Today is the last day of the year.
Today I bear absolutely no resemblance to the woman who started the year. None what so ever. On the surface I may appear the same, but there is not a single part of me that has not been altered in one way or another. You know, for years I have ended the year saying "Thank heavens that is over. Next year cannot be as difficult / bad / challenging etc etc". I have posted about this before, and about how my daughter pulled me up short and said that bad things will always happen, and that it is how we respond to them that is the point. Wise child.
Last year, though, my prayer was simply that no matter what life threw at me, I wanted to retain the ability to smile, and to find something to laugh about. Such a simple wish. I thought. 2006 has been a doozie. A mega-doozie. And there have been times when even smiling has required herculean efforts. My head has been exploding. And I have learnt that just getting through one day at a time is the only possible way to do it. It is not all about me, and it never has been. It is about all the people who surround me, who love me, about the strength of my family, and the strength of my faith.
None of us are islands. We all live in community. With family, friends, neighbours, colleagues, and even strangers. We are supposed to be accountable. We are supposed to be there for the hard times and the good. For the tears and the laughter. For the memories and the disasters. The unthinkable does happen, and it is how we cope with it that counts. I have learned things I would rather not have had to learn. I have discovered things that have hurt me. I have watched as some take a step towards you and some take a step away. I know what a feeling of isolation is like. I have learnt more about fear and anger and frustration, and alone-ness, and responsibility, and worry and pain and guilt than I thought anyone should know. And I have learned more too about love and empathy and determination and sacrifice and faith.
I have watched my three wonderful children grow up over night. I have seen the gentling of their spirit, and the maturity and acceptance of responsibility that loss brings. I have heard them say the words that sometimes we forget to say. I have seen them step up and stand alongside me. How great a gift is that. I am very blessed. And I have made the time to walk with them, talk with them and listen to them that perhaps might not have happened as much before.
I have learned to stifle impatience, and strive for grace and dignity. I have learned that I am not invincible after all, and that trying to do everything is simply not possible. Tears are ok. It is fine to cry. I have leared how hard it is when you have no idea what to do. I have had to learn how to trust. I have learned that sleep is an optional extra at times, and I have learned to say that I need time and space for myself without feeling guilty. I have also learned that my brain's capacity for learning is just fine. I know more about cardiothoracic medicine than any layman should know.
After 31 years as a stay at home Mum with 3 children, and a mother to look after, I have learned that I can get a full time job, and do it well. I am enough. Good enough. I can adapt. I can change. I can learn. Isn't that what life is all about? Change, growth and development? What I want and what I need are two separate things. I have what I need. What I really want is irrelevant. For 6 months, we have lived largely on faith. God has been good. Amazingly good. Maybe I needed to be tossed out of the boat, so that I would have to walk on the water in faith.
So how do I sum up 2006? A year of shock, sadness, pain and loss? Or a year of astounding growth and change? A year of memories and reflection? A year of financial chaos? A year of hope or bewilderment? A year that marked a turning point in all our lives? A year of development and discovery? All of them apply. Maybe to describe 2006 as a seismic year in my family's life would be most accurate.
On the 7th January, it will be just 6 months since Geoff died. 6 months is just 24 weeks really. Weeks. Just weeks. Heaven knows when the inquest will be and there is so much still to be sorted. My family is scattered across the world, and so, of course, is my heart. But I am looking back, and I am smiling, because we are creeping forwards, not marking time, not going backwards. I am proud of me. I am proud of my children. I think Geoff would be too. I have the most amazing sister in the world, and a Mum who is like a rock. I am eternally thankful for a loving community of friends and family who have made absolutely certain that we are not alone.
So here I am. A little battered and bashed. But my eyes are not on the mountains ahead, but on the God who loves me just as I am, and whose faith in me and plans for me are unlimited. And who makes those mountains just disappear. I am blessed.