By the time you read this, 2014 will either be just around the corner or will have already arrived. It’s a new year for new beginnings and new endings, or to use a single word, another year for changes.
As I write this on Sunday evening, I find myself reflecting on how my life’s chapter for 2013 was far too similar to the one from 20 years ago in 1993 – both of which I was more than ready to finish.
Each had their share of death of family members – my first husband in 1993; my father in 2013. The church in which I grew up in Chickamauga, Ga., lost eight members of its congregation in 2013 – all of whom I knew.
Illnesses of close family members or friends permeated both years. Daddy had a tachycardia episode in 1993, while my husband Jim slipped on ice five days before Daddy died and fractured his shoulder and upper arm bone in 2013.
I busted my ACL following the blizzard in March of 1993 that left us without power for over a week and our house in need of new flooring after keeping nine dogs inside for three days. Mother had a minor episode with her heart and had a stint put in on the Tuesday before Thanksgiving in 2013, while our house currently remains upside down due to renovations caused not by a blizzard, but because it just needed new floors and paint.
A dear friend’s son almost died of encephalitis in December 1993, while in 2013 another close friend suffered a stroke before Christmas and underwent two major surgeries earlier in the year.
However, despite all of the losses, health concerns and turmoil, I’ve learned to apply the primary lesson I learned 20 years ago to this past year. That’s the thing about chapters in our lives – they are there to remind of us of what has gone before, and if we paid attention, to remind us of the lessons we learned.
I learned in 1993 that there are only three true constants in this universe – God, change and death. I also learned that with each one, our attitude determines how well we weather the tempests – as well as the tranquil times – life throws our way.
For me personally, my faith in God is what gives me the strength to weather the tornadoes that uproot some of the foundations in my life. I learned through losing a husband unexpectedly at the age of 33 that death always wins when it arrives, but it is up to me to determine how I will react to the upheaval left behind.
Perhaps most importantly, though, I learned that change is inevitable. Think about that for a moment. In the brief minutes you spend reading this, change has already happened. How you hold the paper, how you react or feel about the words on the page, how you’re breathing – nothing is the same as it was before you started.
Change is all around us every single nanosecond of every day, but we’re all too often to slow to recognize it or realize how it is impacting us. There are children to get to school or dogs to feed and walk or a report due for work or laundry to be done or dinner to be prepared or … you name it.
And while we’re busy living our lives, change is happening. Our children are growing a little taller, a little older; our parents are aging and slowing down; our pets are a little slower getting up in the morning; and our own bodies are showing the wear of years, hopefully, well lived.
As I head into 2014, I have no idea what’s ahead. I do know there will be new beginnings, some of which for me have started already. I also know there’s the possibility of losing more people I love, but there will also be new places to explore as special small children in my life learn new things about the world around them.
So while I’m ready to finish the chapter that is 2013, I’m excited about what lay ahead in 2014. I know that while I can’t defeat death, I can adapt to that other pesky constant “change” with my God guiding my path and an attitude steeped in the Serenity Prayer:
“God, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change,
“The courage to change the things I can,
And wisdom to know the difference.”
May the Serenity Prayer be your guide to a peaceful and prosperous 2014!
Amelia Morrison Hipps is a freelance writer, columnist and consultant. Contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org.