It was our favorite game to play together, and was always our go-to game when one of them had to stay home from school because they were sick.
I can still remember how excited Hannah would get when she got to take one of the shortcuts. She'd say, "Look Mommy! I get to go up the 'Wainbow Twail!'" For the uninitiated, she was referring to the "Rainbow Trail" ... a shortcut that allowed you to skip a large portion of the long, winding trail. There was another shortcut called the Gumdrop Pass, which took you through the Gumdrop Mountains, but that one wasn't nearly as exciting because you didn't get to skip as much.
The game was also a lot of fun (or not!) because of the unpredictability. Your little gingerbread person could just be racing along, making great progress, almost to the Candy Castle, and BAM, you'd draw a Plumpy card and you're almost back to the beginning. Or, you could be dragging along, feeling like you're getting nowhere, and WOO HOO, you'd pull a Queen Frostine card, and suddenly you're back in the running.
For some reason, I was thinking about Candy Land the other day (I know, random, right?) and it struck me how much this simple children's game is like the journey of the grieving parent.
I guess because we hear so much about the "stages of grief", we sometimes get the idea that the road of grief is a straight shot through all those stages, and that everybody travels the same route. In truth, it's much more like the path on a Candy Land board, constantly meandering back and forth and folding in on itself. Our path to the Candy Castle (healing) is a winding one, and it's different for every person.
And as much as we'd like to take the Rainbow Trail or even the Mountain Pass to skip some of the really tough parts, we can't. We have to take every step through the Gumdrop Mountains, the Lollipop Woods, and the Molasses Swamp.
Sometimes we'll be moving along the trail and think we're doing okay ... even pretty well ... when Wham! Something hits us out of the blue, and knocks us back the way we came, maybe even almost all the way back to the beginning. And sometimes we feel like we're not making any progress at all, when God gives us a special boost of encouragement and suddenly we're at the Ice Cream Sea.
One thing I do know about Candy Land ... the only way to finish the game is to keep on playing. If we grow weary of the setbacks, and we lay our little gingerbread person down beside the trail, we'll never make it to the Candy Castle. Or if we conclude that the game is just not fair and throw it up in the air, scattering playing pieces and cards everywhere, healing becomes even more elusive.
And the only way we can keep playing is to hold the hand of Jesus as we walk. Maybe that's why the people who made the Candy Land game made those little playing pieces with their hands out to the sides like that ... to remind us to hold His hand on the journey.
Or maybe I'm the only one who sees all these crazy parallels between Candy Land and the grief journey. That is certainly possible. :)