by Carol Longenecker Hiestand

I entered the second half of life with a sturdy bucket load of dreams, brimming with possibilities. In addition, that bucket held the resources I’d need in order to make them happen–things I thought I would do, who I thought I would become, places to which I would travel.

Besides the writing classes and conferences I would attend, and the writing coach who’d work with me to bring my words to print, my bucket was also stocked with dreams of travel. I imagined a trip to Switzerland with our grown sons and their wives to visit the Longenecker homestead in Langnau. This Swiss property had remained in the family since the 1500’s. I dreamed of seeing the Alps I’d first imagined when I was a little girl, eagerly reading about Heidi, an orphan sent to live with her curmudgeonly Grandfather in the those majestic mountains. The words and pictures in the book created for me an enchantment for everything Switzerland. As an older child, living in the fear of the Cold War of the early 1950’s, I learned Switzerland had never been in a war. That sealed it for me.    

My bucket list expanded to include a side trip to Venice when my son married, bringing a wife with Italian descent into our family. Shortly after their marriage, while admiring a puzzle she had completed of the Grand Canal in Venice, my son asked her, “So…who’s going to take you to Italy?”

“My Mother-in-law,” she replied with a grin. It became our shared dream.

Austria got added to the itinerary when another daughter-in-law, who loved all things “Sound of Music” shared her dream of visiting Vienna. It was obvious to me that this bucket list item had room on it for additional European travel.

It also had room on it for travel in this continent. I imagined my husband and I traveling to  Maine, then crossing into Halifax. I could have taken this trip with my parents as a 6th grader, but I chose at the time instead to spend the week with a cousin I only saw once a year. I still remember my parents telling me I might someday wish I’d chosen the Maine trip instead. Now that I am of age to have a bucket list, I recognize they were right. I’m anxious to see Maine and Halifax. I’d also love to drive cross-country with my husband, through Kansas sandstorms, over the majestic Rockies, and west to the Oregon coast.

However, my metaphorical bucket held not only my dreams, but the financial means to make them happen. The “elements” causing this deterioration involved major financial loss when my company declared bankruptcy and we lost most of what we had counted on through the next 10 years, at an age where it’s hard to make it up. With the weight of additional unanticipated major expenses, the bottom of my bucket fell out, leaving many of my bucket list dreams no longer viable.    

The advice to let go of those sweet bucket list dreams begs the question “How?” Some functioning as Job’s friends seem ready to give advice telling us how we can fix it when our life does not turn out like we thought it would. Others urge us to praise God on our bad days, so we affirm his goodness no matter what we’re going through.    

This advice short-circuits a more fundamental issue – our need to acknowledge and grieve our losses. When the losses are unacknowledged, unheard and ungrieved, I find it hard to see God’s goodness. I have found as I sit with the pain of lost dreams and empty buckets, I can grieve the losses associated with the unexpected way my life has turned out. I can more readily access and rest in God’s goodness.    

I’ve had to learn to hold my bucket full of dreams with open hands. I recognize that  some may not come to fruition. If any of them do happen, I can receive them with new gratititude. When I have days that remind me of the losses and experience the sadness, and anger, I “let go” again by acknowledging my feelings as I share them with trusted friends who will support me as I grieve afresh. The dreams and the grief have both taught me God is present in the bitter of loss and the sweet of dreams. He is there all along.

“There’s the age of
dreaming big dreams
working hard
making it happen.   
the age when we doubt our dreams
the age we begin to realize
not all our dreams will come true
and You have been here all along and
are still here for the letting go.   

Excerpt from “A Prayer for Those in the Second Half of Life (September 2018)  Carol Longenecker Hiestand

Carol Longenecker Hiestand writes when inspired about things that often go unnoticed, and sees herself as a storyteller. She’s a wife, mom, grandmother, and friend living right in the middle of the second half of life. She’s passionate about writing to and for her grandchildren about her life, passing on the things she’s learned. You’ll often find her immersed in making photo books for  her  family, working to keep her scattered family connected. She’s a lover of all shades of purple and rose. Lilacs, waterfalls, any body of water, porch swings and Caffeine Free Diet Pepsi (when she can find it!) make her happyShe writes at

Cover photo by Denny Müller on Unsplash