The 'good things will happen' sign
Several years ago my sister Lisa gave me a small, square wall art sign that said “good things are going to happen” when her family was on a visit to see us. I thought it was kinda cheesy and wasn't sure I wanted to look at it every day. But I kept it and put it in a bathroom at my old house—because, who couldn't use good things to happen at least in the bathroom, amiright? Well it turns out maybe that sign was a curse—or so I thought back then. Because a couple months later, my husband Matthew was diagnosed with cancer. I kept the sign even though I really wanted to throw it out because good things were NOT happening. Over the next months and year after during his cancer battle, chemo treatments, marital angst and family discord—basically all the "sickness and health" part of our vows, I used to look at that sign and cursed it. I might have said, "F you" to that sign a few times.
Then when Matthew died, I'm pretty sure through tears I chucked it at the floor. I never threw it out though. As I packed up my house to move from Kentucky to Arizona this past summer, I didn't realize I still had it tucked away with a bunch of picture frames. This little wooden sign followed my ass across the country. Like many things from your past often do. I'm obviously done unpacking, everything's in order and hanging on the walls. Several pictures sit in a corner of the garage now—including my old communion pictures from 1984, a couple framed shots of a happy family of six posing on the beach, black-framed diplomas from the University of Notre Dame that tout a certain graduate's prowess in both business and finance, white-framed shots of my kids when they were babies.
There also sits a beautiful pencil-sketched, framed portrait of us on one of our first dates. Lisa had drawn it and set it out at our wedding reception, surrounded by a cardboard matting so every attendee at our wedding could sign their congrats and well wishes on it. It was the modern replacement to a traditional wedding guestbook. It hung in every home we owned for the 15 years we were married. I’d often walk by it over the years to look at what people wrote to us that special day. The day we stood at the altar together 18 years ago today. There was so much happiness and love and promise of everything yet to come. And while we never dreamed of all the drama, the stress, the pain and eventually the heartache we'd come across, we were ready to tackle it together.
On this anniversary, I think about how I took all four of my kids to a park yesterday, we got to have lunch outside in 80-degree sunny weather overlooking breathtaking mountains. We ate ice cream amongst people having fun walking their dogs, feeding ducks, swinging their kids—kids who were laughing and playing, safe in this corner of the world. My friend Chris came over for dinner and goofed off with my children in the backyard, watched the girls put on a silly dance routine, talked and listened to each of them because sometimes I'm too preoccupied or tired to do just that. The kids felt special and were happy and it made me smile. It made me smile even through the flashback I had of what this girl actually envisioned for her life 18 years ago. Because she wanted good things.
Yes, good things happen. They happened when Matthew was alive too, despite all the bad that pushed its way into our lives over the years. And now, even when I have heavy days where I wallow in my loss and in my fear of being alone, good still happens. We may not always see it, and sometimes the realization only comes after we've experienced loss. But the loss isn't a reason to stop looking for it.
That little sign hangs at our new house here. It's a reminder that while there are times in life that really suck—like periods of time when you are wading through shit and it doesn't seem like you'll ever make it out—you will. Good things are going to happen. Eventually they always do.