Sunday, December 12, 2010

Defining Moments

"Something is over. In the deepest levels of my existence something is finished, done. My life is divided into before and after.... Especially in places where he and I were together this sense of something being over washes over me." - Lament for a Son, by Nicholas Wolterstorf

It's amazing how certain things in life actually draw a line between a before and after. Upon reading the statement by Nicholas Wolterstorf, "My life is divided into before and after," I reflected on what that meant and have determined that these are "defining moments". These are the instances where my life literally changed completely, in a matter of minutes. While there have been many gradual changes in my life when I have grown and learned and changed along the way, there have been very few "defining moments". For example, marriage is something that is slowly worked into (and for me it was very slow). There was a very long dating time, then a long engagement and then marriage. Both, before and after the wedding date, Mike and I were growing and changing together. On the day of our wedding our lives didn't completely turn a huge corner, but rather is was a gradual shift, one we worked up to. This is how most of my life has been.

So, what are my "defining moments"? There are actually only two: the day Austin was born and the day Austin died. The interesting thing is they are in increments of twenty-two years. I was twenty-two years old when Austin was born. Then, twenty-two years later, I was one month shy of my 44th birthday when Austin died. I don't think there is actually anything significant in these years, but rather find it ironic.

Defining Moment #1: Austin's Birth

Why was Austin's birth a defining moment for me? It is because he was my first born and no matter how much you prepare for that first child, your life is rocked when he is born. Not in a bad way, but in a beautiful way. My life had always been "all about me", until Austin arrived, and in a matter of seconds it was no longer about me, but rather about this little bundle of love. Nothing could have prepared me for the joy this little boy would bring.

Defining Moment #2: Austin's Death

Need I say more. In a matter of seconds my life turned upside down. Instead of something beautiful being added to my life, part of me was torn away, leaving a gaping hole. Prior to Austin's death I would smile as I thought of how he was growing into a beautiful young man. Today, the thought that I will never see Austin celebrate another Christmas or birthday, never celebrate his getting married and becoming a father, never again hear his voice and feel his hugs is heart-wrenching. Nothing could have prepared me for this.

"The burying of one's child is a wrenching alteration of expectations.... A child comes into the world weak and vulnerable. From the first minutes of its life, we protect it.... It begins to display feelings and thoughts and choices of its own. We celebrate those and out of our own way of being-of-the-world try to shape and direct and guide them.... We take it on ourselves to stay with this helpless infant all the way so that it has a future, a future in which we can delight in its delight and sorrow in its sorrows. Our plans and hopes and fears are plans and hopes and fears for it. Along the way we experience the delights and disappointments of watching that future take shape, from babblings to oratory, from flounderings to climbing, from dependence to equality. And now he's gone. That future which I embraced to myself has been destroyed. He slipped out of my arms. For twenty-five years I guarded and sustained and encouraged him with these hands of mine, helping him to grow and become a man of his own. Then he slipped out and was smashed." - Lament for a Son, by Nicholas Wolterstorff

Nothing could have prepared me for this, so what do I do? The same thing I did when Austin was born and I was entering uncharted waters, I take it one step at a time. Hmmm... I wonder what defining moments the next 22 years will bring?