When I was 16 years old, I had a boyfriend, David, with an incredible mom that made a lifelong impact on me.
One afternoon I was invited to a cookout at the backyard of their house in Dallas, and David’s dad was there as well.
I had never seen a divorced couple on good terms in my life. Here they were, ex-husband and wife, acting respectful and considerate, even laughing and joking around with each other and their sons.
I watched and listened, half expecting it to fall apart and things to get ugly and for David’s parents to start acting like all the other divorced people I knew.
Every other divorced couple I knew held such anger, such disrespect, such intolerance for each other.
I was used to divorced couples that couldn’t even be in the same building without all hell breaking loose much less the same house.
They would hurl accusations and talk about each other in such a way that I couldn’t imagine how they had ever once loved and lived together.
My Mema’s friends would sit at the kitchen table, giving a play-by-play of every wrong ever committed by the ex-husband. I would hear stories that made me almost swear I would never trust love.
There was just so much hated-pure and simple- and vengeance between every divorced couple I knew of.
Until I knew David and his mom,Ann.
After the cookout was over, I told David that I was really surprised at how everything went with his parents. He smiled and said, “You should tell my mom this.”
I walked over to Ann and asked her how it was that they got along so well after the divorce and exactly what made them different from everyone else.
She sat me down at the picnic table, looked straight at me and said, “I made a choice. We made a choice.”
Her words became engraved into my heart that day. Simple,profound, beautiful words.
“I made a choice.”
Ann then explained,talking to me as if I was a woman and not just some silly, nosey 16 year old girl.
“We fell in love years ago, we got married and we had two children together. We chose each other back then. We saw good things in each other and we wanted to be with each other.”
I nodded my head, listening to her, reading her lips, fully aware that this wasn’t an ordinary conversation.
“If I choose to talk bad about David’s dad, then I’m also talking bad about myself….because I chose him. I fell in love with him, married him, had children with him….what does that say about me?”
I’m so stunned by this revelation, by the way she’s talking to me in a gentle,firm voice that I just sit there, giving her my full attention.
“Another thing, these boys are half of me, half of him…if we talk bad about each other..then we are also talking bad about our sons. We chose to have these two sons, and now we need to continue to choose to see the good in each other and in our sons.”
Choosing. Choices. Continue.
“It hasn’t always been easy and we are not perfect by any means but the important thing is that everyday we make the best choices we can and that includes choosing to see the good and the love we once shared and still have for our sons instead of the differences and what went wrong in our marriage.”
Imperfect but important.
Good outweighs bad.
Love can change.
I decided then and there that if I ever decided to get married and if I got divorced, that I would follow Ann’s example and choose to live after a divorce the way she did instead of how I had seen others live.
It just made so much sense to me as a naive 16 year old girl.
Over the years, as my friends married and divorced, I would tell them the story of Ann and encourage them to make choices that showed love and compassion, understanding and respect for what once was and what could now be.
My friends would chide me and say, “Well,that’s easy for you to say when you haven’t been in this situation..it’s different when it’s your choice.”
They had a point. We never really know how we will handle things until we have to walk the line.
Ann’s words hit particularly hard in 2015 when my own marriage began to fall apart. I had to dig deep to make the choice to continue to love, to see the good and be willing to let go with grace and accept changes if it was meant to be.
Choose. Love. Change. Continue.
During those dark days while we danced on the ragged edge of reconciliation and separation, we talked about choosing to still be good to each other for the sake of our children and because it was the right choice to make.
Our marriage survived and that time gave me a greater understanding of the depths of how much Ann had gone through as a woman and a mother to wrestle with her own emotions to use good sense and knowledge to make the best choices for the long run.
Several weeks ago, another friend sent me a text.
“I got served divorce papers this morning.”
When he came by to see me, I told him to about Ann’s choices and he said, “I hope we can do that..I think I can, I would like to anyway.”
Hope. Desire. Choose.
In the midst of pain, in the chaos of change, in the sweet by and by, in each and every moment, we make choices.
We can choose to remember the good, let go of the bad and watch how love changes.
We can choose to sit across from a 16 year old girl and share with her wisdom that she’ll spend a lifetime pondering.
We can choose to reach across the table,across the barriers, across the ragged edge and find a way to bridge the differences, connect on another level and love in different ways.
We can choose to give and to receive compassion, understanding,forgiveness, and grace. We can choose to laugh again.
That was Ann’s choice. It is my choice. It can be yours.
8 33 a.m. 11-4-18
👣💗 With much gratitude to
Ann Carns, David’s mom.
Her choices and her words have shaped my life.