There is a movie out right now by Disney/Pixar called "Up". Lucas and I have seen it twice. It is on one hand an entertaining, animal-talking, hilarious, thrill-ride that kids really seem to enjoy. It is on the other hand a very touching story about life, death, grieving, loneliness, relationships, and moving forward. The main character is an old man named Carl Frederickson. The first 10 minutes of the film beautifully captures key points of his life with his childhood friend and fellow adventurer Ellie, who becomes his wife and lifelong partner. Through a moving video collage of their life together we see Carl and Ellie get married, buy and renovate a house, get pregnant and anticipate the birth of their child, suffer a devastating miscarriage, picnic on a grassy hill, dream of going to South America to visit Paradise Falls, and repeatedly set aside their dream in order to deal with life's misfortunes. Finally, Ellie gets sick and dies, leaving Carl without his soulmate and with a dream unfulfilled. With his wife gone, Carl decides to attempt to keep his promise to Ellie by flying the home that they made together to South America. To make a long story short, Carl eventually succeeds in getting the house to Paradise Falls. Now backtrack a bit. When she was a child, Ellie started an adventure scrapbook about her plans to go someday to Paradise Falls. A few pages into the scrapbook she leaves a section blank for photos/memories of what she will do when she gets there. As far as Carl knew, the scrapbook was never completed and the pages in that part of it were left blank. Fast forward. So after Carl gets the house to Paradise Falls, he sits on his chair and looks one last time at Ellie's scrapbook. It is then that he notices that Ellie had continued to work on the scrapbook throughout the rest of her life filling it with pictures of their life together. At the end of the scrapbook she had written, "Thanks for the adventure - Now go have a new one." Soonafter, in order to save the little boy who traveled with him, Carl has to choose to throw everything that was in the house out so that the house could fly again. Later, after saving the boy, Carl sees the house float away for the last time.
Though I am a bit ashamed that I have personally connected to the story of this fictional animated character, the truth is that there are aspects of his journey that so clearly mirror my own. It has been 18 months since Midi and Nathan died. Lucas and I continue to live in the home that Midi and I started making together six years ago. And I find myself today in a place where I am ready to move forward, physically and emotionally. A big part of this will be packing up and moving out of this house on Abila St. that Midi and I made our home and moving into a new place and making a new home with Lucas. I wasn't ready to do this last year. But I am now. In December, through much thought, prayer, and counsel, I decided to take a leave-of-absence from my teaching position for the '09-'10 school year. So I will have over 12 months to work through this next part of my journey.
Last year I feared any aspect of moving forward. I feared that moving forward would necessarily be tied to letting go, which I desperately did not want to do in any form. I also feared that I would feel guilty if I moved forward and started to experience life as this improved person that God is making me. I think that is why I was completely unable to touch any of Midi's belongings last summer. I just wasn't ready. But what I have realized since then is that there is a certain way that I have to let go of Midi and Nathan if I am to move forward in a healthy way and embrace/seize the rest of my life and the new joys that await me. As I have seen and witnessed that God has so much more for me yet and have experienced joy in new relationships that I have chosen to give myself to, I feel confident that the rest of my life can still be good and purposeful. It is not time in and of itself that has brought me to this place, but it is by seeing over time that despite the pain of loss that I will feel every day of my life, new life and new joy can still come in and coexist with that pain. God has walked with me and graciously given me enough evidence this past year-and-a-half to be confident and eager to embrace what is to come.
Though I do not like to project onto Midi what I think she would say if she could communicate to me today, I think based on what I know of her and what I know of myself if things were the other way around that her sentiments would be similar to that of Ellie: "Thanks for the adventure - Now go have a new one." And as I sit here at the beginning of my time off, I am ready to let go and move forward and embrace the new adventures that God has in store for me and Lucas.
*Obviously, the biggest symbol of moving my life forward is moving to a new home and all that doing so entails. There are other smaller symbols that signify my moving forward, namely shaving my head, which I did on Father's Day. I have actually wanted to cut all my hair off and go with the 1/4" look for quite some time. But I submitted to Midi who absolutely did not want me to. I figured that the only person whose opinion I cared about in regards to how I looked was Midi. So shaving my head is actually pretty meaningful to me in that it symbolizes that I understand that Midi is no longer here and therefore, in some strange way, releases me from my promise not to cut my hair off.