The other day I made a quick day trip to my old hometown of Fort Smith, Arkansas. I went with the most innocent of intentions. I had several friends who wanted some of the essential oil items that I make and sell; I was ready to get out of town for a day; one of my best friends had an open driveway where we could sit, talk, enjoy, and social distance. It didn’t occur to me until I passed the Fayetteville exit that I was blindly headed for an emotional train wreck.
This was my first return since my son’s death to the place that symbolized my previous life like no other spot on earth. Fort Smith most clearly illustrates what was lost. I moved to this spot to start a new life with my husband. I began my brand new career as a teacher in this town, my son graduated from high school here, and Max, my dog, was adopted from the county humane society when he was just 6 months old. Our family got together for Thanksgivings, Christmas dinners, birthdays, and spring crawfish boils. I learned to enjoy jogging and biking while living next to a beautiful park and trail system. Even the bad recollections are still memories of US PULLING TOGETHER. I had this LIFE with a family and a job (and built in family at work) that I loved.
Well, guess what?! It’s gone. Not the embellishments: the house is still there, the schools are still there, favorite restaurants, trails for walking or biking, the stores where I shopped, even my friends. They are all still there. Just as if nothing had happened. My house has another inhabitant, my 7th grade classroom has another leader, even my amazing and wonderful friends are still living a pretty close resemblance to the lives they had while I was there. They’ve had ups and downs, tragedies and blessings; life does go on. There’s just no sign of US, our little family…….except in the rubble in my mind. I so clearly can relate to what it must feel like to be a refugee that returns to their ruined country and home. What do you do, and how are you supposed to feel when there is nothing left? Did it ever even exist?
The day was actually a nice one in so many ways. I have learned that there is always joy with the sorrow. I visited with 3 different dear friends, all outside on their driveways or porches at a safe six foot distance. One friend ordered lunch from my favorite restaurant, and we ate outside with a beautiful view of her yard and neighborhood. I got to play with another friend’s dog who is much better behaved than either of my two. We all caught up on things, and it was nice to see them despite the emptiness of those air hugs.
I had to do some deliveries that took me past my old home, those trails I already mentioned, and my son’s best friend’s house. I could so clearly see them playing basketball in the driveway that it made me have to stop and concentrate on breathing for a few moments.
Why??? Why did my life implode and disappear? I don’t ask that question too often because I know the answer, but on this day, I indulged just a little in feeling sorry for myself. I did a lot of thinking and crying on the seemingly longer than usual drive home. When I got home, I went to bed with the intention of staying there all day the next day. I was tired and sad. I did pamper myself and sleep in a little, but I didn’t stay in bed too late because at my new home, there’s always a dog to be let out or a bird to feed. The day was too beautiful for staying in bed, and I had things to do.
Was this the life I thought I would have in my “5 year plan”? Nope. Is this a life filled with much joy and laughter along with some wisdom and sorrow? Yes. The new life I’m building is a place of refuge. And, refuge is listed ABOVE refugee.