever loved with all of my heart. I couldn’t imagine living my life without him before that day. I would have to say that September 20, 2015 was the worst day of my life. Miranda might say that September 3, 2016 was the worst day of her life (she hasn’t, but she could I guess). I could also say that December 21, 2001 was the worst day of my life. That’s the day Dr. Jim took my 13-week old baby out of my tummy and we had to leave his (I always believed it was a boy) tiny body at the hospital. I will never forget how Greg wept as he drove us home that day without our baby.
The best day would have been January 9, 1999. Or, maybe it was July 9, 1999? Maybe it was May 18, 2006. No, that was probably the worst day….nope the best…uh…I’m really not sure. Both maybe? Or, maybe it was July 17, 2007. All of those days turned out pretty good actually.
Do you get where I’m going here? Looking back has taught me many, many lessons about life. I’ve learned to live, love, and learn from my past. But, I can’t stay in the past. I can only look back occasionally and learn from what I see. Living…truly living…happens now. Today…and every today that is to come in the future. The thing is…how am I gonna live those days?
I’ve tried real hard to live them sad. Trust me! I’ve done my dang-dest to mope and cry my way through more of them than I care to admit. Why? What did I get out of choosing to let those emotions rule me? Well, for one thing I was able to grieve. I have loved…and I have lost. How many people can truly say that? I was a lucky one. Miranda was lucky too.
Looking back helped me to deal with the huge loss that was my life. I’m still not sure what to do with myself most of the time, but I do know one thing for sure: I want to live a passionate life! I don’t want to miss a thing if I can help it!
I want to experience everything I possibly can! I want to see things that my mind can’t comprehend! I want to travel…and travel….and travel! I want to push myself past my comfort zone! I want to stretch the limits of what I am capable of doing! I want to make a difference in someone else’s life! I want to truly…honestly…deeply…passionately…LIVE!
It is a choice and it is not always an easy choice. Life itself is HARD. There are days that I swear are gonna kill me, but guess what? When I lay down at night…so far at least….I have always woken up the next morning. Do you know what that means? God is not finished with me yet. He has something He wants me to do. He has something He wants you to do as well. Don’t waste your life. Don’t live everyday looking back! Choose to look forward…and only look back when you need to learn something about yourself. Be glad and thankful for your past…all of it. Then, straighten your shoulders and charge forward.
God made us with a desire to learn. He gave us a sense of curiosity and longing to know more. His Word tells us that “if we delight ourselves in the Lord, He will give us the desires of our heart”. How awesome is that?!
Today was a sad day for my sweet friend and her two little girls. It was a sad day for a small town who lost a great man…a great police officer…a great husband…a great father…a great friend. My heart breaks for my friend who is now walking along this road with me. It is time to mourn…and weep. It is time to be sad and wish that things were different….but they can’t stay that way forever. We must all decide once and for all to live lives that are full of passion and joy. I know Greg did that…Michael did that too. They finished their race…now it is up to the rest of us to pick up the pieces where they left off. We can’t live in the past, but we can learn from what they taught us.
Michael and Greg left legacies behind that few men can match. They made a difference in the world around them. They stood for what they believed and they didn’t back down when things got tough. They were both Godly men who were humble and kind. They loved their wives more than life itself. They spoiled their two little girls rotten and set the bar extremely high in the best daddy category. They were fine, Christian men who left this world entirely too soon. Yet, God had a plan for those two boys. He has a plan for all of the girls they left behind as well.
Today, my resolve to live a life full of fun and excitement was strengthened. I watched my sweet friend stand beside her man for the last time. I felt her sorrow and her hurt. I know how deep the hole is in her soul. I understand…but I won’t let her give up on life. Together she and I will face the rest of our lives head on. Pray for us. Pray for our girls. Pray for the lives affected by our losses. We can’t change were we are, but we can change our future. We can choose to live…and by doing so I truly believe we are making a difference. Time here is short, but oh so sweet!
Our lives will never, ever be the same…and that’s ok. I can only speak for myself, but I know that I don’t want “the same” anymore. I just want LIFE…abundant LIFE full of passion and living. I want to choose joy instead of sadness. I want to grow strong mentally, physically, spiritually, and emotionally. I want to go where I never dreamed I could go. I want to smile my real smile once again. Then, when it comes my time to leave I hope people will say: She truly lived until she died.