Tonight we were driving down I35 from Keller to Round Rock. As we got to Belton, my mind raced back to 1998…
We were driving on I35 from Waco to Killeen. My dad had just picked me and my sister up from Baylor where I was ready to start my sophomore year and she was ready to be a senior. He came to pick us up because our mom had killed herself that morning. We both packed a few things and jumped in the car. I remember we stopped at a Dairy Queen for something to drink and started down the interstate. What I remember most was being numb… wondering how we would continue… feeling like the world around was speeding past while our lives had stopped.
Tonight as we were driving and my mind raced back I was not sad but instead, I had intense gratitude. Gratitude for the life that emerged from such grief. Gratitude for the husband and son who were in the car with me. Gratitude for the deep relationship with my sister and dad. Gratitude for somehow learning how to live a full life without my mom.
This summer my mind keeps going back to the work of Viktor Frankl and his book Man’s Search for Meaning. Viktor Frankl was a psychiatrist who survived three concentration camps during the Holocaust. His philosophy of life emerged from this experience. He explained,
“Everything can be taken from a man but one thing: the last of the human freedoms—to choose one’s attitude in any given set of circumstances, to choose one’s own way.”
I don’t remember making a conscious decision to choose my own way after mom’s suicide. It was not one grand decision, instead, it was lots of little, even tiny moments that got me to this place 22 years later. It was allowing myself to feel all the hurt, betrayal, anxiety, confusion, hopelessness. It was having the courage to admit intense feelings of guilt. It was slowly releasing the image of what I thought life should be and holding onto the life in front of me. It was learning to hold conflicting emotions at the same time… grief and happiness… anger and understanding… longing and fulfillment. It was learning the power of focusing on what I could control… it was learning to not only trust life but to trust myself to be able to face whatever happens in life.
22 years ago I never imagined that life could be anything but filled with sorrow, yet here I am driving on the same road with a life that is more than I could ever have dreamed. Do I miss my mom? Of course… at the same time, her death has led me on a path for which I am beyond grateful… her death led me to the most remarkable husband and gave us a son that reminds me of my mom more than I knew was possible. Her death formed a bond between my dad, sister, and me that is hard to explain and is the foundation of my life.
So tonight, while my heart does miss my mom… especially her smile… my heart also feels such gratitude. I am thankful for all the little choices I made to lead me to this point.