In some of my worst nightmares, I am alone. Fear of living consumes me and I become a fat old hermit who swats at dreams like flies. Instead of reaching for my goals the worst of nightmares becomes remaining, staying. I become nothing more than who I am today.
In some of my best dreams there are ten of me. I climb the stairs to my flat in Italy where my three green-eyed children and my Doctor wait. I study, I sleep, I start dreams. In the summer we travel. Safari through the Garden of Eden—Kenya, tour castles throughout Europe, snorkel off Australia, trace ancestors in Ireland, Eskimo kiss in Alaska, dream of America in Boston… I will write, travel and never stop studying. In my best dreams I never stop evolving in to the vision of me.
I wrote that little bit, which has haunted me daily, nearly 10 years ago. Dreaming is not my only nemesis. I am a planner. When I dream I plan. Minute details plague the path from point A to point B and on and on to point Z. I am nothing like the person who wrote that little bit 10 years ago. My life has not turned out to be the dream I dreamed then. It is richer, more involved, and gritty.
As I am writing this, today, I am fighting depression. I am surrounded by books on love and happiness; The Happiness Project, Stumbling on Happiness, Secrets to a Lasting Love… Yet, I feel despair. Army life, Cancer, and Death have taught me one thing. Tomorrow is uncertain. I’m grieving for friends and their children who are losing their fight to cancer, for men who are not returning home to their families after a year at war, and for the upcoming deployment looming over our own heads. I feel as if I barely survived the first deployment and now I’m looking down the barrel of a second much more frightening prospect: *****. The name makes me shudder. It makes me think of Harry Potter’s “he who must not be named” for the whisper of it fills my heart with dread for those lost and those who will be lost. It is full of needless death. And my husband is marching into it.
For all my planning as I struggled through mounds of theological texts in seminary, for all my dreaming as I read Jane Austin and Faulkner in college, for all my hopes as I patiently sat the bench in high school… I never saw my life here. And yet I would not change the direction of it.
My flat in Italy has turned into a rock filled yard in the midst of the El Paso desert. Our Safari’s are along the dry Rio Grande river bed and our travels occur in the form of PCSing.
I am struggling with my grief simply because it is hard to not swat at dreams. I knew a deployment was coming. By now I should know that there is no such thing as my schedule. And yet I continue to trick myself. No first day of school, he won’t be here for a single birthday, no holidays. Such is the life. And still. Still I am so grateful.
In the midst of my own pain I am watching a dear friend and coworker struggle with her husband’s fight of cancer. Another good friend is watching her brother, grasping for days, losing his fight. And still a victory in the midst as another friend celebrated her two weeks of Cancer Free alongside my daughter’s 5 years of cancer free. It has been an emotional few weeks. I am so blessed and yet so deeply hurt all at once.
What I yearn for right now is to sit down with my Grandmother who lost a fiancé to WWII and nearly lost my Grandfather. I wish to sit with her over a cup of coffee or maybe a pitcher of margaritas and just ask her , “How did you survive?” But it’s to late for that. It is so true we do not know the blessings we have until they are taken from us. Oh how I wish for her strength and her secrets that she took to the grave.
Surprisingly it is not in the books on happiness and love that I find solace now. I find comfort from words like that of Corrie Ten Boom, from The Hiding Place, who said “Worrying is carrying tomorrow’s load with today’s strength- carrying two days at once. It is moving into tomorrow ahead of time. Worrying doesn’t empty tomorrow of its sorrow, it empties today of its strength.”
I find strength from Benjamin Franklin “Never leave that till tomorrow which you can do today” and “Trouble knocked at the door, but, hearing laughter, hurried away.” I can not let a day pass without enjoying the moment because tomorrow may not be here. I can not put off telling a loved one what they mean to me, for tomorrow they may not be here. I can not put my focus onto tomorrow. I must emotionally live for today while any preparations for tomorrow, though important, may only be dreams. God knows the future. I do not.
Today’s strength is sufficient and I will not be robbed of the joy of my husband’s touch today for an abstract tomorrow that will come no matter how I fight it. Today I choose strength, today I choose God’s grace, today I choose hope, today I choose to only see the joy in the future and let the Lord handle the details.
“But as for me, I will always have hope.” Psalms 71:14.
Hope Griffin is the Ministry Director at Sunrise Baptist Church. She is an Army Wife and mother of three. Hope received her Masters in Biblical Studies from Dallas Theological Seminary.