It was spring of 2012. The thick aroma of crawfish bread, gumbo, and po-boys cut through an even thicker shroud of South Louisiana humidity. Anticipation dangled in the air as the girls and I waited for Tom Petty to arrive on the Jazz Fest stage.
By this time, the girls had reached ages (14 and 12). Arguably a suitable age to run to the concessions on their own (using the “buddy system”). So, I watched them traipse off into a sea of strangers while I waited.
And I waited.
And I waited.
Ticking off minutes is not exactly in my wheelhouse. In this particular case, I had to fight off a torrent of worry over improbable outcomes to the situation. This did not make ticking any easier.
In all of the ticking and worrying, I knew one thing to be true. If I moved from our spot, finding each other would become next to impossible.
So, I waited. As you might suspect, the girls returned (after being gone for over 45 minutes – each minute dutifully ticked off by a worried momma). We enjoyed a great afternoon of music making memories and soaking up the fading sun.
This season of life that began reminds me a lot of that afternoon in 2012. Looking back on how our lives unfolded simultaneous with the loss of Brooke, I can now see that God’s plan to make good out of the orchard of lemons that fell into our laps was already under way.
But, first, I had to wait.
I’ve done a lot of waiting and ticking and ticking and waiting over the last two years. Ticking and waiting that would not have been possible had we not relocated. Had we remained at home in Louisiana, I would have forced myself back into my law practice. Trust me when I tell you that it was a blessing for both me and my clients that I did not have to return to family law work in April 2017. My patience for the issues that plague families going through divorce and child custody disagreements was at an all time low. However, forcing myself back into work would have had worse consequences than a lack of empathy for those I served. I would have missed the opportunities that God was preparing for me.
In all of the waiting and ticking, I knew one thing to be true. If I moved from our spot, finding God’s plan of redemption would become next to impossible.
When we are waiting and ticking, it can feel like time out. Discipline. Punishment. Torture. Being isolated. With our noses in the corner. To think about what we’ve done.
Not all “time outs” are about punishment. Time out, like in sports, can also be a moment to regroup. To strategize. To change course if needed. To catch our breath. To take a sip of cool water.
Throughout all of this ticking and waiting and sipping and breathing, God is changing the course of my life. Since 1993 – more than 25 years – the practice of law has been my safety net. There to catch me should I fall.
It should have been obvious from the moment I learned of Brooke’s accident that the course of my life would be forever changed, but I was too busy just reminding myself to breath at that point. I didn’t notice that the lines that held my legal safety net taut were slowly beginning to slacken. (Again, it should have been obvious. After all, it is difficult to practice law in Louisiana when you are living in Minnesota or Ohio.)
It turns out that God didn’t have my nose in a corner for these couple of years. He just needed me to catch my breath. Over the next few weeks, I will officially suspend my practice of law. Effective immediately, when someone asks me “what do you do,” my answer will be – I am Director for Brooke It Forward. (Stay tuned for more info coming as Brooke It Forward unfolds.)
Recently, someone shared an interesting piece of advice that they had received upon losing their own child. You’ll never get over it. You’ll learn to love with it. That’s not a typo. What an amazing trajectory for grief – to learn to “love” with it. What better way to push back at the shadow of death, but to take that pain and use it for “love.”
The Annual Swim-a-Thon and Brooke It Forward are ways that our family is learning to love with it. (Let me take another opportunity to thank so many who made this year’s Swim-a-Thon a success!)
From legal eagle to non-profit nightingale. That contemporary philosopher, Tom Petty, captured the essence of this situation – I’m learning to fly, but I ain’t got wings . . .
Dear Father, thank you for never leaving us alone when life around us is in shambles. Help us to recognize those moments when you ask us to wait and tick as moments to catch our breath and to take a cool sip of water. Send your Spirit to calm and steady us in the silence. When the time is right again to stir, let us hear your voice guiding us forward. Help us to trust your wings as we are learning to fly. We pray this in the name of your Son, Jesus Christ.