Saturday, February 21, 2004

I have experienced a number of what I call “snapshots” or defining moments in my life. They are supercharged memories of life events that rise above the blur of normal days and serve to clarify, instruct, soothe, and connect my past with my present.

One such snapshot pictures me at my dinner table. I am 15 years old and my brother, Mom, Dad, and Grandmother are gathered around the dining table to eat dinner and celebrate my grandmother’s 70th birthday. It stands out because she cried briefly when we lit the candles on her birthday cake. She told us she never pictured herself being so old. It spoke so dramatically of the heart’s ability to feel eternally young in spite of the changes on the outside.

This snapshot also stands out because I distinctly recall looking everyone squarely in the face and thinking that I wanted this arrangement to remain forever. I was 15 and life was certainly not perfect. I often experienced frustration with those gathered around that table and I most assuredly participated in my own amount of annoying. I was in the process of spreading my wings, after all. Yet, I loved them all so very much and we were a close family. We had established a highly functional home and clearly perceived ourselves as a securely bonded group that would stand the test of time.

In April of 2002 this snapshot rose off the pages of my memory, moments after my parents announced to my husband and me that they were ending their 47-year marriage. As their words hung in the air and a wave of what felt like frigid water washed over me, the snapshot appeared on my family room wall and hung there for months. Only I can see it and at first it tortured me. Today, nearly 2 years later later, it is beginning to bring me peace.

Much has been written about divorce and occasionally there is mention of its effects on adult children. I have chosen to speak openly for the first time about such a private experience because life is filled with mountaintop joys as well as deep and winding rivers of sorrow. It would be disingenuous of me as a Christian writer not to present the full gamut of life experiences and to be truthful about the ways I both perceive and react to the wondrous and painful events in my life.

When I chose to live a life that incorporates faith on a daily basis I understood my choice did not guarantee me an easier path to walk. My faith, based on a daily experience with God, only promised me that He would carry me when I stumbled or felt the load was too great. For two years now God has graciously carried me and provided fresh air at those moments when taking the next breath felt too great.

May we not for a moment minimize the effects of divorce on anyone in a family, no matter their age or position in that family. In my family’s case there are two middle-aged children, their spouses, and four grandchildren immediately affected by this break up. My grandmother, whose 70th birthday we celebrated back in 1974, lived 23 more years until her death in 1997. You may recall some of the columns I dedicated to her and my experiences with her death.

Today I write about the death of my parents’ marriage because late-term divorce is a growing trend in the United States. People are living longer. Societal attitudes toward divorce and family structure are softening. As older generations of people watch their own children splinter their family structures and reformulate they feel empowered to make dramatic changes of their own. They also enjoy improved health and stronger financial structures to run with what their hearts are telling them to do.

This means a growing number of us children, however old we may be, are watching our parents divide their lives and part ways. I, as a Christian, am adjusting and coping and learning from this extremely sad event. In future posting I'll share more of my story.

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