If you know me at all, you know I like to have a plan. I think it stems from knowing myself too well not have a plan. On the rare occasions that I go to the grocery store with Blake, I make us take a list. He may have the self-control not to have a meltdown and buy twenty-seven things we don’t need but I am just enough crazy to drag us both down to that point. When cleaning, I have to make a very detailed list of things to do. If I don’t, I end up doing a couple of tasks in each room and never accomplish cleaning an entire room. Without a list, I wash a few dishes, then wander off to scrub the toilet, then start a load of laundry that I eventually forget about and have to rewash, then go wash a few more dishes… The list allows me the freedom to scatter-clean, but reminds me that I need to finish what I start.
In the same vein, I like keeping a close eye on our calendar. In spite of living in a part of the world where little is planned ahead of time, I am never too far from my weekly planner. If I didn’t, I would double-book a Bible Study on top of working at the children’s home or Blake would be set to preach in two different churches on the same Sunday. Sometimes I’m quite certain I’m viewed as an obsessive control freak as I whip out my planner when asked to do something, but people know that if I say I’ll be somewhere, I will. When our women’s group in Arica did a study of “A Woman After God’s Own Heart,” I was held up as a shining example of a “heart that seeks first things first” through making plans in order to prioritize tasks and maximize the effectiveness of my time. Honestly, the rest of the book made me feel slightly guilty about the pleasure I find in being a liberated woman but, dang it, I felt good the day we talked about planning.
Things very rarely turn out how I plan, but living and serving in Chile has taught me that’s okay. It doesn’t mean I don’t plan, it just means that I plan with flexibility in mind.
When Blake and I decided to start a family, I never considered that those plans would have to be dramatically altered. We planned to pay-off of some minor credit card debt. We consolidated our student loans in order to give us a little more breathing room. We saved up money to cover my insurance deductible. We moved to a bigger house. Heck, we even planned when we got pregnant in order to be between the three and seven month marks for our trip back to the U.S. for a team meeting this past summer.
We planned past Silas’ birth, as well. A few weeks before he was born, we got him his first puppy—because every little boy needs a good dog to grow up with. We planned Blake’s trips to southern Chile and to Belize for meetings while Silas and I stayed home with his puppy, Maddie. I’d planned to start studying for the GRE so that when we took him to Santiago for his U.S. passport, I could go ahead and take it then. We planned for the visit of in-laws in February and my sister-in-law and an intern for the summer. We planned our first trip back to visit our families in 2013 in order to celebrate his first birthday and second Christmas. As a part of our work with neglected children, we planned to start the process of becoming foster parents once we got back from that trip.
Obviously, our completely devastated plans were not the first thing that came to mind when my doctor was unable to find our son’s precious heartbeat, but in the days and weeks since his death I have been at a total loss to make sense of the difference between what we had planned and what actually happened. Our lives, our plans, our entire foreseeable future had been based on Silas joining our family and changing our lives. Given how wrapped up in him our lives were and are, I’ve had a really hard time thinking about the future. At times, I’ve felt like I don’t even have a future—like all of my hopes and dreams went with him when he died.
This is where I was a couple of weeks ago as we set off to spend some time in Atlanta. On the way, we met friends for lunch in Greenville. I think it was after I mentioned my frustration in feeling like the only thing people see when they look at me is my empty arms that Carrie said something like “This is not your journey. It’s part of your journey.” I guess I’ve gotten so used to being “the woman who lost her son,” that I’ve forgotten that my loss is not the only thing that makes me who I am. Losing Silas demands that we almost completely overhaul the plans we’d made, but it doesn’t mean that we have no future. Our whole week in Atlanta visiting family and friends and meeting with folks from our organization was good for me in so many ways. I was able to be raw and honest with how I feel with people who can help us figure out what’s next. I was able to laugh with friends I hadn’t spent time with in a while. I had a delightful tea party with our two year-old goddaughter. That I’ve since begun thinking about and starting to make plans for the future is, I feel, a healthy sign. Will the things I’m thinking about now ever come to pass? I don’t know, but it sure feels good to be dreaming again.
For the last several weeks, we’ve been reminding each other that we need to contact our travel agent to start looking at tickets back to Chile. It normally happens when we are nowhere near a computer. This week, though, we remembered and did it. And I feel that, too, is a healthy sign.