Friday, June 23, 2006

My Life is an Epilogue-Revisited

I will be submitting my writing in a contest that my friend Kristen encouraged me to enter. Many of you have read this in the past but it has been reworked into a first person story rather than a sermon-y e-mail. I don't think I will win but it was nice to work on a project (with the best editor in the world, Liz Norling). Keep your fingers crossed!!

My Life is an Epilogue



I drew myself a bath…my first in a long while. As the mother of 2 active children (1 and 3), on staff at our church and wife to a busy but wonderful husband, I needed my “old standard” of sloughing off my day into the bubbles of my tub. I grabbed the book I’d been reading. I had read another book by this author and was giving a new one a try. It was a touching story, deep, painful, vulgar at times and funny at others. I was committed to finishing it.

The water hadn’t even started cooling when I read it. A passage of the book had, for some reason, tapped deep into my heart and sprouted a flood of emotions and thoughts. The main character, T.S. Garp had lost a son in a freak accident for which Garp was partially to blame. A melancholy writer, Garp was reflecting on the loss that had torn his family-and marriage-to the breaking point. As the storyteller, he reflects:

"Ever since Walt died, my life has felt like an epilogue."
T.S. Garp "The World According to Garp"

I immediately got out of the bathtub-no longer relaxed-but my mind was buzzing with a million thoughts that I had to get out. I changed into pajamas and quietly snuck into my daughter’s room that also happened to be our office. I started writing an e-mail, reflecting on the quote, unsure of why it had sparked such an interest in me (especially when the story was getting really good!)

The epilogue of a book is an afterthought; sometimes a wrap-up of the story but most often the end. As if everything in the epilogue only relates to the story and nothing else that happens following the main story is worthy of additional chapters, sequels or revisits. T. S. Garp looked at the life he had in front of him and saw nothing that could provide any hope, only afterthoughts that would always remind him of his son, Walt.

My thoughts returned to my losses in life, more specifically, a journey in which God tested me, allowed me to break and brought me to my knees. It began in 1998. My father and mother asked my husband and me to come over to their house. We brought pie. Instead of dessert, we received news that tore my family apart. That night was the beginning of the end of my parents’ marriage and a complete destruction of a family unit I had used as a model for my own young marriage. When leaving my old house of memories, I collapsed on the front lawn-unable to stand under the weight of the terrible news. The death of my beloved uncle followed only a few years later. The loss to our family rocked an already fragile frame to the core. Following that, my husband’s parents announced an odd separation that we still don’t understand to this day. And then, our decision to stay and help rebuild the church we loved so much, while in the wake of destruction my own father helped cause, became a process more painful than expected.

We all have moments in life that change us. It could be a bad hair style on the wrong day to something like a family member dying. I took Garp’s phrase and inserted my own events:

"Ever since my parent's split, my life has felt like an epilogue."
B. J. Zabrosky, October 1998

OR

"Ever since Uncle Jim died, my life has felt like an epilogue."
Bethany J. Zabrosky, Every March 3 of Every Year to Follow From Now Until Forever.

I continued writing, wondering if I had done this very thing, reflecting to see if I had, indeed, allowed these events to “epilogue” my life. Upon my parent’s very public crisis and eventual split, I found myself not dealing with the hurt and pain and instead putting on a “survivor face” for the people at church. I loved hearing how brave I was and how inspiring it was for all the other people hurt in this to see me still attending the church. At home, I wasn’t taking care of myself. Regular every day actions like combing my hair, getting dressed or showering weren’t taking place. I turned to comfort foods as a band- aid to my wound. In 1999, I hit bottom and my friends around me encouraged me to get help. My husband helped me find a counselor and was there every step while the grace of God helped me find my way out of the darkness I had been living in. My uncle’s death was painful but I was able to rejoice with my family that he was in a Happier Place where the cancer had left his body, where he was free to move and delight in the presence of our Savior. And the rebuilding of our church was becoming easier and easier every day.

I started crying as I realized this. Picture this 29 year old, in her bathrobe, sobbing silently while her family slept and little baby made sweet moaning sounds in the crib next to me. And then see me on my knees. Thanking God for His presence through the last 8 years.

Suddenly, faces popped into my head. Names, people I know and love. Family members, friends who have had terrible things take their lives and wrench them into ugliness and pain. I was writing for them. God needed me to share this with them. I scanned over my e-mail-everything that had come into my head- and edited it for spelling only. I hit send before I thought twice. I knew that for some of the family I was sending it to, I might hurt them. I knew that there were people hanging onto pain because it was easier to “epilogue” their life than it was to continue writing it. However, the response I got from others was encouraging. My writing was shared in Bible Studies, changed the lives of my friends who read my blog and I was even presented with the opportunity to talk to a group of mothers at a church mom’s group.

You, who are currently reading this and following this train of thought, may I encourage you to participate in this exercise as I did my friends and family that night? Take your life-changing event; the one that pops up in your mind each day and is stopping you from moving on with your life. Bring to mind that life-changing moment that grips you with such fear that even your strongest of wills finds itself immovable and fill-in the blank:

"Ever since ______________________, my life has felt like an epilogue."
You, Today and Right Now.

Face it! Accept it! Look at it and stare at it. If you think you have a moment in your life that you can put in that blank, then you need to realize it right now. Your life HAS become an epilogue as mine did once. A moment of time has taken away all your future moments and captured your permanent attention. That's it. You are done. You will forever view life through that experience, that time of anguish. Say it out loud if you need to. It hurts. Let it hurt and allow it to leave your body with each exhale you take.

Can I invite you to take another deep breath? Because I feel I might have some hope for you.

I have a Friend. A God who Reigns my Life. Who is Knower of All Things Good and Bad. And, what's more important, who is Knower of All Things Good and Bad IN MY LIFE. He has been called the Great Author, for it is He who writes our beginnings and our ends and...our epilogues.

Who can complete the Book of Anguish that you have allowed your life to become? My God.

Who has a fresh page, a brand new chapter for you to begin a whole new beginning? My God.

Who loves you so much that He is begging you to ask Him to help you? My God.

God wants us to take our Moments, our Disasters, our Life-Changing-Epilogue-Creating Times and hand them to Him. In Him we can find the strength, the courage to remove ourselves from the book of our lives that we are currently writing and start a new book. A book of Hope for the Future, one with greater strength than before.

Despite all of my circumstances, 8 years later, I feel I have avoided the epilogue lifestyle. Instead I have picked up, moved on, and started a new chapter with my church. Started a new BOOK by having my sweet children, Nate the Great and Lucy Joy and even had to learn a new language as relationships rebuild from divorce. Looking back, I see God holding the pen and writing His presence into my book of life.

I started the e-mail that night as a way of commenting that I didn’t WANT to be like T.S. Garp and look at my life as an epilogue. I didn’t have to look far beyond myself to find those who accomplished that. While my parents are no longer married, they have both applied their knowledge of God’s grace to their lives. They have allowed His healing to restore them to people who do not live in the shadows of their past or past actions. And while I lost an uncle in 2001, my aunt was the one who lost a husband. One who was the rock of his family and while she mourns his loss and acknowledges his absence from her everyday life, she met and married an amazing guy. One who was NOT my uncle but who LOVES her and together they are conquering the world airport by airport on all their adventures. THAT is a fine example of ending an epilogue.

The great thing is that no one needs to do it alone. The book of my life is filled with characters who have come alongside me, given me hope and shown me how to write again. You can do it too.

"Ever since ____________, my life has felt like an epilogue."

6 comments:

  1. Well done.
    I still get goosebumps when I read this-I shared it with my Wicca friend here at work...it really hit her.

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  2. you are truly amazing Bethany!! I love this!! Love you more though! You are incredibly talented, and this just moves me to my core.

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  3. Jeri Buckner via E-mailFriday, June 23, 2006 5:09:00 PM

    Thank you for sending this. I see many applications in this “Epilogue and am so thrilled you are getting on with a new life. I feel I don’t have any epilogues that I hang on to. I have tried to look on each challenge as an opportunity to praise our LORD and then get on with life. In this life to me we are in training for Eternity in Heaven. My step mom missed my dad so much when he passed away many years ago. They used to go and do things every Sunday. When he died she would sit and cry each Sunday most of the day and have what she called a “Pity Party”. One day she woke up and said to herself “ Dot, this is ridiculous. You can have a Pity party for 30 minutes and cry all you want during that time , but that is it!!. No More. Get on with life.” And she did. It sounds to me like an Epiloque that ended the way it should.

    Your writing is great and I hope you win the contest. You have already won more than that by starting anew.

    Much Love and prayers, Jeri

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  4. Bethany, I sit here with tears in my eyes, amazed at the awesome woman you are, and are becoming. This is a beautiful, vulnerable part of real life that you have exposed to the world, and I pray that many more are blessed and changed by it.

    Love and blessings,
    Aunt Pat

    P.S. My Dad died on Nov. 3, 1984, and your Uncle Jim died Mar. 3, 2001, so thirds aren't my favorite days. Also, FYI, epilogue attitudes sometimes still pop up and surprise me, even though God has blessed me with another wonderful man in my life. My main response, eventually, is gratitude to God for His love, creativity, and constant presence in my life.

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  5. WOW, i am amazed by this. i cried too. life does happen, but we move on, grow, and become stronger. . . remember that night i called you late? having my panic attack? thinking, i may never be loved by a man? look what i have now? i am blessed. God is amazing, and i am in awe.

    well, my friend, as your mom said. . well done. .

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  6. This is well written, Bethany. It might be pretty cool to win the contest, but it's even cooler that you are a living testimony to God's healing.
    Blessings,
    Susie

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