Faith, life, Parenting, relationships, Uncategorized
Comments 6

May{Be} Happy Is the Only Choice

I fill fajitas and listen to my kids recount the day.

'Fajitas' photo (c) 2010, Ginny - license:
Z tried some guacamole and declares it “not bad” and my youngest daughter thought she might like sour cream on her fajita. Turns out she doesn’t.

The scrape and clatter and chatter around the table makes a melody of filial ease. We talk about summer plans and when dad might get home tonight and if Bella’s getting home in time to eat.  We talk about school. Z’s in high school health and learning a barge-full of facts about substance abuse and mental illness.

We pour tea from the pitcher across crackling chunks of ice and someone asks, “Is that how big a pitcher of beer is?”

“Yep”, I say through a chip loaded with salsa.

And I notice there’s a certain kind of silence — momentary, not long at all, where all three kids at the table with me look at the pitcher and consider.

A button on the time machine of their collective brains was pressed and suddenly memory, not health class, becomes the subject of the day.

“How many of those did he drink before he got in his car?” Z asks.

“Does it really make you stumble and trip when you walk?” asks the younger daughter.

“That is a lot of beer!” states my first-grade son.

And the conversation moves from today to nine months ago. Although it was horrific, the crash and the shock and injury, we feel blessed and bound in the fact that we all six were together. Each one of us was in the van that night, zooming past scuttling night creatures and black pines toward home when the drunk driver sped onto the highway into our van.

And this evening, over fajitas and refried beans, each one shared a bit of personal perspective on the event. I think we always will do this, talk over what happened, what we each remember, how we felt at different moments during those minutes we waited for rescue to find us on Highway 395.

“I wanted to pray, but I couldn’t talk. So Bella had to,” says Nikko.

“I think you were in shock,” diagnoses Z.

“Yeah, but my chest hurt and I couldn’t talk.”

“Me too,” I agree, “I’m so glad that Bella and Z could pray. But you know what? God can hear the prayers in your heart, the ones you can’t make words for. He heard your heart wanting to pray.”

“And he answered.”

“Yes, he did,” I agree.

“When I’m nine, you’ll be all better, right?” asks Nikko, the first grader, age seven-and-one-half.

“I hope so,” I laugh, “that’s my goal.”

“I’m glad you didn’t die, mom.”

“Me too,” says the youngest daughter.

“Our lives would look so different today,” says Z, trying to wrap his head around the idea of being suddenly motherless instead of miraculously blessed with survival.

If we’d set stemware on the table I would have raised my glass in a toast to these kids of mine. Instead I say, “I’m glad we can talk about this together. I want you to know you can choose to be happy even if you lose someone. After the deep sadness is all soaked up by your soul, you can still–even in loss–find happy and live happy. If you ever lose me, I want you to be happy even in the missing me, and if I lose you I’ll try to do the same.”

“I like choosing happy!” says the Nikko boy, his seven year old smile full of mismatched teeth lights up the room, “What else is there? To be mad or sad all the time? Happy is better.”

I think of the scars that run abstract lines on my leg. The long one on my chest that reminds me daily that I’m not able to save myself.

I think of kissing my husband goodbye in the mornings, his face scratchy and clean. I think of hearing the school bus and knowing I’ll see two kids heading home, backpacks flopping on the floor and a chorus of birdsong beauty saying, “Hi mom! How was your day?”

I think of watching Bella dance at the barre and me, flooding with tears because I am here to see her point and tendue and pirouette. I think of talking about having a girlfriend with Z, the awkward tenderness in our conversation as I see him become a man before my eyes.

I think of the people, family and friends, who helped hold us together and feed us; I think of the prayers in concert that upheld us.

I think of my body that will never really be the same, even when Nikko boy is nine-years-old, and of my family forever changed on a summer night.

I think of all the things that could be, all the things I could be and I, too choose happy.

Happy is better. 


“Happy are those who remain faithful under trials, because when they succeed in passing such a test, they will receive as their reward the life which God has promised to those who love him.” {James 1:12}

linking here:

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Beholding Glory


  1. Wow. Praise God that you are able to sit around the dinner table having these conversations. Blessings to you!

  2. Beautifully written, and beautiful family. Praise God for keeping your family together. Love your header photo too!

  3. Wow! Reminds me a little of our “accident” nearly 20 years ago when I lost two brothers and a sis on the way to my Dad’s funeral. May God continue to bless, heal, and comfort you!

    • Oh friend, I know little of this level of loss, but thank you for seeing the common threads of our experience. As we absorb the loss and suffering, we then can share in the healing of others and find more faith for these shared journeys. Thank you for this.

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