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It's My Life's Journey

Photo: Jeanne Keynote Address 2012

Jeanne Harris Weaver © (7/15/2016)

It was the third day after the Army Captain and Chaplain had come to our door to notify us that our son, Todd, had been killed in Afghanistan. Our family had traveled to Dover to witness Todd’s return to American soil. He was close. I felt his presence. It would take time, and an open heart to understand. 


On that third day, I ventured to walk the beach. I wasn’t sure I had the stamina. Would my knees crumple? It was along the water’s edge where I grew strength. It was where my mind created artistic images. It was where I prayed. I knew that I must.


I walked a mile down to the jetty and turned around. My swollen, red-rimmed eyes caught sight of a little shell glistening on the wet sun swept sand. I had not seen this shell on this beach before. I had found a similar shell on another beach on Mother’s Day, the last day I spent with Todd. I felt compelled to pick it up.


As I held the shell, my thoughts turned away from my own despair and sorrow; rather, to thoughts of Todd’s beautiful life; a life filled with promise and opportunity; conviction and dignity. At the age of twenty-six, he knew love of family, wife and child. He knew disappointment, sadness and sorrow. He knew faith and love for God. He touched so many people with his zest for life. Todd’s life here on earth was complete. He was in eternal light. 


I carried the shell home and researched its symbolism. It was a moon shell symbolizing eternal life. Although I was unaware at that time, finding that shell was the beginning of learning how to navigate through my new state of being. It would become my red thread. Later that day, I entered a quote by Ralph Waldo Emerson onto my e-mail signature—


“It’s not length, but depth of life”


I knew I needed help. I began to research books on grief. They were too clinical. I needed something emotionally tangible. The first book which gave meaning to me was Resilience by Elizabeth Edwards, her autobiography of travel and living in foreign cultures while growing up; her journey through cancer; and the tragic and unexpected death of her young adult son. Her words reminded me to dig deep into my own experiences to find my own resilience. 


The second book was the Autobiography of Rose Kennedy.  I had read her book when it was first published. I knew I would find strength by reading about the life and stamina of a mother who had tragically lost 3 sons in service to our country. 


The third book, Discovering the Treasure Within, by Carroll Travis, helped me to realize that I needed to hone in to my time in meditation and to listen seriously to God’s whispers. 


The three books, together, helped me to understand that I had to reach deep into myself. I had to reach deep into my own life’s lessons and experiences. I had to reach deep into my God-given talents, if I was to survive the death of my son and find peace in my heart.


It is an on going journey. It is my life’s journey. Through it, I have learned to trust in my faith; to trust in my prayers; and to ask God to guide me and thank Him for His many blessings.

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