The Long Journey Home

I want to share with you the amazing journey that I went on last month...

I drove a cargo van from Orange County, in Southern California, 
up through California and Oregon, into Washington, past Seattle. 
By myself. 
I traveled just over 1220 miles, one way. 2440 miles round trip.
Yes, it was a daunting undertaking. And not just because of the drive.

I always knew I would have to make that trip...
from the moment that I decided to leave Seattle and move to California,
[which was preceded by the moment that I knew for certain that  
nothing was going to change and I had to finally end my marriage]
I knew that I would have to go back there
and get the few personal belongings I had left out of the storage unit.

My thoughts about that were changed the day that my estranged husband died suddenly.
At that point, I knew 
that I was the only person who could go and EMPTY that storage unit
of all of the leftover business supplies and tools and memories that filled a 10 X 30 space -
A space that had been filled up when we moved off of the farm that had been a dream.
A space that had been added to when we quickly left the rental cottage in Seattle.
A space that held the only things left from a dream and a life that had ended.

I was debating when to go -
and then found out that my son was headed up to Washington from Texas,
for his high school reunion in mid-June.
That put three out of my four kids in the area at the same time...
and that's the best it's ever gonna' get, folks.
So I went.

Unfortunately, the week I was there was just before Father's Day.
The first Father's Day for the kids after losing their dad....
which made the already hard job of going through his stuff even harder.
So hard, in fact, that my son was the only one who agreed to come out to storage.
The girls said it was just too much for them to come and deal with.
I understand that. I wish it had been any other time in the year,
but the schedule wasn't up to me.
The kids needed to be able to take things from storage that belonged to their dad -
and I couldn't afford to keep paying for the unit anymore.

Did I mention that this trip was amazing?

Let me tell you HOW amazing...

it was basically ten days filled with more moments of grace than I can count.

I prayed for music
that I would be able to tune in to some decent music stations on the radio
(no CD player in the cargo van) to soothe my soul and lift my spirits,
and there was only a 15 minute stretch in the Siskiyou Mountain Range
where I didn't have perfect reception of Christian Radio Stations.
The whole way!
I sang. A LOT. 
That music made me smile and cry and yell - and feel watched over.

I prayed for safety
and though I struggled against 25 mph sustained winds and 40 mph gusts 
from central California through central Oregon BOTH WAYS,
the van stayed under my control

AND there's MORE:

While driving back South, I noticed a horrific vibration in the van.
So I drove the van to Les Schwab tires, and they found that
the front right tire had developed a HUGE bulge on the inner sidewall
and it was ready to blow.

But it did not blow while I was driving.
It did not blow at all!
[Yes, Amy Grant, there WERE Angels Watching Over Me!]

I prayed for my needs to be met
and at the moment I needed them,
there were hotel vacancies for rest,
gas stations and decent food for fuel,
warm weather and soft breezes for comfort,
and beautiful landscapes that made me smile
as I remembered happier times in the same places.

I prayed for support and encouragement,
and there were friends who came and surrounded me with love...

the lifetime friends who are family,
who let me stay in their guestroom and treated me with kindness
and their daughter, my lifelong friend with a song in her heart
who came to encourage me with her words of faith and strength and love.
She sings the words of hope back to me when I have forgotten them...

the friend who has suffered a recent loss
but who welcomed me with open arms and a smile,
who let me walk among his flowers and see things 
that triggered memories - good ones -
and who talked with me about moving on
and the blessings of having known love.

the childhood friend whom I hadn't seen in nearly 40 years,
who found me online after I had left Seattle.
She lived just a few miles from my last home there...
on this trip, she made time to meet me,
reminding me of the lasting power of friendship and love.

the friend who invited me to stay in her home
even though we had never met in person - only online, years ago.
she and her family welcomed me with open arms and hearts,
and ministered to me at a party and around their table and in their home
so that my heart was filled with love.

the friend I have known for just a few years,
who came and toiled with me over two days in the storage unit
she of strength and clarity of thinking & planning, expert packer
and driver of a big truck to haul stuff to the thrift store...
who let me cry when I needed to
who made me laugh when I was frustrated
who shared her time, her heart, and her friendship with me
while we told stories and shared memories
that bind us in love.

the many friends who came and helped to lighten my load
who unburdened me of the miscellaneous leftovers of a life now gone,
hauling away the stuff that was too big for me to move...
the friend who posted the items online and within two hours had them all claimed -
giving me the gift of peace of mind that the hardest part was done...
who shared their hearts and words of comfort and kindness,
hugging me and embracing me in love.

the friends who shared their home and hearts with me,
who sat and asked and listened and tried to understand
what happened, where I've been, where I am, where I'm going...
they hardly know how their beautiful relationship heals my heart.
They are a shining example of a partnership of love.

the friend who started out as my client years ago,
a kind and generous older lady whose spirit is young,
and who has become a reminder of how time and age and life
make us richer, deeper, more aware of what is truly valuable:
time, and ourselves, and love.

the family friend who opened her door with a laugh,
in the same distinctive voice I remember from my childhood.
her stories and her memories fill in the gaps in my life,
and bring back days that I have forgotten...
days of families before tragedies, days filled with laughter and love.

I prayed for restoration,
and God granted me the miracle of being able to hug my precious son,
and tell him how proud of him I am and how loved he is.
Because she changed her mind and came to the storage unit,
God granted me the miracle of being able to hug one of my daughters
and tell her that no matter how tough it is, how hurt we are, 
my endless love for her does not change.
I will take any small step toward the healing of our family that God brings about...
because the one thing that can not be taken away is real love.

My children now have all of the personal items that belonged to their dad and his parents.
I hope that helps them each to find ways to remember their dad with love.

I prayed for release,
and God opened the floodgates of my soul 
to let the anger and pain and hurt and grief out.
He granted me time alone, to feel the presence of pain - and then let it go.
Time alone to look at and touch and smell the remnants of a life
that was my deepest dream - and is now gone, forever.
It can't be fixed or replaced. The person I built the dream around is gone.
He and the dream disappeared in September of 2011.

God gave me time to pack away special memories into a box, a time capsule of that part of my life.
Time alone to release my hold on the 'What Ifs' and 'Whys' that crowd my brain.
Time alone to speak words into the air that I never got the chance to speak,
to yell and scream and shout those words
until they ended in a pool of tears
and the final release of a damaged, broken love.

I prayed for healing,
and in all of the ways that I have shared here - and many more -
God bound up my broken, damaged, scarred heart with His love.

I prayed for the ability to forgive...
and God is working on that within my heart and mind. 
I can't just say the words and have it done -
there is damage too deep and too severe to make light of it.
But each day, He speaks to my soul and shares truth
that is allowing me to see just HOW I can forgive
those who caused so much hurt and pain and damage
while claiming to love.

That is the long journey...
Not the journey of driving 2400 miles alone in a cargo van.
Not the journey of opening up a storage unit that felt like 'the grave' of a former life.
Not the journey of letting go of material things that once mattered to me.
The journey is one of forgiveness. And love.

And I am almost home...


Lucy said...

I just read your post & even though I don't know you personally, I was bought to tears by your post.
Even though this journey was hard for you, it also looks like it was extremely cathartic.
I wish you all the best for the future.
Regards Lucy from Oz.

Lucy said...

I just read your blog & was moved to tears.
I hope that your journey was cathartic for your soul.
Regards Lucy from Oz.

Art and Sand said...

Touching story of your long journey - physically and metaphorically. Touching story on your About page.
I wish you well on your continual healing process

Kim said...

Love that I could be one small part of the journey. Also so extremely happy you got to hug 2 of your 4 precious children! I love you friend and thank God for your life.