I remember just after Robbie, my oldest son was born, Jacob Wetterling was kidnapped. Jacob was a boy of about 12 years of age. To this day, he has not been found.
My world was shattered. Here I had brought this innocent young boy into this terrible world in which children can just be snapped up by strangers and taken away or killed. And so started the frantic worry of trying to protect my babies.
As the boys grew, I would find myself, on sleepless nights, imagining all kinds of suffering they might go through: cancer, losing a parent, being kidnapped, being abused physically, sexually or emotionally. My imagination would take my fears and distraught to the ultimate loss of my boy, the ultimate pain. And only then, would my brain kick in and remind myself that this is not true. This is only my active imagination. And I would sigh in relief and fall asleep.
But there is one other little step that happened in that space between imagination and reality, and that is acceptance. As I carried out my worst fears to their ultimate pain, in that pain, I would realize that I could handle that. I woule never want to handle it, but if life forced that agony on me, I knew I was strong enough to handle it.
I’ve had enough hard times in my life to understand that I can handle the pain. Losing a father when I was 8 years old, struggling through difficulties in my marriage, watching my kids struggle through parts of their teen years. None of those times have been easy for me. And yet I have learned that I am a survivor. And in that confidence of being a survivor, I have learned to live in the moment. To enjoy what life has to offer me, right now.
Perhaps there is a certain wisdom that comes with age, and perhaps that is the gift of growing older. Perhaps.