Faith, Love, Strength

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Christmas 2013 (Letter to Family and Friends, edited)

I was 11 when I first started keeping a journal. I loved how I could write anything I wanted and could go back and read it whenever I wanted. I could experience some of those feelings again just by reading and remembering. For me, it was powerful.

I still keep a journal. When I looked back on 2013, there were a lot of great milestones for our family. I turned 40, and my family pulled off a great surprise party. We spent an amazing 4th of July week in Colorado with family.  Youngest Son started full day kindergarten, Middle Daughter began her first year of middle school as a 5th grader, and Oldest Daughter began her year as an 8th grader and is shadowing at high schools.   Hubby got a great promotion at the hospital and paid off his med school loans.

Then there were other significant happenings: Winter storm Nemo came the day before Youngest Son’s birthday, knocking out power to everyone, and forcing us to melt buckets of snow to flush the toilets. Then there was the Hot Water Heater Disaster of St. Patrick’s Day weekend, when eighty plus gallons of water leaked all over the basement while Hubby happened to be 4 hours away.

But what stands out the most is my journal entry from April 15. When I read that, I can’t help but feel lucky.

My friend Tricia had a friend running the Boston Marathon and wanted to take the girls (hers, ours, and two friends) into the city for the day. “I’ll drive,” I said. “Sounds like fun.”

The first half of the day passed as a procession of selfies and snapshots from the girls’ iPods: first time on the T, first time at Quincy Market, first time eating in Faneuil Hall, doing their best dance pose on the steps of the State House. We saw runners chug through the final legs of the marathon and felt the energy of the crowd as we clapped and cheered for them.

We started to head toward the finish line as Tricia got a text update from her friend. We were in the most crowded section of the city, trying to move through a massive sea of slow moving people. We made all 6 girls hold hands like they were on a preschool field trip. Metal gates seemed to block every street we wanted to go down. Some kind man wearing a Boston Athletic Association jacket and badge took pity on us– I can only imagine how lost and confused we looked. He let us cut through to the family and friends meeting area, avoiding the finish line area altogether.

We somehow found Tricia’s friend to congratulate her and were heading back the way we came when we heard the first explosion. The girls looked at us with wide eyes. “Thunder? A jet?” I was searching for plausible explanations when we heard the second explosion. “A car accident,” we tried to reassure the girls that sounds reverberate and sound differently in a city with so many buildings close together. We kept walking away from those sounds which had only been a block and a half from where we’d stood.

Then the sirens came. Ambulance after ambulance, police cars and fire trucks screamed past us. We held hands and we just kept walking. At some point Tricia and I knew there had been explosions at the finish line, but not much more than that. We tried to keep the older girls from getting on their phones.

We walked a fine line during that time– from the time we heard the explosions until we were able to leave the city. Trying to maintain our composure, that we had things under control, that nothing bad was going to happen to us. My stomach was in knots and my heart pounded in my throat. It was pure adrenaline. One thought kept running through my head: protect the kids, keep them safe. Nothing tests your strength like looking into the scared and questioning faces of six girls, knowing they are looking to you for reassurance, guidance, and safety.

I could say that I wished we were never in Boston on that Marathon Monday. That I wished our kids never had to experience that loss of innocence that day. But then I’d never be able to point out to them– as I truly could that day– that there were angels watching over us. That we made it to exactly where we needed to be at exactly the right time. That there is strength in the power of prayer; all our friends and family back at home who were wishing for our safe return. If we were never there, I could never point out to them how strong they were that day, how they helped me to be strong. My faith in faith was restored that day.

Almost everyone I know has some connection to Boston on that day, or knows someone who does. I’m not sharing my story because I think it’s more dramatic or important than anyone else’s. Far from it. But looking back on this year, I couldn’t not share it. It puts things in perspective for me. It doesn’t make our milestones seem any smaller or more trivial, but they are sweeter, more cherished. Our troubles seem smaller, though, more manageable.

We are truly blessed and thankful to have each one of you in our lives. We are who we are because of the people who touch our lives in every small and magnificent way: the angels who watch over us, the helpers who guide us, the family who has faith in us, the friends who love us. We grow in strength and love from all of you.

God Bless and Merry Christmas.

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