About ten days ago, I woke up at 3am, feeling restless. Several friends from my Italy retreat had decided to travel on with me to Florence, and that night we were settled right in the heart of one of the most gorgeous cities in the world. I was eager to get up to watch the sunrise over the Pontevechio.
I was tossing and turning in my bed when a frantic text came through from my daughter, Jasmine. She said that my 18-month-old granddaughter had had a terrible accident and was being airlifted from their mountain community hospital to a medical center about two hundred miles south. Jasmine—who had just had her fifth baby two weeks earlier—was in terrible shock. For many hours we waited in that awful prison of uncertainty, unsure of what the outcome would be to young Cambree’s small hand; there were three fingers that needed to be repaired and reattached.
Now, reading this, I’m sure you’re cringing and feeling the pain of the not knowing and the “what ifs.” I surely did as I sat straight up in bed that dark morning. Thinking that it could have been worse, I still felt the ache of knowing how much that sweet little one was going through—and her daddy too, as he held her and made decisions. Through all of it, he said, “She was a champion and so brave.”
As I sat six thousand miles away on the other side of the ocean, I decided the best thing I could do was go watch the sun rise over the Pontevechio and pray. It was a cloudy day, but the sun still rose, as it does every day—its beauty not hindered by the sky’s circumstances.
Feeling a bit nauseous and afraid, it felt good to walk with my good friends and move the nervous energy into a productive activity. We power-hiked up the hill to the Piazzale Michelangelo where the hundred steps up to the vista showed a vast view of the entire city. In the center circle stood a replica of Michelangelo’s David statue, right where the original had once lived.
As I peered around the city, I looked to the sky and asked Richard for a sign that he was present. The sun peeked out through the clouds, and I ran about a hundred yards to the other side of the park to stand at the rail and watch with my friend as the light grew into multiple layers of rays beaming love and hope directly to my heart. I often look to the sky for a message from Richard, and this sky was no disappointment. I knew in my heart that Richard was saying, “I’ve got this. She’s going to be fine.” Even in my hopeless, helpless position… I felt hope.
Hours later, as Cambree went into surgery, all things aligned for her to have a hand specialist ready to operate. The procedure was successful, and he saved all three fingers, believing that her young age was a huge benefit to her recovery. She is expected to have full use of her hand and fingers—truly something to celebrate. I’ve never had a serious accident like this with my own kids, and it was traumatic for the whole family. I knew I needed to get home, so I cut my trip short and headed back to the Bay Area after three more days in Cinque Terre.
Even with my family on my heart for those last days, I chose joy and delight. I love everything Italian… the food, the energy, the people. The old world of Italy is magical and full of life. If you get up early in any small town, you see the stores stocking their shelves with fresh fish, croissants, farm vegetables, and cheese. It’s a beautiful thing to watch life emerge in the early light of a fishing village and quietly bear witness as it buzzes with the beginning of a new day. It’s one of the things I love so much about Europe: the way the slow rhythm of daily life is preserved in these obscure places. People live close to the land, and there is a richness that is palpable about hard work, family business, and the love of serving.
And now, immersed in family life and spending lots of time with the kids, I’m happy to say that Cambree is doing great. You would think that she’s always only had the use of one hand—and she’s now operating like a master “leftie.” Children are so resilient. They are present with what is, rather than living in the fear of what might be. We can learn a lot by watching kids move through trauma—without regret or fear, embracing the day before them. And now that Cambree is fully aware that she has a weapon on her other arm with that hot pink cast, we’re all on the defense. My grandkids are always teaching me how to be more present and truly live my most vibrant life. And, of course, I love being a Nana!
And so, I encourage you too, my friend, to consider the gifts that lie in crisis. When was the last time you sat straight up in bed when a shocking text came through? Have you had circumstances that have shaken you to your core and reminded you of your limits to change another’s pain? I’m guessing you know the feeling. It’s simply the human condition.
While we are independent and sovereign humans, we cannot always control our circumstances. It’s a hard reality to face, especially when those we love are hurting or when expectations for “how it should be” come crashing down.
Yet, what you do have control over—and only thing I had control over that morning in Italy—is your heart’s response. We can panic and march with closed fists grasping for control of all things, or we can take peaceful, confident steps forward, believing that life is trustworthy enough to bring strength and growth from all things. Remember, what we learn from children is surrender, trust and bold movement forward.
In your moments of uncertainty and unease, look toward the sky and seek the Love you find there. Pray for peace and for healing. And believe that the vibrancy in you can shine through in all things.