One Next Thing

This morning I heard from my mom. “I have some really sad news,” she said on the phone line. “Mr. Strange has died. He fell of the roof cleaning the gutters in preparation for the storm.” He was my volleyball coach for most of high school and his two daughters are close to my age. Suddenly my heart was taken back to the moment I found out about my dad. I felt heavy and burdened with the road ahead for his sweet daughters. What a tremendous sadness that will follow them has they begin to navigate life without this man that loved them so deeply and cared for all of us so well. 

I thought more of how I had survived over three years without my dad but also how I had survived over three years of caring for my family amidst intense grief. I was asked the other day what is my secret survival strategy and I couldn’t help but think that there is no secret really but instead I just did the one next thing I could.

It was a nice piece of advice given to me after the sudden death of my dad. Do the one next thing that you can do. I was in shock, 10 feet deep in grief, but also needing to care for my four children and the one on the way. The one next thing I could do. Right now, I can take a shower. Now, I can make my bed. Now, I can get dressed. The next thing and the next until a lot of things have miraculously gotten done. In those early days of grief, this become my only way to survive. 

Larger tasks seemed insurmountable that at one time were wonderful goals that kept me focused throughout the day. I couldn’t tackle changing the kids clothes bins because it was a new season or organizing all the toys into their right bins. Even thinking as far at 6pm when I knew my husband would return from work seemed too far out of reach. No, it was the continual question of “what is the one thing I can do next?” I can switch that load of laundry. I can feed the baby. I can chop that onion for the soup. The one next thing was mostly simple tasks but would eventually lead to bigger ones like heading out of the house to the grocery or attending a social gathering. But, on the other side of those small things was a huge victory. It reminded me of normal. It reminded me that whether I like it or not, the world continues to spin. I didn’t love my new normal - a life without my dad present - but it was still my life and there were a lot of people counting on me to form my new normal. Still today, I have to think, what is the one next thing I can do here? Life is crazy and chaotic and sometimes very very hard but my survival skill? My one next thing.

Richmond, VA