My family and I recently spent a week camping in Carrabelle, Florida for spring break. The Gulf of Mexico was chilly for our 12-year-old, Gracie, my husband and I but for 10-year-old, Kate and seven-year-old, David, who apparently have no nerve endings, the water was just right. While they jumped waves, Gracie and her dad would bust out the kite. In a matter of moments, a bright, colorful diamond would be soaring above the treetops. Sometimes the wind gusts would be so powerful that my daughter would have to hold on with both hands.
One afternoon, David pulled himself out of the chilly waters and asked if he could fly the kite. It was another blustery day and the kite was tugging hard against the string. Gracie handed control over to him with these simple instructions, “It’s really windy so be sure you hang on tight and don’t let go. Whatever you do… Don’t let go!”
Despite our best efforts, the winds keep blowing, tugging at what little we’re holding onto. In January, my uncle was diagnosed with cancer. Eleven days later it took his life. My aunt, his wife of 47 years, has been feeling strong gusts as she faces each day but she’s hanging on tight to her 47 years of memories and she’s not letting go of the love, the son, the grandchildren and the victories and sorrows that they shared.
My husband’s 54-year-old aunt has been diagnosed with an aggressive form of dementia. Her children have watched her struggle and have witnessed the loss of her brain’s function in everyday activities. On some days, the winds have nearly blown them over but they continue to hang on to a small thread of faith. They refuse to let go despite the visible decline and the daily, tragic reminders that their mother’s life will be cut short. They are not letting go of mercy and the promise of joy and are holding most tightly to grace.
One year ago this month, our 12-year-old nephew had another seizure, this one in school but this time his heart stopped. Actually, it stopped and was revived four times that day and before he was put onto a helicopter to be airlifted to Anchorage, his parents were told that his heart could not be revived again. They were asked to tell him everything that they wanted him to hear because it could be goodbye. They got into another helicopter and refused to let go of hope. Through a coma, heart surgery, rehabilitation and too many ups and downs to count, they keep holding on.
As I was writing this, my husband’s cousin texted me this picture of her and her sister and their mom, the one struggling with dementia, along with our nephew (one year after his heart surgery) and his sister. In the picture they all look whole; it doesn’t appear as if the winds are blowing but unlike so many of us, they don’t take on the day as a whole but rather inch-by-inch; sometimes that's the only way they can walk into headwinds. They had all gone to see a movie called God’s Not Dead at their local theater. That seems fitting. They’re holding tight to that and refuse to let go.
In your struggles against the winds of divorce, sickness, single parenting, job loss, death, loneliness or heartache, know that you’re not alone. Some days the force of those gales may threaten to blow you over or break you apart but hang on tight and don’t let go. Whatever you do… Don’t let go!