Cherish, Not Cling

by Susan Miller

Though time and miles may separate us, I have built a bridge of lovely memories to span the distance. — Virginia Tubbs

I cherish the card that my friend Betty from Atlanta sent me with that verse printed on it. I kept it in my keepsake box for 14 years, along with other special cards and notes I received other times we’ve moved. I even had it framed and kept it on my kitchen counter the first few years we were here in Phoenix, as a reminder of all the precious memories, family, and friends we left behind in Georgia, Florida, and South Carolina.

I have a black and white picture of Betty, Nancy, and me — we called ourselves The Three Musketeers! It was taken in the ’70s and there we are, posing with our look-alike hairdos parted down the middle. It sits on my desk along with other pictures of the three of us taken over the years. The pictures and the framed verses are reminders of how long we’ve been friends. Neither time nor miles has diminished our devotion and love for each other. I have cherished those two women as friends and sisters in Christ for over 20 years; yet for 15 of those years we’ve been separated. We are proof that a cherished friendship never dies.

I also left behind Marian and Dee, who were mentors to both Bill and me; and I left behind Cindy, who was first our children’s teacher, and then became a dear family friend. Marian and Dee still mentor Bill and me through their love and devotion; and Cindy has continued to influence our children long after they are grown. I cherish all of their friendships, and yet we live 2,000 miles apart.

Furthermore, I left behind my immediate family — Mama, Daddy, and my brother, Bob, and his wife, Peggy, when we left Fort Walton Beach, Florida. I cherish the imprint they’ve made on my life. An artist draws a subject on canvas to give it substance and form, then paints it to give color and life. Daddy gave me the substance and form and Mama gave me color and a love for life. I see Daddy living on in my brother, Bob, and Peggy has been the best sister-in-law to me and daughter-in-law to Mama that any family could ever have.

I cherish the memories of our family gatherings around the dining room table. Mama celebrated every occasion, every holiday, and always had theme decorations for the table! I treasure the view of the Destin Bridge with its shades of blue water from the Gulf of Mexico gleaming underneath. I fondly remember the wild sea oats that grew nestled in the sand dunes on the “world’s most beautiful beaches.”

I value my South Carolina heritage — magnolias, oak trees, barbeques, family reunions, the “low-country,” hammocks, front porches, and fried chicken. All these remembrances are like buds, ready to blossom at any moment into a bouquet of lovely memories. I cherish what I”ve left behind. It permeates my life with a fragrance that is identified with who I am.

To cherish … to cling

I have often looked back and thought, What if I had chosen to cling to the past rather than cherish it? What if I had chosen not to let go? Could I have ever really started over in all our moves?

Dianna lived in Arizona for 29 years before moving to Minnesota. I spent time with her before she left, trying to prepare her for the road ahead. She later wrote to me from Minnesota and said, “I’m not very good at letting go. I kept remembering that you said I needed to, but I kept resisting. Holding on, though, keeps me from benefiting from the new blessings God has for me. Thanking God for things in my new place gets my mind going in the right direction. And another thing that helps, ironically enough, is going home. It helps me let go. When I go to my old home, it makes me realize that I have a new one. It takes away the mystique. Sort of the way getting back together with an old boyfriend reminds you of the problems that had somehow disappeared as time went by.”

Heart talk

Let me share a little insight with you as we heart-talk. The more I thought about cherishing and clinging, the more I asked myself the question: What should we cherish, and what should we cling to? I’m a visual person and it helps when someone shows me, simply and clearly, the differences between two ideas. Perhaps you’ve never really thought about what a difference understanding these two words will make when you adjust to a new home.

To cherish means “to hold in the mind, to treasure, to hold dear, to value highly.” To cling means “to clutch, to cleave, to hold on to, to grab hold of.” Let’s apply those definitions to moving.

Cherish what was!
Cling to what is and to what never changes!
Cherish what you left behind!
Cling to what you brought with you!

The following are examples:

Cherish — distant family, distant friends, past memories, your heritage, the job you left, the house you loved, your roots, the place (city/town) you left

Cling to — God, the Bible, your faith, prayer, God’s promises, positive not negative, your values, each other

What are you holding onto that is keeping you from moving forward? You owe it to yourself, your husband, and your children to begin the process of letting go. You must discern between what to cherish and what to cling to! I’m not saying any of this is easy. It reminds me of times when I’m in the ocean, trying to swim with the waves to shore, only to find that the undercurrent pulls me back out again. It’s a constant struggle trying to go forward and then being pulled back into the sea. The only time I make it to shore without being swept back is when I stand up and walk forward. Sometimes the only way we can stop from being washed back into a sea of memories and can make it to our destination is to stand firm, walk forward, and not allow anything to pull us back. The force of the current is still there, but we choose to move away from its undertow.

Adapted from After the Boxes Are Unpacked: Moving On After Moving In by Susan Miller

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