Susan Vollenweider - Happily right now

09/25/2013 9:52 AM

09/25/2013 9:52 AM

Everyone would change that day. They would insist on a longer breakfast, block the road, tell the drivers not to get behind the wheel.

If anyone had any power to stop it, they would have.

But it happened.

I shared this story awhile back, but, in a nutshell:

I learned the hard way never to make excuses and put off meeting people, thinking that there is always time.

There isn’t always time.

My friend Nicole’s husband, on an ordinary drive on an ordinary day, had the non-ordinary happen when he met a wrong-way driver.

Chris’ life ended and the path that no one would want for anyone began for Nicole, their five children and everyone who knew and cared for the family.

Grief. How do you handle grief like that? Sure, there are well-published stages and steps, there are counselors who can guide a family through them, but the family has to make the journey.

Nicole embarked on the journey. She had no choice; her kids had no choice.

Watching Nicole for the last year and a half has been heartbreaking. People surrounded them, blanketed them with love and casseroles. But there was nothing anyone could do other than be there, as an ear, a hug, a meal, a drink, a laugh.

Nicole did what a lot of people do when faced with a loss of this magnitude: they write it out.

She began a blog.

She started it to work out her feelings, have tangible evidence of her journey and, maybe, to offer hope to others who will go through something similar.

Most of the entries were obviously painful to write. They were painful to read. She was lost, hurt…alone. She admitted her failures, confronted and explored her feelings, and turned to her faith as a guide. She found mentors in other women who had been on this journey before. She sought help for her family.

I have always admired her personality but her words revealed not only raw and vulnerable emotions, but true character — true strength.

She didn’t rush through each phase of grief, although I’m sure she wanted to. She worked at it. She faced the pain and rode it through to the day when she could admit that the pain was just a little, tiny bit less.

One day she said that maybe, someday, she might like to date.

But she wasn’t ready and she knew it.

Death is a natural part of life. The journey of Nicole and her family isn’t unusual, but that doesn’t mean it’s any less life-affecting. Being a common human experience doesn’t mean that it feels common when it happens to you, or to someone you love.

Nicole did what anyone would do when someone we love dies: use the tools that we have available to get our changed and confusing days to become ordinary ones. Ordinary days filled with familiar challenges, familiar ups and downs.

Old lives morph into new ones. People are the same, certain elements are the same, but it’s like they got broken up into a kaleidoscope and turned. Changed.

Then one day becomes a day that no one would ever change.

“I met someone and he’s special.”

Then she used the word “love.”

Nicole’s journey has taught me that happily ever after really is a myth. Every day is full of happy, sad, angry, delighted — a spinning color wheel of emotion that can’t be stopped.

But when it wheels past the special color, the cherished emotions, it’s happily right now.

And that is a moment we should never change and never, ever forget.

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