Yesterday morning on my way to work, I saw a man driving a white Buick Park Avenue. I know that seems like a completely normal event, but for me, it triggered a memory. The man driving the car wore a baseball cap. I couldn’t see his face, but it wouldn’t have mattered, because the image was already in my head, of my dad, Allen Spencer driving around in my parents Buick Park Avenue. It was their idea of a luxury car. They wanted one they could be comfortable in, when they went on vacations. The Buick Park Avenue fit the bill perfectly. Mom and Dad loved that car. When they pulled the trailer all the time, of course, they used the Suburban, but when it was just the two of them and maybe a few more, they really enjoyed the comfort of the Buick.
When I saw that Buick yesterday, I felt a twinge of sadness, but still I had to smile, because in my mind, I saw my dad…healthy, happy, and just enjoying the drive. You see, my parents loved to just go for a drive. It didn’t have to be going to anywhere, because it wasn’t always about the destination. It was about the journey. Sometimes in the evenings, when we were kids, we would all load up into the car and Dad would take us for a ride. We always ended up someplace where we could see the whole city. We had dubbed it the jewelry box, and as little girls, we could imagine that all the lights were diamond necklaces, and other jewels glistening in the sunlight…even if it did have to be dark to see it. It was never about where we went though, because it was just the whole family together going for that drive. Driving was a pleasure my parents never got tired of. Even when they no longer drove, they wanted to take a drive. My sister, Cheryl Masterson often took them on those drives…a memory she will always cherish.
As I drove on to work, I felt a mix of happiness and sadness, because of the man in the white Buick Park Avenue. Happy, because it was such a sweet memory of my dad, and sad, because I miss him and my mom so much. I feel so blessed to have such sweet memories of them. They did so many things in their lives, and they were so truly happy together. That is a greater blessing than many others, in a time when so many marriages don’t last. A family that has two parents, who love each other, and who manage to create such sweet memories out of something so simple as going for an evening drive, is a blessed family indeed, because later on, you will find that it isn’t the big moments like a trip to the Grand Canyon or New York City that will really stand out in your memory. It is the little moments…the everyday moments, that seem so insignificant, but have such a sweetness to them, that you will always remember. And you just never know when something will trigger a reminder of those sweet little everyday moments.
There are moments in every human life, when something that they have been trying to push to the back of their mind, comes to the forefront with no warning, and hits them like a ton of bricks…right in the stomach. Most of us have had them. They usually happen when you are having trouble wrapping your mind around a reality…that you wish was a bad dream. The passing of your parents or child, is a good example of such a reality. The loss of aunts, uncles and cousins have this effect too. In your mind, you know they are gone, but your heart refuses to accept the finality of it. Of course, I don’t mean the finality in that you will never see them again, because I know that I will see my parents and loved ones again. No, it is the finality of the fact that I won’t see them again in this earthly life, that really hits home in a painful way.
Those moments never allow you to be prepared for them, but rather they sneak up on you, and hit you at a point when you are totally unprepared. It’s times like new babies arriving, graduations, marriages, and other big moments in life. You think…I can’t wait to tell Mom and Dad…and then you realize you can’t tell them. It’s also the little moments when you drive past their house, or it happens to be a day when you would normally take them to lunch or dinner, or when you reach for the phone to call them, and then realize that they aren’t there. The sadness and loneliness washes over you, and there is nothing you can do about it, but cry.
The really hard thing about it is that you can’t stop those moments from occurring. So many things in life can be avoided by simply not placing yourself in that place or situation, but you can’t do that, because they were involved in every part of your life at one point or another, or as is the case with parents, many, many points. They shared every accomplishment, every failure, every hope, and every dream with you. They were the wind beneath your wings, lifting you up and encouraging you to soar…and now, you must fly on your own, because the days of training are over. Yes, that training goes on into adulthood too, even if you thought it didn’t. They have given you every tool you need for success in this life, and now you have to go out an make use of them on your own. Maybe that is why those “ton of bricks” moments are so hard. You want to share the excitement with them and you can’t.
And then, there are the “ton of bricks” moments, when someone remembers your loved one years after they have passed away, and they tell you what an impact they had on their life, and you can’t hold back the tears or remove the lump from your throat. You had no idea that your loved one would be remembered by people who you would never expect to remember them…but they had such an impact on those people, that they felt compelled to tell you about it so many years later. In all reality, I wouldn’t want to trade those special, but really difficult moments, because they mean that someone hasn’t forgotten my dad or my mom, or other loved one. Those moments mean that someone else saw what really special people they were. It meant that while they are in Heaven now, and I can’t bring them back, I can be reminded that they will always love me, and they will never be forgotten. The people who’s lives they touched, family, friends, and yes, even strangers, will always carry them in their hearts too. While those “ton of bricks” moments are hard, they are also very sweet, because someone remembered them.
When you are a young person, you can look ahead to the future, and in your minds eye, you see how things will happen just the way you plan or expect them to be. You have no doubt in your mind that you will become what you plan, do the things you plan to do, go the places you plan to go. It is all up to you. It is your life to plan and live as you choose. Then comes the inevitable curve ball. The moment when everything changes. Your world turns upside down, and the things that seemed important before, aren’t anymore. It can be almost anything, from the loss or serious illness of a parent, as it was in my case, to a car accident, to a unplanned baby, to…well, you get the idea. And in reality, most of us have several of these moments that come to pass in our lives, that are life altering, sometimes for the better, sometimes for the worse, and sometimes…just different than you had expected.
I have had several life altering moments in my life, as have most people, such as falling in love with my husband, and choosing to have children and marriage instead of finishing my college education, which changed my future from a teaching career to the one I now have, which is as an insurance agent. For those who know me, you know that my new career choice and the current boss that I have at that job have made all the difference as other life altering changes have occurred.
For me the biggest and most traumatic curve ball, came when my dad became ill with Pancreatitis on October 1, 2005, in Canada. My sisters and I drove straight through to Canada, and spent the next 2 weeks at his bedside in Canada until he could be transferred by Life Flight to Wyoming Medical Center. After 4 months and 4 surgeries, Dad was finally able to come home. It would be a long recovery. It was during that time that I found out what my second calling was. I was able to understand the medical jargon and so, became one of his main caregivers. My mother would get sick during that same time with a Brain Tumor, that is gone now. Later my in-laws would be added to my caregiving tasks. My father-in-law has Emphysema and my mother-in-law has Alzheimer’s Disease.
After 7 years of caregiving, I am quite sure I could have been a nurse, except that being a caregiver for elderly people is very hard on your emotions. You know you are fighting a losing battle, and your efforts are only holding off the inevitable. I am not sorry to have taken the journey that my curve ball has taken me on, and it is very rewarding when you win a health battle, even if it is only a temporary win. Looking back, later on, I will always know that I did the best I could do, I gave the very best that I could give, and hopefully, 4 lives were made better through my efforts, and those of the team of people who help me every day.
Today, as I was looking through some pictures, I began thinking about what it really is that makes up our lives. So often, when we look back on our lives, we wonder what we did that might be remembered, or might have at least pointed toward greatness, and it occurred to me that it isn’t about the biggest thing we did in our lifetime. If that were all there is too it, then many people would really have no reason to be here at all. Many people do not live lives that on the outside point toward greatness, yet they are great at what they do, and great in the contribution they make into the lives of those around them. The lives of the people whose hearts they touch with their love.
Many people live their lives doing little things that in all reality make them great people, but it is still the small things…the moments…that point to their greatness…not giant steps or huge accomplishments. And when we look back on the things that are important, it isn’t the awards we won, or even the degrees we earned, it is the precious little moments that we remember. Our wedding day, the birth of our children, becoming grandparents, watching the giggly little laughs on the precious little faces of our loved ones…these are the things that make us glad we took this ride called life.
Other people go through life missing those precious little moments because they are so intent on becoming something great, something that will make everyone see the contribution they have made. They are obsessed with it, consumed by it…in a desperate attempt to live a life that means something, and yet that very act of searching for greatness is what makes them miss out on all the little moments that were so great. How very sad that is for them.
I want to look back on my life and be happy in the knowledge that, while many people might not know my name or what I am all about, those people who are important to me will always have the memories of the happy times we spent together, and know without doubt, that they were loved by me. I want them to know that they are what makes my life great…made it worth living.
Maybe that is really it. Maybe no one can be great in this life by themselves. I takes the love of another human being to bring out the greatness that is in each of us…waiting to come out. And it is that love…that produces the moments that make up a life that while not necessarily great in the eyes of the world, is great in blessings, love, hope, and…all the moments of our lives.