I know, the title is a bit corny. But it is 100% the truth! As I have been packing our things, chatting with former coworkers and spending time with people I will cherish forever, there is a constant phrase I hear – “This is a new beginning for you and Felicity.” I get what they are saying. Moving to Pennsylvania, and becoming involved with a new community, a new job, a new church, and new friends will give Felicity and me a chance to begin moving on from the way this adventure in Florida ended. I thought the other day how people might have responded had the new job been in Florida. Would there still be a “new beginning” for us? I hold a different perspective on the whole transition – hence the title of this entry. I’m not leaving something horrible in search of a change of course. I love Florida. I love the people I met, the friends that we made through the years, the opportunities I had, and yes, even the way my faith has been tested, stretched, and refined through the loss of my job at TFA and through the journey and loss of my wife. For me, the move to Pennsylvania is not about starting over. The “reset” button wasn’t hit on the evening of December 6, 2012. Life has painfully and joyfully continued. We are not starting over, we are continuing down the next bend in the road.
Celebration (the people – not the place) will always hold a special place in my heart. Tucked away in the community of pristine homes and plastic lives is a group of people who wake up each day looking for opportunities to help their neighbors. For six months, the people of Celebration brought food, clothing, provided child care, preschool, cash donations, and the gift of personal time. You might think such things are a given when one knows that their fellow man – a fellow family – is enduring the cruel blow of terminal illness. I can tell you, though, I know what it is like to be turned away from my own church when I went and asked for help. Generosity is not a given. Not in our society. Not even in mega churches whose programs claim to love entire cities. God was fully aware long, long ago that it would take individuals –a “village” if you will – to demonstrate genuine compassion for a family whose world had been turned upside down. I will never forget those who came and spent time with my wife and made her smile during the most difficult days of her life. She loved each one of you and it was truly a special gift from God for Jaime to be able to spend the final 6 years of her life in the place she loved so much, surrounded by the people she adored.
In a few days, Felicity and I will walk into our new home in Pittsburgh. We will begin assimilating into our new routine, surrounded by people who I have already found to be kind and generous. As I drive out of town, away from Central Florida, and cross the border into Georgia, I won’t look back wishing things had turned out differently. Instead, I’ll think of each of you here in Florida, as well as those around the country, smile, and look with great expectation to what lies ahead.