What do you do when life hands you tragedy? What choice do you have but to move on one day at a time? Not because you want to, but because you have to. Life's clock doesn't stop ticking. For many of us, moving on is the most difficult thing to do. We have to process what has happened, try our best to make sense of it, dig deep into the pain, allow ourselves to truly feel it and acknowledge it. Then there is grief, which can move you forward, but also backwards. Every person is different in how they process grief and how long it takes. At some point, you come to terms with the fact that this is not the life you would have chosen, but you are going to move forward anyway.
May 2012, we moved out of our house in Georgia (our last duty station) to move back to Texas. Driving from Georgia to Texas took 16 hours, which gave me plenty of time to reflect on the past five years. Georgia is where Aaron was paralyzed and so many bad events took place. It seemed like everyplace I drove past or saw was a trigger, and reminded me of the bad. I wanted out of this nightmare that was called our life. I felt like I was stuck in limbo and couldn't focus on anything except the negative. When it looked like something good was going to happen for us, I'd be waiting for it to fall apart and disappoint us yet again. This did happen a lot, but there was also plenty of good mixed in. I just had a hard time focusing on it.
Then something happened. I turned a corner in the way I thought about things. I don't remember when it happened and it wasn't an "aha" moment. I simply started to look at life in a different way. I saw the good in people again. I started to trust. I started wanting to make a difference for someone else following behind me and I wanted to dream about the future again. It became a willful choice to focus on the future and what I wanted that to look like. I had to practice gratitude and I had a lot to be grateful for. For so long I couldn't the good, no matter how hard I tried. Grief had blanketed everything in my life. As my friend Jessica puts it, I was in the dark and then someone handed me a flashlight.
A new chapter was beginning for us. We bought our dream property that we'd been saving to buy for over twenty years. We named it Lost Creek Ranch, years before we even knew it existed. As I walked through the house, after only seeing it the one time while house hunting, I was like a child again. I saw things I didn't remember looking at six weeks prior. House hunting and looking at so many houses makes all the houses start to blur together. I hadn't noticed that there were built-ins in the master walk-in closet or ceiling fans throughout. I forgot about the beautiful view looking out onto the pond, the large trees surrounding the property and the quiet of living away from the city. I focused on the positives.
Then I took a moment to stand and look out across the property and say thanks to God. I said a thank you for allowing me to heal, allowing me to see the good again and all the gifts I have in my life. I don't ever want to lose that gratitude again. Life was bleak without it and where I am now is a much better place.