Bonus Round

When you’re young life happens. It’s a bouquet of mixed experiences you think is normal because you haven’t wandered around the greater garden long enough to realize the uncommonness of some of the things growing there. Plus you’re stilling learning how to cultivate, amend and nurture your emotional garden.

My husband and I lost all four of our parents before I was twenty-eight. From my limited perspective of things it was upsetting and sad, but it was just the way life was. In time other parts of our garden bloomed and I moved beyond those losses. Or thought I did. But from time to time there were some hidden thorns that still pricked after the initial bloom of an experience had faded.

Those thorns were often recognized after the fact, even though they were a low-level ever-present kind of “normal” anxiousness. While I was still a teenager living at home, my father had his first heart attack when he was 50. I remember being concerned yet fairly blasé as only a self-absorbed teenager can be. So not surprisingly, it was a huge relief for me when my husband survived his 50th year. And when he also survived his 55th year – the same age his father died from a heart attack during the aftermath of an earthquake. Or his 58th year – the age my father suffered a fatal heart attack in his sleep. The night after he went down to the last ball of the last frame of the last game of the series to win the winter bowling league for his team. A glorious finish, but a stunning loss for all of us.

But the biggest thorn for me to pluck was when I turned one day older than my mother was when she died at 63. That… That was a big day. We weren’t…I wasn’t… destined to the same too-soon, too-early premature death our parents had suffered. At the time I thought I’d plucked all the thorns that had occasionally pricked the “normal” unfolding of life. But one has recently surprised me.

Neither of our parents came close to celebrating fifty years of marriage. We’ve talked about and looked forward to that milestone for as long as I can remember. But down to the last few days before our recent anniversary I couldn’t bring myself to say, “I’ve been married fifty years.” While I’m generally not a superstitious person, I couldn’t bring myself to say it until the actual day for fear it wouldn’t happen. I was afraid a deeply desired dream would die a premature death.

An unexpected thorn. But an unexpected thorn with an unexpected bloom. Having finally, finally realized a loved, longed-for goal, I feel like we’ve moved out of a garden filled with  anxious memorial stones into a place of unanticipated extras. Ladies and gentlemen, we’ve entered the bonus round…!

If you’ve suffered a hurt, a wound, a loss in the past, and thought it was all behind you, how did the thorn of that experience prick you at some time in the future? If that unexpected thorn also bore an unexpected bloom, what was it? If you were to draw a picture of it, what would it look like? Tell us about your bonus round.

So looking forward to what you have to share.


8 comments to Bonus Round

  • Barbara Hayes

    Lynne,a big CONGRATULATIONS for your 50th! I would have guessed you to be closer to my own age (59). May the blooms keep coming.

  • Janet Rogers

    Congratulations!!!! Recently, I have been wondering about your anniversary. I knew it was the 50th. I remember being at your wedding but I did not remember the date. What a wonderful milestone. Gary and I have been married for 47 yrs and hopefully we will make it to the big anniversary. (His parents were married for 72 yrs and my parents were married for about 59 yrs.) Look forward to seeing you in July. You should be getting my reservation very soon as I sent it Monday. Gary is coming to Ventura with me but not attending the events. Janet


    Perhaps the biggest hurt happened when I was only nine years old. My aunt died three days after giving birth to a son. She was my mother’s sister and married to my dad’a brother. We spent a lot of time with them. She signed my diary with this poem which has been a goal for me all my life:

    It’s better to strive and climb
    And never reach the goal
    Than to drift along with time
    An aimless, worthless soul.

    I have passed this on to others in the family who knew and loved her. She was special. I passed it on to my double cousin a few years before he died.

    I only knew my mother’s mother, but our kids knew three of their grandparents. My dad died of a heart attack at 56, two years before Joanne was born. Her son, Andrew, is so fortunate to know all four of his grandparents, and they all live here in Ventura.

  • maureen

    As always, an extraordinary commentary sprinkled with garden metaphors. What an accomplishment, against great odds. Happy belated 50th anniversary.

  • Karen Mikuls

    Love this! Such a talented lady. As you know, my Dad died suddenly at the age of 50 of a heart attack and it also left the same anxiousness in my life. I was surprised when I passed the age of 50, 60, 65 . . . so your essay hit home. That thorn has most definately caused a couple of major pricks along the way to 68. I need to think about what blooms have occurred instead of the pricks! It’s been great reconnecting after all these years! Karen

  • Sara Blackburn

    Congratulations!!! 50 years really says something in these days!
    My grandmother died when I was 12, right after we had moved to a new town. She was by far my favorite grandparent and always always spoke blessings into my life. Even when I was in trouble, she ended the lecture with a blessing and encouragement. She also had a habit of speaking reality into me. She was honest about the unfairness of life and how things don’t always work out the way we want.She encouraged me to remember that God still had control even throug the unfair times.
    Her death was a major thorn in my life, one that took me years to work through. Doing what I do now, I know that she would love my ministry and would be a part of it if she was still here. That is probably the one thing that still pricks me from so long ago. I know she would be proud and because of that I try to follow in her footsteps… the unexpected bloom. I catch myself saying many of the same things she said to me as a child to the children who attend our programming. I know that her spirit of encouragement lives on through her words spoken so long ago. I want to be to others what she was to me. Her birthday is tomorrow, April 18th, and I pray that I never forget the things she spoke into me.

  • Karen

    Even though I still have about twenty years before reaching the age my dad passed away, I frequently find myself wondering if my fate will be similar to his. When I was a teenager I remember vowing to myself that I would pretty much do the exact opposite to what he did when it came to caring for my body and for the most part, I think I have. He died about 15 years ago and since his death I have grown to understand why he drank and smoked the way he did. And the times that I’ve walked the furthest away from the Lord have the times I’ve probably harmed my body at similar levels as he did, just a lot different. I just wish that I could have been more understanding and accepting when he was alive.

  • Lynne

    Karen, a lovely rose of understanding amidst the thorns.

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