Sweet Reunions

We coined it the “German Invasion”. My Mom’s brother has been here for the last week with his daughter, her fourth child, his son and daughter in law and their twin daughters. They were all here from Germany for the youngest children to become American citizens.

I can now update my Grandmother’s yellow notepad where she listed all her great-grandchildren and their citizenship status. It was always important to her that all her great-grandchildren obtain their American citizenship duly awarded to them by my Uncle’s natural born citizenship and 30+ years living here before moving to Germany to pursue his career. Though they have lived across the pond we are connected by blood and now we are all American citizens. My Grandmother would have celebrated this rite of passage with her forth, fifth and sixth great-grandchildren born in Germany.

Aside from my Uncle, this has been the first visit for the rest of my family from Germany since my Grandmother died. We were anxious, to put it mildly. How would this feel without our matriarch? Can my Mother and my Uncle carry on their Mother’s legacy the way she would want? Can they keep the bow tied, beautifully bonding this family that has been parted by the Atlantic for so many years? This visit had a purpose; citizenship. But even more personally we each needed to know that the ties that bind go far beyond a grave.

I cannot imagine the difficult and emotional choices my Uncle and my Grandparents made years ago when he moved to Germany for what has proven to be a wise decision as he achieved world wide success. We are now spoiled by free email, Facebook and Skype that keeps us all connected. Over the years as long distance became affordable my Grandmother spoke to her son almost daily and she looked forward to his calls, receiving updates on the day to day life of her grandchildren and her great-grandchildren. One week before she died we had arranged a surprise Skype with my cousin, his wife and her 11month old twin great-grandchildren. It was the first and last time she saw them in anything more than still pictures. She barely spoke. She just smiled and stared with happiness that lit up the room. I remember my cousin asking if she could hear them speaking and see the girls. I reassured him that she was watching the screen and was simply speechless in her joy. I will never forget sitting beside her in front of the computer screen that Tuesday morning.

Her presence has been with us over the last couple of weeks. We have laughed at things she would have said. We have tearfully noted her absence and joyfully relished in the knowledge that family remains family, no matter the distance. She formed bonds that will withstand the forces of any tide. We found healing with each other.

She would be happy. She would be beyond happy to see her family together, celebrating another generation, celebrating American citizenship for her great-grandchildren. She would be beyond happy watching her grandchildren and her great-grandchildren getting reacquainted with each other and fall in love with family. She would be beyond happy to see that we are living out love the way she taught us, not letting water separate the love that she bore.

It makes me happy, that in her absence, she is still calling the shots in this family.

© Gatewood Campbell, July 2013

About Me

It has taken me a long time to find the strength to update my bio without including my role as a granddaughter. I grasp the concept that my Grandmother no longer answers the phone when I call, but her voice, her wit, her style and her legacy are with me each day. My days with her changed my life forever and she would want me to use that for good, for myself and for others. So, here it is….the updated bio about me…

Call me a wife, call me a mom, call me a daughter and call me a friend. I’m closing in on 40 and have reached that point in life where we look back at where we thought life would take us, compare that to where we are and focus our sights on what is next. My future holds the fast paced life with a high schooler and a high energy elementary student. Our boys keep us expecting the unexpected with their love of life and desire to divert from the crowd and be themselves. I am one proud mama!

I’m self-sufficient, independent and I don’t like change. I prefer the organized to the unorganized and I like to have a plan. Ten years ago, with 2 beautiful boys, our family was complete. I was ready to take on the next chapter in my life. I made my health a priority and rid my body of an unnecessary 75 lbs. I had a goal, I had a plan and I lost the weight…and I have kept it off for 9 years. After that, I decided to run a half marathon. I had a goal, I had a plan, and I ran 13.1 miles. Ready for more of a challenge, I decided to run a full marathon. Goal, plan, 26.2 miles; done. Clearly there was a consistency in my approach to life. I moved on in my career too. I was finally developing and running my own programs. I felt like I was on the verge of really blossoming in every area of my life. And then…I had to run an errand for a project at work. I walked into Target, and was later taken out on a gurney. I slipped and fell in the store. My head suffered the impact of my fall. I woke up in the hospital. That was the first of several ambulance rides that year. That fall was over 8 years ago. The results of my errand to Target will stay with me for the rest of my life. I was diagnosed with a Mild Traumatic Brain Injury and eventually developed Post Traumatic Epilepsy, both due to a simple fall in the trashcan aisle.

Since then I have learned to live without a plan. I have learned to live with the unexpected. I have learned there is power in asking for help and there is power in accepting help. There is a greater power in taking the difficult experiences, turning them right side up and paying it forward in a positive way. I’ve learned that adjustment is a necessity. Since that day in Target, I walked away from my career and embraced a life that is full of all that matters most. I flow freely between wife, mom and daughter. I have completed 9 half marathons and 4 full marathons. Through many of those races I raised thousands of dollars to benefit the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society and the Epilepsy Therapy Project. I’m evolving into an advocate for epilepsy awareness by sharing my own experiences and learning from those who have been where I am.

I have a brain injury and I have epilepsy but they will never define me and they will not limit me from setting big goals. I have learned to adjust and I have learned to change. Change can be eternalIy powerful if we use it correctly. I have learned the positive value of embracing change and remind myself to be thankful everyday for the gift of seeing the sun in the sky and walking (even running) on my own two feet.

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© Gatewood Campbell, July 2013

What Are We Wading For?

Our family was on vacation recently on the Gulf Coast of Florida. I love the beach, but I particularly love the Gulf Coast. The powder white sand is as gentle as snow flurries and the clear blue water takes my breath away. North Carolina beaches are fun for body surfing and boogie boarding, but the Gulf Coast waters just scream out “come in for a swim.” Why? Because the water is calm and clear so we can see what we are getting ourselves into.

We have all said to ourselves at one time or another that if we only knew what to expect next or what the future holds, life would be easier. The age old questions of what next and when next? The Gulf Coast clear blue water invites us to dive deep with all our might. I watched people kayak out so far they were barely larger than ants to the naked eye. People swam out farther than they could stand, climbed on floats and drifted gently with the surf. Carefree; because they knew what the immediate future held. They could see it before it came. They could retreat or remain adrift. In North Carolina most people stay about waist deep in the water, if that far. We have all stepped on too many fish, been tangled in seaweed or fishing line, and had too many “who knows what in the world that was” nip at our legs in the dark pounding surf to wade out very far. The North Carolina coastal waters hold secrets. It could be the desired fish lingering near bait we have cast into the waves or it could be the stingray we have seen pictures of and never wanted to see in person. It might be the perfect safe water we want, but we only wade in knee deep just because we see a reflection of what might be or might have been.

I began to see a striking parallel in life as I watched people along the Gulf Coast. The water that reaches the sand in North Carolina and the panhandle of Florida ultimately all comes from the same source, yet our approach is entirely different. In life we often timidly face our future based on our past. We’ve all been hurt at an unexpected time in an unexpected way and our defenses stay in protective mode for far too long. We’ve experienced losses of people, of jobs, of homes, of friendships or of our health and unconsciously we retreat. If our future was clear, clean and transparent, we would sprint forward and dive in, head first.

The source of life is always the same. God allows our first breath and He remains the source of our breath until He doesn’t allow it anymore. Yet we want to take control. Our instinct is to insist on holding the reigns and steering into a known path. In the same beautiful vision of our toes in the water on the Gulf Coast, God sees our toes in any water, even when they sink into the polluted muddy shores of Lake Norman. Why do we find it so hard to trust His perfect eyes and the plan that has been filtered through our Creator’s hands? How many times must He refine us before we sprint in, dive in deeper than we can stand and just float on His promises?

I don’t have the answer, but I want to be a person who can completely trust Him to guide me into waters he has cleaned for me, or promises He will cleanse for me. I want to be a person who knows it is better to give back the reigns that were never mine to try to grasp. I want to face life with the same confidence that we walk into the Gulf Coast water, knowing that the one who gave me my first breath will bring me through harsh currents and rip tides until I can carelessly remain adrift, floating on His promises from Romans 8:28 “to work everything for the good of those that love Him”.

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Copyright © Gatewood Campbell, July 2013