Life’s Defining Moments


It’s Summer Book Giveaway Thursday. Read to the end of my post to see how you can enter.



There are defining moments in everyone’s life.

Graduating from high school and college, getting married, buying your first home (or dream) home, having your children.

There are the ones that aren’t considered good, too. Events we see as failures and the death of the ones we love.

Today marks the 30th anniversary of the first defining moment of my life. My dad suddenly died of a heart attack at the age of 58. I was 17.

He didn’t get to see, and I didn’t have the opportunity, to have him around for the future moments in my life.

It was a hard time for my mother and I, as I was the last child at home. They had just purchased her dream home two years prior, a large brick 1920s era neglected Tudor that she restored to its’ original condition.

Although my parents picked up the house for much less than what it was worth, the restoration put my parents in debt. As well, my parents also forfeited life insurance, as it was too expensive for them, due to my father’s existing diabetes and heart condition.

My mom, a career housewife with a new business not yet showing a profit, held on for as long as she could, but finally had to let her dream go.

She wasn’t ever bitter about losing the house she dreamed of all of her life, but she held onto a sadness for all she had lost, I suppose. Although we continued to live in our same town until she passed away, she never wanted to even drive by the old brick Tudor.

Shortly before she died, I asked her on one of those drives in which I had to consciously steer the car away from Miami Ave., where the magnificent house sat, “Had you the chance to do it again and knew you would lose it anyway, would you have bought that house and put all of that work into it.”

She answered without hesitation, “Yes. It was fun while it lasted and I’m grateful for the time we all had in it.”

By that time, I had long accepted losing my dad at such a young age and had come to the understanding that these defining moments in our lives are the best teachers. They are the moments we have the greatest opportunity from which to learn in this life.

It was also at that moment that I realized that the old adage, “It’s better to have loved and lost than to never have loved at all,” applies to more than just diving into the possibility of heartache in relationships.

It was then I knew that it’s better to take the risk on most things you want to do. If we don’t, we hardly will have those experiences from which to learn, whether they turn out the way we would like or not. And if we don’t take the chance, we miss the opportunity for more defining moments.

It was those words of my mother’s that rang in my ears when we decided to take the plunge to move to Our Little House (which, as you might recall wouldn’t even be if my mother hadn’t invested the proceeds from the sale of her dream home in this land).

I miss my dad to this day. But his untimely passing made me the person I am today. Not one afraid of taking chances, but one who, I hope, knows when to grab opportunity and create my own defining moments.

What was the first defining moment of your life? What did it teach you?

Audio Book Giveaway

Today, I have a really special treat for a giveaway. My friend, Rolland Love, a native of the Ozarks, and author of several books on Ozark life, is offering a CD of his audio book, “Ozark Mountains Fishing Stories.”

This is appropriate with my post today, as my dad was from deep in the Ozark Mountains, south of here, and both of my parents first instilled my love of this country on me when we vacationed here.

Rolland has a great story telling voice and critic’s analysis that his storytelling is Mark Twain-ish is dead on. You don’t have to be a fishing lover to like this either, his stories take you into the Ozarks and the beauty of the country here.

All you have to do is comment on this post between now and 3 p.m. on Monday, July 25 and you will be in the drawing! PLEASE leave an email address or a link back to you where I might contact you should you win.  I will announce the winner on Tuesday’s post. Sorry, folks, this one open to our U.S. readers only.

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24 Responses

  1. Heather L. says:

    Very inspiring story, Kerri. My first defining moment is one I remember well. I was getting my teeth cleaned. The hygienist kept saying,”you haven’t been flossing” and then she would jab a sharp instrument into my gums. This went on for ten minutes of pure pain and then I thought,”I don’t have to take this.” I jumped up with my dental bib on and walked out, much to everyone’s surprise.

    To this day, I still think to myself, when something unpleasant is happening, “I don’t have to take this.”

  2. Jane Boursaw says:

    What a thoughtful, lovely piece, Kerri. Love this:

    “Not one afraid of tak­ing chances, but one who, I hope, knows when to grab oppor­tu­nity and cre­ate my own defin­ing moments.”

    I guess my first big defining moment was realizing that the guy I was engaged to in my early 20s wasn’t the person I was supposed to be with. I left him and that’s when I connected with my current hubby and soul mate. It taught me to trust my instincts, which I’ve done ever since.

  3. That’s so sad that your dad died when you were 17. When someone dies so suddenly and you have no chance to say goodbye, it really marks you. Seventeen was too young to lose your father.

    • Kerri says:

      It was a sad time in my life, Jennifer, but everyone has their own tragedies in their life. I’m just glad I had a good father and had him as long as I did.

  4. Signing the paperwork when purchasing a house for the first time is really a defining moment – no matter how the experience with the house turns out, it’s really a sobering/exhilarating realization.

  5. Sue Moak says:

    I am sorry about the loss of you dad, Kerri, especially at such a young age. I enjoy your blog very much and am glad you share with us.

  6. Olivia says:

    I was only a couple of years older than you when I lost my Dad, too. He had a brain aneurism. Since then I have always been aware of the fragility of life.

    • kerri says:

      It does make you aware of that, Olivia. I’m sorry you lost your dad so young as well. 🙁

  7. I think I’m in one of those pockets now, where for the last 2 years I’ve done little more than survive the illnesses (terminal and otherwise) and deaths of nearly everyone in my immediate circle.

    I often joke that I’ve been an adult since the age of 5. That taught me extreme self-reliance, but I’m getting that lesson anew in this stage in my life, where all the people I would normally turn to in a crisis are in crisis themselves.

    I’m sorry that this anniversary is hitting so hard. Big hug!

    • kerri says:

      Thanks, Roxanne. I hope your life evens out as well. I had one of those periods as an adult myself, between 1992-94. It seems life doesn’t get any easier and these defining moments come quicker as we grow older.

  8. mat says:

    My parents and I never really saw eye-to-eye…for as far back as I can remember. And for a long time, I held a certain disdain for them both. However, I’m a happy, healthy, sane (relatively) person, so although I would have preferred things to be different as a child and teenager, I doubt I’d be who I am today without their insanity.

  9. I have a family member who just recently went through the foreclosure of her dream home, a farm house with a twenty three stall horse barn and arena. She bought the place right before the real estate bubble burst, and it was a financial strain almost from the get go. She managed to hang on for five years, working overtime at her job, cutting her living expenses to the bone and struggling every single month to cover the bills.

    Her hope was to build a horse business using the barn, but the first thing people get rid of when money is tight, is horses. They are expensive to own and need attention and care on a daily basis. The business just never materialized even though she made several attempts at hiring a full time trainer and filling the empty stalls.

    She just recently moved from the rambling two story farmhouse, into a cabin about the same size as yours, Kerri, around 500 square feet. She has enough land to keep her two horses and my walking horse, something she feared she might not be able to do. She also has four dogs, a cat and five chickens, and all have made the move with her.

    I have asked her many times in the past few months, as she resolved herself to losing her place, whether she would do it again and she always says yes. Having horses was a dream she’d had since childhood, and in the time she owned the barn, she learned to ride and develop skills she’d always wanted to master. Her grand kids learned to ride too, and she had many family gatherings at the big farm house, memories she said she will cherish forever. And now that she’s settled into 500 square feet, her attitude is positive about the future, despite being in a financial wringer the last few years. In fact, she is discovering the joy of simplicity, and freedom not only from economic stress and strain, but from the burden of material possessions that filled the big farm house. She doesn’t yet have internet, but when she does, I’m sending her the link to this blog, where I know she’ll find lots of inspiration and a kindred spirit in the quest for a bigger, smaller life!

  10. kimberly says:

    I agree that it is those hard moments of life where we really learn so much about ourselves and the life want to live. I was touched by your story. I too lost my father suddenly at about the same age.

    • Kerri says:

      Thank you, Kimberly. I’m sorry for your loss as well. It took me awhile to work through how tragic defining moments can be learning experiences, but the important thing is when we do!

  11. Sheryl says:

    That is a lovely story, Kerri. And you are so right about defining moments. They are often paired with tragedy, but also with knowledge that comes later, after the smoke has cleared.

    • Kerri says:

      Thanks, Sheryl. Yes, and sometimes it takes a while for that smoke to clear, but the important thing is that it does.