I’ve been around long enough to know that we all have “secret disasters.”
We can’t talk about them–because they’re not ours alone to share, or because sharing would only make things worse–so we do our best to get through them, wearing our brave faces while perhaps feeling a bit torn up inside.
Today I’d like to share the beauty that came from one of my not-so-secret disasters–with the hopes that it will help you courageously meet the challenges facing you right now.
A lot of you know that my mom was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s a few years ago. And just about every Thursday, my children and I drove an hour to visit, saying goodbye to a little part of her each week.
It was a long farewell–some moments happy, when she was fully present, and others where we couldn’t connect at all. (I’m sure you can understand…)
This last October, we said our final goodbyes, and the disaster that I thought was going to destroy me ended up doing exactly the opposite, which is why I am writing today.
Have you ever heard that when a caterpillar is inside a cocoon, it basically turns into caterpillar soup–and then completely rebuilds itself–forming a brand new creature?
I’ve loved that analogy for years and even started a “Butterfly Project” around it to encourage me to raise my sights.
In some ways, the final months and years with my mom felt like a cocooning state for both of us. She couldn’t leave her bed, and I couldn’t fully move forward–because I was subconsciously waiting for the heart-breaking ending.
But God coordinated the SWEETEST goodbye party, and combined with the tender moments of the past seven years, it changed me.
Our family moved out of state last summer, and in late September, an opportunity came for me to fly to Long Beach for my mom’s birthday. I decided to make her a rocking horse cake, like the one I thought she had made me as a little girl. But when I got to the house and flipped through the photo albums, I realized my brother Ryan had the rocking horse.
I had chosen the butterfly.
(Ahhhh! Can you see where this is going?)
So I made the cake, in a semi-state of disbelief, as I told my sisters who were working alongside me in the kitchen about my Butterfly Project. And when I finally went in to show my mom her cake, she was holding a caterpillar–a little toy my sister had bought her just prior to my visit.
It felt like a gift from above–an unspoken message that the time was coming when we could both fly.
Just two weeks later, I got a late-night call that the time for Mom’s departure had finally arrived.
With Eric’s encouragement, I flew out early the next morning to sit by her side one last time.
And here’s where it gets even sweeter–because she waited for me to get there.
My sister Susan stayed up with her throughout the night–watching her struggle to breathe and doing her very best to keep Mom comfortable. Susan later told me how she’d encouraged mom to release herself from the pain. “Mom, just go. You can go. You don’t have to suffer like this.”
But Mom waited. All night. And I got to sit by her bedside for a full 90 minutes with my siblings until her breath slowed and finally came to a stop. So sweet and so thoughtful—right until the very end. She didn’t need to stay, but she wasn’t thinking of her needs.
She lived the true spirit of motherhood–to the very end.
So how do disasters change us beautifully?
I’m guessing your experiences have been similar to mine:
Disasters help us to feel more gratitude for our Higher Power–with a lift and a light that reminds us we have not been forgotten.
They enable us to develop patience with ourselves and the often difficult, but meaningful work required to raise a strong family.
They help us to cherish the moments that are great and inspire us to create moments that are even greater.
And they provide opportunities for us to receive extra love from family and friends who can sense how deeply our hearts are aching.
When we got back from the funeral, my daughter Grace said, “I made you a watercolor and put it on your desk.”
As a little background, my mom used to tell me that her goal for heaven was to be the Lord’s doorkeeper. I always thought that was sweet–that she just wanted to hold the door for Him as He would come and go.
And when I got upstairs, I was greeted with this:
There are no words.
I know that we’ll never get to the point where we’re “done” having disasters. Some will be small, others may be more intense. But when we can see these disasters for what they really are–beautiful opportunities for transformation–we’ll welcome them with open arms.
QUESTION: Is there a “disaster” you can share that changed YOU in a beautiful way?
CHALLENGE: If you’re in the middle of one of your “secret disasters,” try focusing on how it is changing you, and welcome the beautiful process.