Peggy found herself in a major depression when she woke up. She decided to stay in bed a few minutes to analyze matters…. . . One reason for my despair has to be my unfair treatment of Ken. By keeping him ‘under cover’ all this time I’ve been callous to him. Ken is much too kind for me to treat him like that any longer…. . It’s time to be honest with yourself, Peggy. You’re in love with him.
The second reason is……. Today would have been Peter’s birthday……
After a long debate, she realized that the conflict over the two men in her life was extremely draining. She felt a major need to be loyal to her deceased husband. It was not only important because of Ned but because she still loved Peter dearly. On the other hand, she knew in her heart that she was falling deeply in love with Ken.
Apparently her depression showed, because at breakfast Ned asked, “What’s wrong, Mom?”
“I don’t know. I’m feeling down in the dumps.”
Ned replied, “You know Mom, it’s not what happens to you in life that counts, it’s what you do about what happens to you that counts.”
What Ned said startled his mother. “What did you say?”
Ned repeated, “It’s not what happens to you in life that counts, it’s what you do about what happens to you that counts.”
“What a profound statement. Where’d you learn that?”
“Coach taught us. He taught us the day Scotty was sick and couldn’t pitch in the last game. It must’ve really perked us up because we won.”
After breakfast that Sunday morning, Peggy went up to her room to study. A while later she realized she was staring out the window ignoring her open textbook.
Ned’s saying came back into her thoughts. It’s not what happens to you in life that counts; it’s what you do about what happens to you that counts.
She realized it was time to make some action plans. In fact, it was past time. After a few minutes of serious thinking, she developed Plan #1 and Plan #2.
Because it was Peter’s birthday, today became the perfect time to put plan #1 into action.
First, she phoned her mother inviting her to come over for Sunday dinner. Next, she got Ned to help set the table. Once they completed the table, Ned and Peggy brought out all the old family picture albums. Peggy brought Peter’s picture down from her dresser. She placed it on the dining room table so it would face all three chairs.
After the noon meal ended, she asked her mother and Ned to go into the living room. When everyone sat down, Peggy took a deep breath.
“As you both know, today would have been Peter’s birthday. He’s been gone from us for over 2 years now. I want to spend the afternoon reviewing all the pictures and our life together.”
They started with the picture album, which showed some college dating pictures. Next, they moved to the wedding album.
“Gee Mom, you sure were a pretty bride. And Dad was a handsome guy, wasn’t he?”
The tears began to flow. Peggy’s mother suggested they stop. “It is too emotional to do this, Peggy.”
Peggy adamantly objected.
“Mom, ever since Peter died, you’ve been saying; think about something else. You’ve been encouraging us to run away, mentally, from our sorrow. I think the run-away strategy has been a mistake. Maybe the reason this aching has dragged all three of us down for so long, is because we haven’t talked about it enough. We haven’t expressed our sorrow to the point where we can deal with it in a rational manner.
“Peter’s death is part of our life. We need to keep it out in the open. We need to talk about him. We cannot continue to sweep our pain under the rug. I want to continue. I want to go over all the pictures and remember everything we can.” Peggy’s voice was firm.
Each person in the room took a deep breath. They opened the next picture book. It was Ned’s baby pictures. He really enjoyed examining his baby pictures. Slowly all three began to realize Peggy was right. They had been running from their grief instead of facing it.
They continued leafing through the albums. Peggy and her mother told stories regarding life with Peter. Some were funny, some were sad. Some were just plain interesting.
The afternoon faded. There were tears, but there was also laughter.
Peggy had the impression that the emotional impact of what they were doing was different for both her Mother and Ned.
Margo seemed to be more depressed. She realized again how much her daughter and grandson had lost in that fatal crash.
Ned’s reaction was sort of an emotional mixture. For one thing, he was sad. He started to feel sorry for himself once again. But he enjoyed the old family stories. Maybe, as he looked back for the first for time since his dad’s death, he began to be grateful for what had been.
Peggy’s heart filled with tears for what they had lost. She also became even more grateful for what Peter had brought into their lives.
Eventually, Peggy’s thoughts turned to the happiness which was now occurring in her life.
She had dragged her loved ones through all this pain and reflection because she felt it was important to remember the joy Peter had brought into their lives. In addition, she had a purpose. As the afternoon continued, it was almost time to place that purpose on the table.
Eventually they got to the part regarding the car wreck, all the newspaper articles and the funeral tributes.
Peggy took out a poetry book and read the following passage to them:
A PARABLE OF IMMORTALITY
BY HENRY VAN DYKE
I am standing upon the seashore. A ship at my side spreads her white sails to the morning breeze and starts for the blue ocean. She is an object of beauty and strength. And I stand and watch until at last she hangs like a speck of white cloud where the sea and sky come down to mingle with each other. Then someone at my side says, ‘There she goes!’
Gone where? Gone from my sight…that is all.
She is as large in mast and hull and spar as she was when she left my side. And as able to bear her load of living freight to the place of destination. Her diminished size is in me, not in her.
And at that Moment when someone at my side says, ‘There she goes!’ there are other eyes watching her coming…and other voices ready to take up the glad shout… ‘Here she comes!’
When Peggy finished, tears were in abundance. A long interval of silence followed.
As the tears dried, she broke the silence by announcing, “Today we’ve had a memorial for our Peter.” She turned to Ned, “We’ve put your daddy to rest once again. From now on, we will always try to look back upon this part of our life with fondness and happiness.”
Next, Peggy added, “A good friend told me recently:
“Don’t cry because it’s over,
Smile because it happened.”
“This is exactly what we have to do. It’s time to get over the tears. We need to go forward. Oh sure, there’ll be days when we are sad. That’s natural and proper. But we need to learn to smile because it happened. Peter was the greatest thing that ever happened in our lives. We need to remember the joy of our life with him, as we go forward.”
Peggy felt herself on a roll now, so she kept going. “I’ve given a lot of thought to what I’m going to say next, so please listen carefully…… I’ve decided Peter would not want us to continue to morn him. Were the situation reversed, if I had died and Peter been left, I would have wanted Peter to go on with his life and maybe someday even find a new wife. I’m confident now; Peter wants the same thing for us.
Ned asked, “Are you telling us you are gonna to get married again, Mom?”
“I want you to recall something I told you long ago, Ned. Remember when I promised you if I get seriously involved with a man, you will be involved too?”
“Yeah,” Ned replied suspiciously.
“Well, the man both of you know I have been seeing has, little by little, been winning my heart. Our relationship has reached the stage where I am seriously beginning to think about him as potential husband material. Mind you, there has been no commitment made between us. The subject of marriage has never even come up. But we’ve been having a lot of fun together.
Without warning, an idea wormed its way into Peggy’s head. Instead of telling Ned that her boyfriend was Ned’s favorite baseball coach, Peggy decided to surprise him.
“Ned, I hope you will at least give the man a chance. I’m sure you’ll like him. Please give him a chance.”
“You bet,” muttered Ned as he got up to leave.
“I plan to invite him over for dinner next Sunday, Ned,” Peggy called as he stalked out.
“Great” came a sarcastic reply.
Peggy turned to her mother. “I’ll ask Ken to come at 1:00 o’clock. Why don’t you plan to come at 1:30? That will give Ned and Ken a few minutes to adjust to the new reality. I don’t think it will be a problem. Mom, I’m planning to surprise my son. Ken is Ned’s baseball coach.”
Margo smiled. “His coach? Peggy, he thinks the world of his coach! Now I know it’ll be all right. Ned’s very young. Ken must be a nice man, or you wouldn’t have fallen for him. I simply can’t believe you would get involved with someone unless you knew in your heart he’d get along with Ned.”
She continued, “Peggy, how important is it to you that Ned and Ken adjust to this new reality as you put it?
Peggy paused a moment before she answered……. . “Mom, it’s getting extremely important.”
“Then you’re in love with Ken?”
“I haven’t admitted it to Ken yet…. . But I’ve been sure of it for several weeks now. He’s a very special guy.”