We humans are creatures of curiosity. It's how our brains try to make sense out of all the stuff that happens to us, particularly the unexpected and traumatic. Like The Troggs in their #1 hit cover of Chip Taylor's Wild Thing, we "...wanna know for sure...". So we ask all those "why?" questions and we ponder all those "if we only knew" moments.
I’ve spent a lot of time doing that since March of 2014.
Wondering how different things could have been if any of us had had any inkling of my husband Bill’s illness earlier than we did. I’ve rehashed every event and detail trying to tease out clues, hints, comments - anything that would have given me a sense that something was very, very wrong. In hindsight, there are some things I have questions about, but at the time I saw nothing that pointed to anything out of the ordinary and the only person who could answer those questions is now gone. I can wonder about what *might* have happened if I had known then what I know now until the cows come home, and I have, but the plain truth is I didn’t know, and there is no way I could have known exactly what we were going to be facing.
We finite human creatures don’t ever have all the answers. As the Apostle Paul wrote in his first letter to the Corinthian Christians,
“…for now we see in a mirror, dimly… now I know only in part…” I Cor. 13:12, NRSV
But after a friend’s Facebook posts and an email exchange with another friend I’m digging a little deeper. Those “if we only knew” comments often contain frustration or regret, but there is another side to this: times when, as my friend Joy puts it, “…hindsight gives us answers [we were] reluctant to see or did not understand in the moment…”
In January of 2014 our family vacationed at Disney World. We were spread all over the US by then, and the last time we’d all been together was in 2012 for my father’s funeral. We missed each other so much we started talking intentionally about how to connect more often and Bill and our son Matt hit on the idea of a family reunion at Disney World. With nine people in three states, five different employers, and three separate school systems’ policies to juggle, it took an entire year to plan and execute. We had no idea why at the time, (and we were well aware of how pretentious saying we “had” to go to Disney World sounded) but Bill and I were both convinced that no matter how hard it was to get this put together, it was non-negotiable; something we absolutely had to do. We got it all arranged, we went, (bad weather, cold and flu season, and a summons for jury duty notwithstanding), and it was perfect. And just a month after we got home, we received Bill’s stunning brain cancer diagnosis. In hindsight it was clear why we had to go.
As I continued to ponder my “if we only knew” moments over the course of this week, I noticed something else. Even when those musings did not provide all (or any of) the “answers” I wanted, there was still value there. Examining each situation, my reactions, and how my life evolved from that point forward has been extremely instructional in helping me discern and confirm what my core beliefs are and what is most important to me, and that has provided me with the impetus to live, not just exist; to embrace and not withdraw; to engage life with passion and authenticity, not just go through the motions; to be intentional about spending my time and emotional energy on what truly matters. I don’t sit around waiting for a tomorrow that might never come.
This is my take, told through the lens of my personal experience. Your mileage may vary. “…Just my opinion,” as Dennis Miller always said, “…I could be wrong…” but I firmly believe that in telling our stories and sharing our lives with one another there is opportunity for healing and understanding and growth.
May it be so for you this day. May your ponderings and your sharing be filled with wisdom and grace and infused with the Holy.