Have you ever experienced such a pivotal moment in your life where you know from then on nothing will be the same? I’ve experienced that moment… and even in the midst of tragedy, it changed me for the better and I was given new eyes to see. Here’s my story…
It was summertime and the kids and I had a great day with my mom in Emporia. We came home that night, and I tucked Riley and Madison into bed. Matt’s phone rang and when I overheard him talking I could immediately tell something bad had happened.
He was pacing like he normally does when talking on the phone, but this time he kept pausing and looking at me with a sort of dread on his face. When he got off the phone, he just paused and then said: “I guess Rael and Bogie were on their way to Branson and got in a car accident.” He said it in a way that made me first think they were in the hospital and badly hurt.
He then said, “They died.” And there it was. The heaviest and most unexpected sentence I’ve heard so far in my life.
Rael and Bogie were my aunt and uncle, and they’ll never know how much I loved them. I’m not a very emotional person and I often keep strong feelings and experiences to myself. So I’ve really never expressed how much they meant to me. And at that moment, I had never lost anyone so close to me before… especially more than one person at the same time and in a sudden and tragic way.
I cried every night for hours leading up to their funeral. And when the day came for us to say goodbye, I felt exhausted feeling sad. I’m a very happy person and the weight of grief was too heavy for me, so I decided to do what most people in my family do and I pushed it aside. I knew they were in Heaven and that gave me peace to know I’d see them again. I actually felt a bit better once we left the visitation, or at least that’s what I was telling myself I guess. But after the visitation, we went back to their home…
And the grief came over me again once I realized I was also saying goodbye to their home as well. Since they were both gone, no one would be in their home anymore. Their home, which I had so many fond memories in, was also going to be gone from me as well.
It made me wonder why I was also attached to their home? After all, it was them that I missed, not a wood structure. But they were present and reflected all over their home. They didn’t have random decor from Target or Hobby Lobby hanging on their walls… they had my aunt’s paintings. They didn’t have decorative or trendy items on their shelves… they had photos of all their loved ones. They had so many photos of friends and family in their home, and I felt so loved going there and seeing a picture of me in their home. They didn’t have junky furniture, they had handbuilt pieces my uncle had made. Their hands and heart were present in every corner. In that pivotal moment, I realized the power the feeling of home has.
We were getting ready to move into a new home at the time, and I decided at that moment that I would not decorate my home according to trends. I decided I would try to have as many pieces of me that I could in my house. I wanted part of me to be left behind for my loved ones when I go to Heaven someday. I wanted to create something my loved ones could hold on to and feel my work and my heart… something they could feel me in.
But I didn’t know what that something would be. I didn’t really have a hobby or passion or something I was particularly good at. So I thought, in honoring my aunt, that I would try painting. Well… I painted one picture, and to my surprise, I wasn’t connecting with it. Have you ever pursued a hobby or interest that you were just sure you’d love? It just looked like it’d fit you perfectly? I thought that’s what painting would be for me, but God had other plans.
So in trying to honor my uncle, I decided I’d give wood-working a shot. We needed furniture for our new home anyway. I thought I’d surprise Matt by making a coffee table all by myself while honoring my uncle’s talent at the same time. I really thought it’d be a one-and-done project. But the feeling I had while making that table was indescribable.
I felt like I was in a meditative state in a way because the hours I spent making the table flew by! And I couldn’t stop! I remember it was hot outside, the kids needed to be fed, and yet I couldn’t be pulled away. Following that building plan just came easy to me; easier than cooking, easier than gardening, easier than making a simple craft with my 4-year-old. It just clicked.
And I’ll never forget the pride I felt bringing that coffee table into my home. I’ll never forget the look on Matt’s face when he saw what I made. I’ll never forget everyone’s look on their face when they saw what I’d made! No one would ever picture me as a wood-worker.
And yet here I am, several years later, countless handbuilt pieces later, even more happy with wood-working. It was instantly my passion. I was hooked to something I could never see myself enjoying before. I get downright emotional even sharing it with you! I can’t express how much I love it, how empowered it’s made me feel, and the confidence I’ve gained!
I discovered my passion because of a tragic time in my life. Would I give it all up for even one day with my aunt and uncle? I would give it all up for even one hour with them. But I know when they greet me at the gates of Heaven, I’ll tell my uncle with tears of joy that his passion moved on to me.