Blueberry Pancake Moment
I knew Mom was weak from the heart attack…. but I sensed the real reason Daddy said not to come visit was because I wanted to bring Sam to meet them.
We’d only been dating a couple of months… but something inside said, “Mom needs to meet him… now.”
I said, “Daddy, “I’ll cook all the food! You don’t have to do anything except be there.”
We made that visit, Mother’s Day weekend 2012...
The weather was beautiful
We planted flowers in the garden
I painted my mom’s fingernails
We all went to church together.
Sam thought my folks were great….
My parents… were cautious.
They had watched me go through a difficult divorce and didn’t want to see me hurt again.
I will treasure that weekend forever….because less than two weeks later, my mom died.
My emotions were …
devastated to have lost my mom
grateful that Sam was there to support me
uncomfortably awkward that my adult children were meeting Sam for the first time at my mom’s memorial service
Summer was a blur of … visiting Daddy, dating Sam and grieving the loss of my mom.
That fall, Sam proposed.
I was thrilled.
My dad was …not.
But by Christmas Daddy softened a little… towards Sam.
Then on March 5, eight weeks before our wedding… the phone call.
My Daddy died.
The grief of losing both of my parents in 9 months was almost more than I could bear.
And… the anticipation of my life with Sam filled me with joy.
So, there they sat….my grief and joy side by side, not canceling each other out…
But, like, heads and tails on a coin…. they were inexorably linked.
Some days I felt lots of “heads” of JOY and then without warning… the “tails” of grief would wash over me.
I struggled to find peace.
Ronald Reagan said, “Peace is not the absence of conflict; it is the ability to handle conflict by peaceful means.”
Being gentle with my inner conflict was a TALL order…
And I wrestled with the need for one emotion to be right or better….
The weather was picture-perfect on my wedding day.
AND the picture wasn’t perfect, because my parents weren’t there.
But I was at peace, because I finally realized resolving conflict wasn’t about one emotion winning, but allowing both to share the place of honor in my heart they deserved.
A month ago, I got to tell that story to my 12-year-old granddaughter.
We were in the car, in the dark, wee hours of the morning…we’d just dropped her parents off at the airport for their 2-week Mediterranean Cruise.
Through her tears she said, “Mamey, I feel so happy that they get to go on this trip but I feel so sad they’re gone and I miss them already!”
I said, “Oh, Avanell…. I get it.
That is a completely normal way to feel… happy and sad at the same time.”
As I told her about that time in my life (that happened when she was only 2-years old) I KNEW that SHE knew…. I did “get” how she was feeling.
I said, “You may feel that way during this time they are gone and if you do, you can come to me, tell me and I’ll hug you and be there with you.”
She said, “Ok.”
And in the next few minutes, her tears stopped and we were talking about the blueberry pancakes I was going to make for her and her sister and brother when we got home.
You may not have had the exact same experience as Avanell and I have had…. but I’ve lived long enough to know that you’ve either lived your own example in some other form OR…. you will at some point.
Years ago, when I first began the work, I do now with personal growth and leadership I read John Maxwell’s book, The 15 Invaluable Laws of Growth.
Most of the chapters were things you’d expect: The Law of Self-Awareness and The Law of Consistency.
But I was surprised (and a little annoyed) when I came up to chapter 8; The Law of Pain.
Who wants a whole chapter about pain?
Isn’t pain that thing we try so hard to avoid at all costs?
But as I read these words, I realized how TRUE they are,
“Most successful people will point to the hard times in their lives as key points in their journey of development. If you are dedicated to growth then you must become committed to managing your bad experiences well.”
It has been the really painful things I’ve had to face in my life that have given me the most ability and credibility to help other people with their pain.
Franklin Roosevelt said, “Calm seas never made a good sailor.”
We are all poised right now to step into what is supposed to be “the most wonderful time of the year”… where JOY rules the day!
It IS and it SHOULD.
But… I guarantee you, some people you encounter in the next six weeks (your family, your friends, maybe even your clients) will be trying to juggle the joy while carrying a load of pain.
I’m reminded of the story about the junior high girl who was devastated that she didn’t make the cheerleading team.
She ran into the house sobbing and her family was at a loss as to what to do.
When her mom, dad and brother knocked on the door of her bedroom they could hear her crying from inside her closet.
Without saying a word, they opened the closet door and all crawled in and sat there with her while she cried.
At some point she realized…. “Uh, my whole family is in my closet with me,” and she started to laugh.
In her moment of grief, TELLING her to “get over it” or “look at all the good things in her life,” wasn’t going to erase the pain.
Honestly, I’m not sure we should try to erase or mask our pain.
Feeling it is a big part of what it means to be human.
Max Lucado says it this way, "Tears represent a person's heart, soul and spirit. To put a lock and key on your emotions is to bury a part of your humanness."
I believe, each of us has the ability AND the responsibility to do what we can to be there with others in their pain
And not necessarily with our words, but with our presence let them know we “get it.”
That it’s OK to feel joy and pain deeply… at the same time….
In fact, it’s normal.
That might just help them… to move one step closer to their own blueberry pancake moment.
I'm wishing you a beautiful, glorious holiday season and... giving you permission to honor any pain you may carrying right next to your joy.