My luggage got lost somewhere in Airportland. The return flight from New Jersey was by way of Chicago to Los Angeles to Oregon. I de-planed in Chicago to this v-mail: “Due to delays, you won’t make your connection in LA and so we’ve rescheduled your flight for tomorrow.” What?!
A quick phone call to the airline established a new route home. One seat left. I made the flight. My luggage didn’t.
Pixabay stock photo
Another recent loss was a bit more drastic. In transferring photos and documents from an old laptop to a new one, I lost all my writing files. (Long story. Suffice it to say that Hubby, computer geek who could have handled this transfer with his eyes closed is face-palming somewhere in heaven.)
I was able to retrieve the current book I’m working on. But gone is the 32-page book proposal I was ready to submit. Gone are whole books, and interviews, and years of journal entries, and drafts of future blogs. Hours and hours of work.
Losing luggage and Word documents, though, pales in comparison to losing Hubby to cancer.
Also, settling in and around us — as we navigated cancer — was the residual of financial setbacks when he was out of work. And the need for me to get a real job with good benefits. And my live-in mother, sinking deeper into dementia. When what I really wanted to do—selfish me—was spend what time there was left with Hubby, traveling, sharing our story, hiking tall mountains.
But here’s what I learned through it all:
1. Loss teaches us appreciation. It’s true that we tend to not appreciate something until it’s gone. Like our health. Or a current way of life. Or something as simple as electricity and running water. The setbacks taught me to sit up and pay attention. To live in the present and notice how good I have it. To keep thanksgiving lists running in my head and on paper.
2. Loss can be freeing when it comes to material things. When my mother, needing more care, moved out, Hubby and I downsized to an 800-sq-foot space. We had a beautiful, old upright grand piano, one my parents bought secondhand when I started piano lessons at age five. It was despairing to let go of this particular piece of furniture. But as Hubby and I settled into smaller living spaces, oh how freeing it was to not own as much stuff.
3. Loss can expand our hearts. It can cause us to dare to imagine that good can come out of our ashes. I’ve always liked the 1998 Meg Ryan/Tom Hanks movie You’ve Got Mail. Because it speaks to me about losing what we don’t want to lose, and how the *letting go* can open doors for larger things. Loss has the capacity to set us on a new path. Maybe not a path we would have written into our story, but a good path nevertheless.
This from Ann Voskamp in One Thousand Gifts:
With memories of gravestones … I wonder if the rent in the canvas of our life backdrop, the losses that puncture our world, our own emptiness, might actually become places to see. To see through to God. But how? How do we choose to allow the holes to become seeing-through-to-God places?
Choose is the key word there. We have been given free will. And with our free will, we make daily choices. Will I focus on what I’ve lost, or be grateful for what remains?
Will I clutch my anger tightly in my fist, or open my hand and surrender to grace?
Will I center on me, or look outward to bless someone else who is hurting?
When I wanted to skip piano practice, my mother, who was fond of old expressions, would say, “Practice makes perfect.” The more we choose to look through our pain and loss to God, and the more we practice gratitude and contentment and selflessness, the more it all becomes second nature.
I genuinely hope you don’t lose anything of value in 2016. But if you do, I’m here to say — from my experience — that loss doesn’t have to be devastating. And while we’ll have little-to-no control over what we might lose, we certainly can control how we react and adjust to it.
Which is why I choose gratefulness for today. Today, while I still have all the people and so much good in my life.
Voskamp goes on to say this:
To fully live—to live full of grace and joy and all that is beauty eternal. It is possible. Wildly.
Yes, grace and joy and beauty in the hard journey. Wildly possible.
What are the good things in your life and how grateful are you for them?
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