This morning my alarm woke me at 4:00 a.m. Normally, I’d be a very grumpy person that early in the morning, but today I am making an important journey. Today I am headed to Asheville, North Carolina, a place that I have been obsessed with visiting for many years. I couldn’t tell you why or when I became obsessed with Asheville, but it was a running joke for Garry and I that if his company ever asked him to relocate, I’d only go if it were to Asheville.
Last year, as we were sitting down to dinner during our last anniversary trip together, Garry asked me where I wanted to go for our next anniversary. All I had to do was give him a look and he knew. “Asheville?” he asked. I smiled. He promised it would be our next destination together.
That dream, along with so many others, died the day he did. I had little hope of ever seeing Asheville after he passed away, and I tucked that disappointment away with all the others his passing left me with.
But then, only a few months after Garry died, I got an email reminding me of a writer’s conference that I’d always wanted to attend. A writer’s conference that we had planned for me to go to last year, but it fell through. A conference in Charlotte, North Carolina, just two hours from Asheville. Suddenly, my little dream of going to Asheville sparked a bit in my heart. I prayed. I worked out many little details that would need to happen for me to go. Small miracles began to happen and God told me to make my way to this place.
So I am.
My husband was a man of honor. He never made a promise he didn’t keep. Even death could not stop him from keeping his promise to me in this. It was through a small miracle related to his death that I am able to afford to chase this dream. His parents are the saints that are watching our children so I can take this amazing journey. I am finally going to this special place that we wanted to visit together, but he is not taking me there. Instead, I am taking him.
I have a precious bundle of ashes packed in my carry-on. Together, Garry and I are finally traveling to Asheville. Together, he and I will visit a vibrant little hippie town I’ve had my sights set on for years. Together, we will hike a small mountain and take in the beauty of the world around us.
And it is there on that mountain that I will let him go.
Today, I finally get to choose good-bye. Up until this point, I have been forced to say good-bye. I was forced to watch my husband die. I was forced to give up my identity as a wife. I was forced to leave our home and forced to create a strange new life I didn’t fully comprehend and certainly didn’t want. I was never given a choice in all of this, until now.
Today, I’m going to hike up that mountain and I’m going to say good-bye to my husband. I’m going to thank him for choosing me, for growing me, for standing by me and cheering me on. I’m going to thank him for loving me so well and making me a mother. Then I’m going to worship the God who is carrying me through this unexpected journey and I am going to weep and pray and breathe in peace and breathe out pain.
And then I will make my way back down the mountain and step into a life I may not have chosen, but it is the only one I’ve been given. I am choosing to live it to the fullest because it’s what Garry would want me to do and because I have a whole lot of life left to give. I’m going to chase my dreams and raise our babies and laugh and love and trust in God’s plan.
Today is a day for choosing a good good-bye. It’s almost as if I am walking through the last page of this chapter of my life. Tomorrow, I will head to the first day of my conference where I expect to meet God and let Him show me how the beginning of my new chapter starts. This aspiring author can’t wait to see what the Great Author has in store.
I am ready to turn the page.