Looking in the Rearview Mirror…

Each morning, I have a app on my iPad that collects all the pictures I have taken on that date going back to my first digital device. Today as I was looking at the snapshots, these frozen moments in time, I began to think about what it means in our lives to look back and look ahead.  

I have always loved New Year’s Eve; I look forward to the new chapter, the fresh start given to me by a new year…a blank slate of sorts. Yesterday, the app found a couple of pictures and a jubilant post I had shared out at about 11:55 p.m. on December 31, 2013.  In my New Year’s Eve excitement, I shared the pictures and wrote this: “Join me as I bid farewell to 2013 and eagerly welcome 2014. Each of you has enriched my life and I am so thankful to be sharing this time and space with you. Let’s take time to look back on the year past and reflect on what was…learn and grow from those experiences. And now, let’s look ahead to all the adventures awaiting us. May your 2014 be a wonderful year filled with friends, family, and fun!”

I was so happy that night sitting beside my husband of 44 years; we were snacking on delicious and beautiful nibbles, sipping champagne, and toasting in the new year with my son and his wife. At midnight I called my sister; I spoke with her and my mom to wish them a wonderful new year. This was my New Year’s Eve ritual, something I had done every year. All was right with the world in that joy-filled moment.

What didn’t I know? As I laughed, clinked glasses, and toasted the excitement of the year to come, I had no idea that death would claim both my mother and my husband that year.  Yet, in the space of 10 weeks, they were both gone. So, the reality was that 2014 turned out to be a most difficult, sad, and challenging year.

Fast forward to New Year’s Eve 2019; as we watched the ball drop in Times Square, none of us had any idea that we were about to be faced with a worldwide pandemic of terrifying proportions. At no point in time do any of us have knowledge of what is waiting for us in the next point in time. Each minute remains a mystery until we live it.

Yes, we have control over much of what happens in our lives, but our most pivotal events are typically orchestrated by God’s hand, not ours. I have always believed that not knowing protects us from fear and sadness.  I suspect that if I had known what was in my future, I would have shut down, simply frozen, awaiting the inevitable, rather than living a life filled with silly moments, new friendships, travel adventures, job changes, and knowing me, lots of giggles.

Today I am in a new place.  I think about my mother often, but the experience of losing her has helped me grow as a parent. Even though my son is an adult, I realize that I can continue to work at being the best version of myself. When I am comfortable in my own skin, I am a better mother. As a strong, confident parent, I continue to teach my son how to be a  loving husband, how to have a good work ethic, about patience in relationships, and how to look for joy in even the smallest moments.

I miss my husband and will always hold him in my heart, but I have found joy again in a new and loving relationship. This relationship is stronger because of what I have been through. Tragedy forced me to examine who I am and how to move forward. I had to get tough – pump my own gas, eat alone at the sushi bar, overcome my fear of heights and climb the ladder to change the lightbulb, balance the checkbook, wander through the maze of probate court and Social Security…the list goes on. Today, the woman I bring to all my relationships is changed… more confident, more resilient, more balanced because of the struggle brought about by loss.

So, knowing what I know now, would I change the post from 2013? At midnight on December 31, 2021, did I still look ahead to 2022 with joyful anticipation? The answer is unequivocally YES! I will strive to treasure each moment, each person, each relationship, each adventure.

I encourage you to stop for a moment and flip through the pages of your life. Look at your mental snapshots of the places, the family, the friends, even the pets who surround you. You and I, we are richly blessed!

Photo by Dimitry Zub on Unsplash

Author: Jennifer C. Walts, Ed.D.

I am a retired educator and School Improvement Specialist.

2 thoughts on “Looking in the Rearview Mirror…”

  1. I will treasure this post. Often courage is forced upon someone, but in your reflection I see it as a choice. Thank you for sharing and the reminder to be grateful for what we have in our lives.

    Like

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