“It’s not the load that breaks you down, it’s the way you carry it.” (Lou Holtz)
There you have it, Andrea Merriman’s SIX STEPS TO SURVIVING ANYTHING.
And when all else fails, I guess, you can look to the inspiring examples of others, follow in their footsteps and carry on anyway when life and its challenges seem overwhelming. That’s what I do.
Let me introduce you to some of my heroes. Sadly, I don’t even know her name, but her life and what she chose to do with it, inspires me to carry on no matter what.
She and her husband had lived an idyllic life in East Prussia prior to WWII. Then came the war. Her husband was killed and she was left alone to care for their four children when occupying forces determined Germans in East Prussia had to go to Western Germany. She was forced to make a journey of over 1,000 miles on foot—with four little children—allowed to take only what they could load into their small, wooden-wheeled wagon.
They left in late summer with no food or money, forced to gather whatever they could find to sustain them from fields and forests along the way. They faced constant dangers from panic-stricken refugees and plundering troops. Days turned into weeks and months, the temperatures dropped below freezing, and they continued to stumble over the frozen ground, her smallest child, a baby, in her arms and her three other children struggling behind her; the oldest, seven years old, pulling their tiny wagon.
Their shoes had disintegrated so they wore ragged and torn burlap to cover their feet. Their only clothing and protection against the cold were their thin, tattered jackets. The snows came and the days and nights became a nightmare. She constantly forced from her mind overwhelming fear that they would perish before reaching their destination. And then one morning, it happened: she awakened to find her three-year-old daughter cold and still.
Overwhelmed with grief, she used the only implement she had, A SPOON, to dig a grave in the frozen ground for her precious child. And they traveled on. They had to.
Death was her companion again, over and over on the journey. Her seven-year-old son died. Again, her only shovel was a spoon, and again she dug hour after hour to lay his mortal remains gently into the earth. Then her five-year-old son died, and again, she used her spoon as a shovel.
She had only her baby daughter left, and as she reached the end of her journey the baby died in her arms. The spoon was gone now, so hour after hour she dug a grave in the frozen earth with her bare fingers. She had lost her husband and all her children; she had given up her earthly goods, her home and even her homeland; and in the moment of overwhelming sorrow, she felt her heart would break.
And then, something within her said, “Get down on your knees and pray.” She knelt and prayed more fervently than she had in her entire life: “Dear Heavenly Father, I do not know how I can go on. I have nothing left.”
Then she recognized that her faith was the one thing she had left, and that it was a blessing to her, which led to expressions of gratitude and resulted in a new determination to live.
Recognizing our blessings and counting them, even if we can only come up with one blessing we have (that we’re still breathing, or that we have faith) can give us the will and determination to press forward and to carry on, no matter our adversities.