Years ago, because of a promotion in her job, my friend moved from the hills of Tennessee, her lifetime home, to the flat plains of Ohio. She and her husband knew it could be somewhat traumatic, as most moves are, and yet her family was looking forward to the new experiences that a different location would surely bring into their lives.
They had talked with their young children about these changes and their son and daughter seemed to share their anticipation, wondering what would be new and different in this unknown place. It turned out to be a good move for their family, in some unexpected ways, and it led to some decisions that shaped their lives for the future.
My friend eventually divorced and raised her children as a single mother. When her son graduated from college, this proud mom helped her son make a bittersweet move to far away California. A year later, tragically, her son passed away, leaving her heartbroken and trying to make sense of this devastating, unexplainable situation. In the midst of her sorrow she and her daughter planned a beautiful memorial service that helped family and friends learn more about her precious son, and appreciate the wonderful qualities he possessed.
One of the stories told at the service was about that move to Ohio many years ago. Her son was a bright and inquisitive youngster, and when the family reached those flat plains that would be their new home, he looked around and said, “The sky is bigger here.” Of course it seemed bigger on the open plains than it did with the trees, hills, and forests of Tennessee wrapping around it, holding it in, and blocking the view. Perhaps he could see the opportunities this new home would provide as well.
How does a little boy have such sharp perception? Possibly when we are young we do not have so much of this world ingrained in us yet, our minds are not clouded with self imposed worries, and we are naïve enough to still be able to see the wonders that we later take for granted. I think of this always when I am in the boat on the lake, for the sky is bigger there, too. And the sky, or at least our understanding of such things, looms large when we take time to relish the wonders of nature, or when we are moved by the talents of others, and when we reach out to help someone and make a difference, or as we spend time with close friends. It is bigger anywhere we can see outside ourselves.
I still mourn the loss of this promising young man, and I grieve for the sadness that my friend, his mother, will always know. But he most definitely left his mark on this world and so many of us still in it, and he continues to help me see the bigger sky. For that I am filled with gratitude for his brief but important time with us here.