“Weep deeply over the life that you hoped would be. Grieve the losses. Feel the pain. Then wash your face, trust God, and embrace the life that he’s given you.”
All the volunteers from church had cleaned up and gone home. The sun was setting. This was the last day for everyone to come and work on the memory garden.
She walked around it, touched the statues and stone work. Traced with her fingers the names of her husband and son etched into the monuments. Even though they were buried several states away, her tribute to them was here. Their words and names etched in stone, trees in their memory, a fountain and flowering bushes. There was also a stone with the names of her parents. Her tribute to their lives. Her memory of love lost.
She looked over at the stone in memory of Ben’s brother with his name on it. Someone she had never met.
Then the tears came, heavy with wracking sobs. This was not what she expected from life. To be left alone. This is not what she asked for. This was not what she wanted.
The sun was completely gone. The chill in the air felt appropriate.
The tears slowed, the sobbing quieter. She was spent. Empty.
Everything was quiet.
Sitting there, completely alone, she didn’t feel lonely. She felt a warm presence with her. She felt peaceful.
No, this was not what she hoped for, not what she planned, but she knew she would survive.
One foot in front of the other. One step, one day at a time.
She could rewrite a different ending. She could create a different path. Just like the renovation of the barn, repurposed for something new.
Anna sat on the back porch swing with the letter from the doctor in her hand.
The test result said that abnormal cells were detected and further testing was needed.
She smiled to herself and felt inexplicable peace.
Maybe this was the beginning of the end. Maybe it wasn’t.
Whatever the future held, she was content to be in this moment. Content and fulfilled with where her life was right now, the life she had crafted out of the rubble of the past.
As she glided back and forth, she heard the voices and laughter of Ben’s kids running and playing. It was a balm to her soul.
On the refrigerator were pages that they had colored for her.
On the table were wildflowers they had picked for her.
Cooling on the counter were three pies she had just pulled out of the oven.
Seventeen expected at the big house for supper tonight. Since there was still some lemon cake leftover from last night, three pies would be enough.
She breathed gratitude for the changes in her life in the past seven years.
She was thankful to be living in community. She was thankful for meaningful work, for a chance to invest in eternity. She was thankful for the joy that three happy, healthy kids brought into her life.
She loved looking at the renovated barn and the memories of the gatherings it had hosted so far.
She loved looking at the Missionary Care Center: The stone walls, the slate roof, the cornerstone with immortal words engraved to stand the test of time.
She loved hearing the dull roar of ATVs racing through the distant fields.
She looked over at the memory garden.
That’s what she loved the most.
And, yet, this peace.
Knowing that reunion awaited.
Still content. Right here. Right now.
Anna’s story is not meant to be a literary masterpiece.
It’s written as an encouragement for the discouraged.
We transcend our own life for a brief moment and walk with fictional characters in their journey. We temporarily forget who we are and live vicariously through them.
After they conquer their dragons and descend from the mountain victorious, we return to our own lives.
But we bring their courage with us.
That’s the power of story.
When Katherine Patterson was asked if her work of fiction were true,answered, “It was meant to be.”
Because every discerning reader knows whether or not a story rings true. Whether or not it resonates deeply in their soul.
We were made for story.
We’re living it out.
And although I believe in an Author who is writing history, I also believe He gives us the freedom to choose how our story will play out.
I believe we can re-write the ending the way Anna did.
We are not stuck. Just because we’re up against a roadblock does not mean we’re at the end of the road.
At that point, though, our biggest need is hope.
That’s what I want Anna’s story to be for you. Your ray of hope.
The pain is what we identify with, but it’s also the hope.
The desire to build something, to put down roots and build a memorial to someone’s life. It’s the deep rooted desire we have to make our life count. To have a meaningful purpose and to live in community.