I have learned hard lessons. Lessons that have given me benchmarks that guide my life.
I remember the Christmas during my divorce that I sat alone in an apartment eating a bag of Hershey Kisses and watching the clock tick. I was certain I wouldn’t survive the day. I did.
I learned that loneliness can be hurtful, harmful, and healing. I had a new benchmark to help me understand that I could survive being alone.
There was a time when I was driving an hour commute to work on treacherous roads, working too many hours, worrying about contracts, profit and loss statements, and stressed to an extreme level. Then, my dad was diagnosed with a terminal illness. In a short period of time, he disappeared before my eyes. I was holding his hand and rubbing his head as he passed. In that second the contracts, the commute, the work worries seemed of such little importance. I was holding my dad’s hand and rubbing his head as he left this life- that was important. That was a benchmark to help me keep in perspective the big from the small things in life.
I changed a few things after that and thought I had my priorities straight. And then, a phone call brought me to my knees telling me my 22-year-old-son had died.
You can read about the stages of grief, but that does not guard you against the reality of it. I was on the ground in a dirty, ugly space of hopeless helpless grief. I wanted my little cowboy back. I wanted to see him when he was two years old wearing his hat, chaps, and boots, perched on his bouncy horse as he watched the “Three Amigos” movie. I wanted my baseball player back that could hit home runs every time he was up to bat and then danced around the bases because to him it was all about having fun. I wanted the schoolboy back with his huge smile wearing his favorite t-shirt that had a picture of a can of spam on the front. I wanted my musician back who filled my home with the vibration of his drums and could hear a song once and play it on his guitar. I wanted, “J.T. and the Basement Boys,” back in my basement driving me crazy with the musical noise. I wanted to see his smile when I handed him the keys to his truck. I wanted to hear him sing to his baby girl. I wanted to feel his beard brush next to my face and feel his hugs.
At his funeral, I thought I would die. I wanted to die.
Gratitude saved me.
Being grateful for the gift of him in my life, being grateful for the years he was with me, being grateful that I got to be his mom and no one else could say that - saved me.
Standing in front of an oak box that held my child, with his guitar silently perched on the floor next to it, created an unmovable, unbreakable benchmark made of granite that I will carry forever. I survived the most unthinkable, unimaginable, pain a mom can bear and I am still standing.
I have been through a lot in my life. We all have. I hear others complain about their life, their jobs, and their kids. I see the challenges and craziness in our world. I witness the hate and anger that causes people to do terrible things.
I see the other side. The side we should all look at. The side where we should be grateful for life – the good and not so good. The experiences, the joys, and the sadness.
My benchmark of comparison is rock solid. Nothing can hurt as deeply as the loss of my child. I know what is big and what is small to worry about. I know what to be grateful for.
And I will continue standing.
I believe we all will.
Pennie’s Life Lesson: “Watch for benchmarks when they are given to you and allow gratitude to guide your life.”
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There is a certain magic about where I live both physically and spiritually – on the crossroads of Spirit and Brave.
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