I love my elder life these days. I still relish its surprises and its twists and turns. I love that my brain keeps picking up on things that I missed while I was doing other things. You know? Like music that shows up out of the blue. Music that most “with it” people have loved and cheered for years (and years). Can you believe that this ol’ gal had never heard of Rascal Flatts until this fall? There are reasons…
My musical world has been dominated by classical and sacred music from the beginning. From “Jesus Loves Me” at age 3, which I picked out on the piano (with harmony, so the story goes…) to years as a mezzo-soprano soloist in concert, my music was dominated by the likes of Bach and Beethoven and Brahms. I had season tickets to the symphony when I was 9. I was entranced. I got a graduate degree in vocal performance at 36. I was soaked in opera.
True, I was introduced to popular music when I was 13 and Bill Haley and the Comets came roaring onto the teen scene with “Rock Around the Clock.” It was the beginning of rock and roll. Oh, baby, was it! And through my high school years, I listened avidly to “our” teeny bopper music on the radio and never missed “Your Hit Parade” every Saturday night (yeh, not a heavy dater, either) on black and white t.v. But for my 16th birthday I was screaming with delight over my own copy of – wait for it – Handel’s “Messiah.” Yes, I was a geek well before the term ever appeared.
So when “Bless the Broken Road” came out in 1994, and Rascal Flatts made it famous, I was far, far from the stations that aired it and gave it wings for millions who heard it and loved it and used it at their weddings and funerals.
It’s 2018 now, and it was only recently that I perked up my ears as I happened upon the words, “This much I know is true – God blessed the broken road that led me straight to you.” The broken road. It’s familiar. I immediately went online to listen to it. I was entranced. I went further, to find out what all the words were. I was entranced some more. And I got to know Rascal Flatts.
I knew what “Bless the Broken Road” would be about by its title. I knew the broken road. I’d walked it more than once. We all have. It’s real. And sometimes it’s long – very long.
The broken road isn’t just about finding your true love (although it was that for me, too, which was pure grace). It’s about every broken road and every slog along its rough terrain that leads us to places where we are meant to arrive. And we all come upon them, bidden or unbidden.
The broken road has its protruding rocks and muddy places to navigate. It can stretch for miles and years when we can barely see the sun for all the overgrowth. It has dead ends and steep hills to climb and we may well doubt that we can survive it. We can carry our dreams with us, tightly held in a knapsack or just a pocket. But the dreams won’t be coming true there. The road must be navigated, whether we feel courageous or not.
What I have found in looking back at my own broken roads, is that I was less courageous than I thought I was, and far more courageous than I knew.
It’s courageous to stand up, to put one foot in front of the other and take one more step when we think there is no more strength left. When we can’t see the end.
Something, some very small light, is still burning inside and urging that the road is not endless. It is still there and can be trod even with great uncertainty and trepidation. We know, don’t we? We’ve done it, often time and time again. One foot in front of the other.
Then just when we think we won’t make it, that we’re stuck here and there’s no light at the end of the tunnel, no end to the brokenness, someone or something arrives that becomes the very blessing we desperately needed all along. And the arrival is just in time.
We find ourselves embracing the compassion or the wisdom or the love or the helping hand, the healing heart, the laughter of hope.
The broken roads that led to the true loves, the true purposes of who we are, that showed us the true meanings of our lives have been our teachers, our guides, our paths of discovery and insight.
Our own broken roads have been opportunity just when we thought we’d seen all we needed to see. They have been invitation just at the moment that we were ready to give up. They have been challenge when we thought we’d learned all we needed to know. They have been correction when we had it wrong. They have been the darkness until we could bear the light.
I have had to give up my husband to death; my calling to retirement; my home to smaller digs; my youth to wrinkles and stiffer joints. I am not unusual for a woman of 77. Each of those broken roads has been as full of shards and achings and lonely times as I’ve expected.
And each has had people of grace, moments of enlightenment, opportunities that came seemingly out of nowhere. Many arrived at just the moment that I thought there was no end. Each built on the other until I was whole again.
And each has blessed me with the knowledge that courage and hanging in there, one-stepping through so many days, has led me to this new and amazing resilience. A resilience that has eyes wide open, a heart full of gratitude, a mind alert and open to wonder and a spirit more connected to the world than it has ever been. And it’s a resilience that has given me the words to express the wonder of it all to all my sisters and brothers who are also one-stepping through this elderhood, too.
Ram Dass’ words are true: “We’re all just walking each other home.” It’s how I got here. And I’m very okay with that.