two roads between trees
By Jutta Liddle, guest contributor

I recent­ly read an arti­cle in Time mag­a­zine about peo­ple’s reflec­tions on events in their lives that became turn­ing points. The focus was on indi­vid­u­als who have sig­nif­i­cant­ly influ­enced changes to hap­pen world­wide. I was impressed.

Even though I cer­tain­ly val­ue and admire the courage it takes to step out of one’s com­fort zone, I could not real­ly relate to either the big-change ini­tia­tors or the changes they them­selves brought about. All this was just too removed from my dai­ly life and that of most of the peo­ple I know. But nev­er­the­less, I do believe that every­body expe­ri­ences so sig­nif­i­cant moments that they become turn­ing points.

So I began to look around in my own mun­dane envi­ron­ment to find changes great and small, and the peo­ple who were not only the ini­tia­tors but also the ded­i­cat­ed par­tic­i­pants in bring­ing changes to my com­mu­ni­ty and beyond. 

What I found was amaz­ing! Amazing were the changes, and amaz­ing were the peo­ple. What seemed to be small changes to the gen­er­al pic­ture became big, when I looked at the impact they had on com­mu­ni­ties in need of change.

Lately, Kentucky was hit by extreme weath­er con­di­tions that made the news world­wide. I got many phone calls from my European fam­i­ly mem­bers and friends, and I heard the same from Asian friends who live in Kentucky. These peo­ple were con­cerned and deeply sym­pa­thet­ic to the suf­fer­ing caused by the floods and the con­se­quences. Strangers — so far away — fol­lowed close­ly what was going on in Kentucky, and I became aware that our state is not an iso­lat­ed one, but rather a mem­ber of our glob­al community.

In this hor­rif­ic flood-relat­ed sit­u­a­tion, many lost their homes — and worse — they lost fam­i­ly mem­bers and mem­bers of their com­mu­ni­ties. As dev­as­tat­ing as it is to lose one’s home, homes can be rebuilt. But what do we do with the loss of a loved one? And how do we inte­grate that loss into our dai­ly lives?

For many, this dis­as­ter became a turn­ing point in their lives. And it will take not only time and patience but also courage and strength to sort out the phys­i­cal, men­tal and emo­tion­al impact on each and every one who survived. 

And I think of all the peo­ple who stepped in to help. What do peo­ple who par­tic­i­pate in chang­ing a hope­less sit­u­a­tion into a bet­ter one expe­ri­ence when they do so? I won­der if that was for them also a turn­ing point in life.

One of my own per­son­al life-chang­ing moments was the death of my husband.

It is now more than three years since my hus­band died. To my sur­prise, it is only now that I have cried and have ful­ly become aware of miss­ing him. Only now, after so many years, there was space in me for sad­ness and real­iza­tion of the vac­u­um he left in my life.

My hus­band and I had a long, good, sol­id mar­riage, filled with love, respect, and deep car­ing for each oth­er. And that was appar­ent to peo­ple who met us. So it was not sur­pris­ing that after his death, peo­ple assumed I would be grief-strick­en, that I may even fall apart. Many offered help and sup­port in dif­fer­ent ways. 

As heart-warm­ing as the beau­ti­ful ges­tures were, I felt uncom­fort­able. I even felt some­what guilty that I was not liv­ing up to their assump­tions, not fit­ting into the role of a bro­ken, des­per­ate, help­less wid­ow. Instead, I stormed for­ward to cre­ate a new life for myself with­out him. He was dead, and noth­ing could change that. I put all my ener­gy into surviving.

Even though sad­ness, heartaches, and even despair are at this moment in the fore­ground for many, I am hope­ful. Hopeful for what? I can­not fath­om or fore­see what I am hope­ful for. The loss of a beloved one goes deep. Maybe I just begin to under­stand that my life goes on. 

And so does yours. Tomorrow will be anoth­er day.