Eight years or so ago we decided we wanted to buy a vacation place that would be our spot to relax from the pressures of work and the busyness of suburban life. It would be a fun place to get together with our daughters and grandchildren and also be somewhere that my husband and I could just chill. Although we live in Florida, my husband is not really a beach person. We both loved the idea of a mountain cabin in North Carolina, but that would be too far from Tampa to be able to go for a spur-of-the-moment weekend.
We started looking for cabins on lakes or rivers or in state parks. A random conversation with a friend one day had me googling “homes for sale on the Santa Fe river” (the one in Florida, not New Mexico). I saw a Zillow posting for a lovely 3-bedroom/3-bath cypress log home on two wooded acres fronting the river. I jokingly sent the link to my husband saying, “I’ve found our next home.” This was much more than the little cabin in the woods we had been envisioning.
Fast forward three months and we were closing on the sale. This was not only our weekend getaway; it was our to-be forever home when we retired.
While I was shopping for things for the river house, I bought a small chalkboard. I decided to hang it in the hall near the back door. We could write messages on it that others would see as soon as they came in. It could be reminders, to dos, or just greetings. When I hung it, I wrote on it “The future’s so bright I’ve gotta wear shades.”
We ended up never using it to write notes on. If someone needs to know something, we text. So, this same phrase and artwork has been on the little chalkboard ever since. It was a point of comment for a while, and then it got to be something that was just there. It made me smile when we would arrive at the river house after a long week or for a holiday. It reminded me that we could look forward to one day being at the river permanently. I was glad it didn’t get erased.
And then in 2017 our world was turned upside down. Our younger daughter died in a car accident on her way to work one sunny April morning just two months after her wedding.
A light went out. What kind of future was I supposed to look forward to without one of my children in it? That trite phrase mocked me every time I walked in the door. I wanted to erase it. No. I wanted to take that stupid chalkboard outside and bash it to bits with a hammer.
And yet, I didn’t. Because the river house was my refuge. Being there gave me comfort. I could sit on the porch or the dock and watch the river go by and rage at God until my anger turned to tears that turned to pleas that turned to recognition of grace and finally to acceptance. Not in one sitting, just in case you’re wondering. After four years it’s still an ongoing process.
I firmly believe that God led us to this place. We’ve lived here full time for a year and a half now. It is our forever home. Our grandchildren come here and play in the river and get to be country kids. Rachel loved it here. She was a workaholic and this was a refuge for her, too. Her ashes are buried under an oak sapling that her husband picked out because it will grow strong and outlive us all.
And I can sit in the swing on the river bank and watch the sun set and think about all the blessings I’ve been given. And, you know what? The future looks pretty bright.