This story is so personal, and so huge, that it needed to simmer awhile before it was ready to be published. There have been times in my life when I’ve been so positive and hopeful, and other times when everything seems so dark and bleak. This story is about one of those times when I asked for a miracle…and got more than I could have imagined.
Just two months ago I found myself ending yet another short-term relationship with someone who I thought had long-term potential, but wanted to put me on hold while they rekindled an old flame. My 16-year-old Honda was falling apart and not steering well. The money for ongoing car repairs was coming out of the mortgage budget. Dad’s health was steadily deteriorating while family members played tug-o-war with his assets. There seemed to be no justice in the world, no way to pay the bills and maintain work/life balance, and lovingkindness was the underdog against greed. It was the night before the first day of Spring, and I didn’t know if I could take in the raw beauty of a daffodil amidst a world so filled with struggle and pain…
At 1 am, I gathered years’ worth of vision boards, journal entries, and artwork, everything I had created that represented hope for a better future. And I went outside in my pajamas and burned my creations. They obviously didn’t have the power to create what I wanted, or they would have already, right? My Mr. Right and the life I’d wanted was just a figment of my imagination. I watched all my hopes, dreams and prayers go up in flames.
Next, I decided to pay a visit to the two men who had loved me unfailingly, my father and my son. They both lived a thousand miles away, and I hadn’t seen them in a year. I felt absolutely compelled to be with them, so got a plane ticket that left in four days. The night before my flight, my car’s steering totally failed, so I had it towed to my mechanic’s. The first of several helpful men arrived on the scene, James, the tow truck driver who dropped me off at a friend’s place.
Her car was also out of commission, so I had no way to get home in order to pack before my flight. I grabbed whatever clothes were in my gym bag plus a raincoat kept in the back of the car; borrowed gloves, sweaters, and long johns for the 20° weather in Buffalo, NY. I called a rental car company and Brian said he’d pick me up so I could begin my 90 minute drive to the airport. As I was waiting for him to arrive, Dad’s doctor called from the nursing home and said “You’d better get here. He stopped eating two days ago and you might want to consider palliative care.” I replied “I’ve already got my plane ticket. I’ll see you in the morning.”
The next day, I reunited with Dad before being joined by my youngest sister and my Uncle John. Dad was aware and awake, holding our hands and motioning towards what he needed. Just a few days later, he was gone. The timing was impeccable. My son had been planning to move out-of-state, and had said his goodbyes to me and to his grandfather. I told him “Go. Pop would have wanted you to keep going on your journey.” The day of the funeral, I was able to make my peace with the family members who showed up, and even those who did not. Unwilling to take the weight of resentment back to my home state, I set that burden down and forgave everyone for everything.
That afternoon, I caught a flight back home and while waiting in line to switch planes, my phone rang. My mechanic said “I’m so sorry it took me all this time to figure out what’s wrong with your car. It’s bad news. It’s not just an axle, but there are stripped gears in the transmission gear box.” I told Bo “It’s okay. That car lasted a long time, but isn’t worth repairing again. My Dad left just enough money in a joint account that I can buy another car.”
Close to midnight, I rented another car and drove to a town with a Honda dealership. Still living in my gym clothes, I walked onto the car lot intending to buy another Certified Used Car. The seasoned car salesman, Charlie, showed me around the lot, comparing new car features and prices with the used ones. Even the used cars were more money than I wanted to spend, but I tried to play it cool and asked to test drive a Fit and a Civic. As we returned from the second test drive, still sitting in the car, I turned to Charlie and my intuition told me “Just be vulnerable.” So I asked “Do you have adult daughters?” He replied in his Bronx accent “Yeah, two. Why?” “Because I need you to treat me as if I were one of your daughters, the day after your funeral, and she has no way to get home or get to work tomorrow because her transmission died.” He paused and asked “How did your father die?” “He had advanced Parkinson’s Disease and I made all his legal, financial and medical decisions for him for the last two years.” Charlie’s face took on a wistful look as he told me “My father died of Parkinson’s Disease 20 years ago. It was really a rough time.”
We got out of the car and looked at the little Fit’s. which I preferred over the bigger, more high-tech vehicles. There were some shiny red 2013 models, and Charlie said he could be very aggressive with the price. Then I met with the finance manager, Stephen. Obviously, Charlie had told the staff my story, because as Stephen shook my hand, he looked me straight in the eye and said “Lisa, you have nothing to worry about here. I am a gentleman.” Several hours later, our deal was done. The car was entirely paid for, along with bumper-to-bumper coverage (and peace of mind) for 100,000 miles. I had left a little over a week ago with my old Honda being towed, and would arrive home in a brand new one. I had left with a father and arrived home without one. I had left with no hope and arrived home with renewed faith.
The miracles didn’t stop there. Stephen closed his office door and said “Our deal is done, so I have nothing to gain about telling you this. But I want to tell you some nice things about yourself. You showed such grace today in such difficult circumstances.” I responded “You guys were so good to me today. I bought a new car for less than the price of a used one.” He rebutted me with “No. You made this deal happen. Because you treated us all with such respect and grace, we were responding to you. Your father would have been so proud of you today. Whatever has happened in your past with your family is over now. Today is a new day…it’s Spring! The rest of your life will be wonderful.” Then he told me “My sweetheart of 30 years said the hardest time in a woman’s life is when her father dies or leaves. And while you were at the bank, I got the call about my own father’s diagnosis.” I could tell it was not good. Then Stephen looked directly into my soul and said:
No one can ever love you as much as you can love yourself.
How could he possibly know that all my visions, hopes, and dreams had gone up in flames recently? That my faith in men and in life itself had been shaken to the core? That in my deepest hour of grief, despair and exhaustion, I had been handed along from one kind stranger to the next, and just trying to get home? Charlie, the salesman, followed me to the rental car drop off spot, then drove us back to the Honda parking lot. “I threw in some floor mats for ya.” he said, handing me the keys to my new car. Then opened his arms wide for a big hug. I was so grateful for his lovingkindness. “I appreciate your rallying the troops today, Charlie. You did real good by me.” Then I drove a few miles before having to pull my car over, bawling at the enormity of what had just transpired. My Dad’s last gift would get me down the road towards my future.
A few days later, enjoying my drive to work and giving thanks for every little thing about this car that works, from the new brakes to the tire tread to the radio, I got a phone call. It was the man who had asked me out for New Year’s Eve, then cancelled. Through our subsequent talks on the phone, we’d been totally honest with one another and decided not to date, as we wanted different things: a long-term partnership for me and casual dating for him. Imagine my surprise when he said “There’s someone I want you to meet. He’s a good guy, and I’ve known him quite a while. He works in the same town that you do, and also wants a committed relationship. Do you want his phone number?” The new me, alive with the hope and possibilities that come with Spring replied “No. But you can give him mine!”
Think: Timing is everything. Are there dreams that haven’t come true for you yet? If you’ve been holding onto wanting something for a long time, is it possible to let them go? To surrender to what actually is?
Say: Speak your truth. Allow yourself to be vulnerable, and others will respond in kind.
Do: Move forward even if it seems there is no possible way for things to work out. Give thanks for where you are, struggles and all. Then take one more step towards doing the next right thing.
Share this post with three or more of your friends. If it has been helpful to you, it may be what someone else also needs to hear right now. And, it will help me launch my upcoming first book. Thank you!