[COLUMN] Part II: Elaine, The Rock

Stories have the power and influence to touch the heart that a cut and dried essay or a report does not have. Somehow the lessons and insights we learn from stories have a longer shelf life. They stick.

Along the way, I have met many whose stories seem like the stuff of fiction. Other stories are cautionary and some are horrific. A lot of what I write are stories told to me. I view them from my personal lens and filter.

I listen quietly, file them away and sort things out. I fictionalize story elements to protect their privacy and some elements, for purposes of conciseness and flow.  Like the deft fingers of a tapestry maker, I hope to weave the colorful threads together, conjure a composite character from different, engaging people I have met. Hopefully these series warm and lift the heart just a tad. For as long as we live, we all need a boost daily.

 (Continued from the previous week…)

There were happy times too and she chose to dwell on them. Elaine imagined herself to be like a film editor retaining the reels of fun and laughter they had during the early years of their family life.

She smiles broadly recalling their wedding, two normal childbirths, flying kites in the open space and on the beaches when the children were growing and just countless fun times they shared and recorded in fading photographs and video clips.

And like the editor of her life, she chose to gloss over and edit out the ugly parts and leave them on the cutting room floor, swept in a bin and zapped away from memory. Poof. Gone. Forgiven and Forgotten.

This is just how I cope and how I choose to remember my life and times, Elaine thought.

Some couples are described as two peas in a pod. Elaine and Neil were more like two Mexican jumping beans trapped in a pod. She often gritted her teeth and bit back a retort when things got heated. She didn’t want the children to hear. She turned to prayer, first as an escape valve, and later as a real comfort and eventually, a deep, unfailing source of peace and strength.

With a solid faith in God ‘s mercy and love, peace did come to their home. A deep-seated respect for each other quietly slipped in during their mature and last few years together.  Elaine placed everything in the backburner when she took care of Neil as he languished. She felt his pain and for his part, Neil began to see her in a different light.

Theirs was not an all-consuming love affair, which she sometimes thought was the stuff of Hollyweird garbage anyway, but they managed to work out their differences over time. As they mellowed, they became patient and kinder with each other. Eventually, love did come to dwell in their hearts. A sense of overwhelming peace washed over them in the few remaining years left.

During the critical times, Elaine learned to tough it out. She stood her ground to keep her family together. And yet, she understood the frailty of unions which crack and fall apart at the merest hint of trouble.

Elaine decided early on that she would be the glue to hold her family together — no matter what.  The only thing that would break her resolve would be if there was another woman involved. Thankfully, there wasn’t. More than anything, it was personality differences that threatened their marriage.

Their two children turned out right and became upstanding, caring young adults of strong Christian faith. For Elaine, it was all worth the struggle of keeping their family whole.

Two years into her grief, Elaine thought she was finally done with all her struggles. She expected a season of calm. But fate had other plans. Life wasn’t done with her yet and another curve ball was headed her way.

Elaine’s younger sister, Joyce and her husband, Jerry, died suddenly, within months of each other, her brother-in-law, in a motor accident and her dear sister, in a rare, aggressive form of cancer that left two teen-agers — a girl and a boy — to fend for themselves.

Elaine had a huge heart and she took the youngsters under her wing and helped them heal after the tragic loss of their parents. She helped them finish school and get onto meaningful career tracks. She became their mother and the two orphans realized just how great Aunt Elaine was. They called her Mom. Instead of two children, now she had four who loved her dearly.

As she looked back at her life, Elaine marveled at how she had managed it all. She realized she was never alone during her seasons of struggle over darkness.  There was always something guiding her and protecting her – a bright light that shone in her heart and is reflected in her being. God and His angels have been with her every nanosecond of her valiant, little life. Of this, Elaine is certain.

Elaine didn’t accrue material things for herself. In fact, she gave them away as fast as she could. Yet the one thing she did have is a family cobbled together by nothing more than steadfast love, kindness and a deep, unyielding faith in the goodness of God.

Elaine knew she was going to be just fine no matter what. She would be leaving a small yet beautiful legacy.

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The opinions, beliefs and viewpoints expressed by the author do not necessarily reflect the opinions, beliefs and viewpoints of the Asian Journal, its management, editorial board and staff.

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