What has been and what can never be.
As I gazed at the picture of my precious babies, my heart ached. More than anything, I wanted to press the rewind button on my life. I wanted to go back to that time – to that moment in that photo – when life seemed simpler. As I gazed at my children’s happy faces, my chest tightened. Those sweet children were still so innocent. They did not know intense pain yet. They did not know the ugliness that exists in this world. They had no concept of the pain that would come. I wanted to rewind my children’s lives to a moment that was still pure, a moment that was just before knowledge and experience of the harsh realities of life.
I wanted to rewind my life because I wanted to forget. I wanted to forget the pain and the anger. I wanted to be the woman that snapped the picture, the woman that did not yet fully understand the reality of a sometimes cruel world. I wanted to be the past version of myself, the version of me that could only see a future filled with opportunity unfolding before us. I wanted to be naïve, to return to a time when I believed that I could control so much of our lives. I wanted to believe that I could shield my children from pain and despair.
If I could only step back to that moment in time, I would have made different choices. If I had known how life would unfold, I would have changed the course of our lives. If I could have glimpsed the future that is my now, I could have prevented the pain and heartache that was to come. If I could just go back and tell the woman that held the camera, “do not trust so fully, do not love so much,” my family would have remained safe and insulted in our cocoon of innocence for a while longer.
C.S. Lewis knew this longing to simply have the “happy past restored.” After the death of his wife, he wrote:
Reality never repeats. The exact same thing is never taken away and given back. … For that is what we should all like. The happy past restored.
And that, just that, is what I cry out for, with mad, midnight endearments and entreaties spoken into the empty air.
From A Grief Observed
Like Lewis, the past brought me no comfort. Unlike the vibrant color photo that I held in my hands, the photos in my mind were shadowed and gray. The color of my memories faded away slowly as the joy seeped from my soul. As I flailed and grasped for that perfect moment in time to be restored, I cried into the void as my past also faded to gray.
Today, I still grieve the loss of my past and of a future that will never be; however, I have realized that I cannot remain here. I have spent so many days wishing for restoration of a moment, that I have failed to live in my now. I’ve been so weighted down by the pain that resulted from a few “wrong” choices, that I can no longer clearly see my now.
In Isaiah 43:16-21 (MSG), we are instructed:
Forget about what’s happened;
don’t keep going over old history.
Be alert, be present. I’m about to do something brand-new.
At some point, I must choose. I can remain in my “happy” past that will never be restored, or I can stop “going over old history” and “be alert, be present.” If I choose the latter, I may see that God is about to do something brand-new.