I read this quote recently and have been thinking about it since. I don’t think I have ever experienced a truer statement. Back in January I wrote a post about finding my happy moments again after losing my brother. At the time I wrote it it had been 19 months and that was the title of the Post. I never published that post, so if you are wondering, you did not miss reading it. I often write more for myself as my own therapy and hesitate to share some of it (even though you all know what an open book I am!). I’ve gone back to that post and re-worked it to fit into the here and now. It’s truly amazing how things can change in a few short months.
In three years I’ve lost my daddy, brother and mother. In that order. One loss each year. I say this not to whine or be self-indulgent. This is part of my history. It makes me who I am. Every one has losses, hurts, grief and their own life stories. I write this because I know of recent losses for some and continued pain for others. My heart hurts for any hurt out there, especially as this time of year rolls around. I’ve written about the empty chair before. This year we will have another empty chair at our Thanksgiving table. The chair will be especially quiet without my mother. As a Southern woman, Thanksgiving was her holiday. It was her day. Heck, she made her dressing two weeks early! She would sit on her stool and tell me how many times to stir the sauce for the macaroni and cheese. And I’m not kidding.
These days, I spend a lot of time thinking about my family. Sometimes something hits me so unexpected and surprisingly that I actually lose my breath. It comes out of nowhere. While driving in the car. Perhaps it is a smell, a sound or a song on the radio. A flash of a memory can hit so forcefully that the loss just falls over my like a heavy blanket. Sometimes I indulge in it and let it weigh me down. Other times, I shake it off, change the radio station and press on, or swim as the quote says. I press on and continue swimming more often these days. Thank goodness.
When I wrote this initially back in January it was because I’d finally figured out how to swim. I had learned some things. I got hit again in the Spring when my mom died, but I felt as if I had a life raft to support me more. I had learned that I could swim when I needed to. Maybe you have already figured these things out.
Everyone has their on stuff. Some folks have really big stuff. Some have more than their fair share while others seem to just coast with little pain. It doesn’t seem fair. However, I have learned that it is not about fairness.
I’ve learned that my Bible is truly my friend. There is so much written about trials and tribulations and how we should rejoice in the trials because they bring strength. It sound trite, but I’ve learned how true it is. I learned that I have absolutely no control over anything. It is not in my hands and only He has control. So, I learned I might as well just know that “it is what it is” as my brother used to say; Know that even though God does not always choose the bad things that happen to us, He does use those things for good. I learned this from reading it again and again, praying it again and again, and then waiting patiently. I also learned that while we may not choose what happens to us or to those around us, we choose how we handle it.
I have learned that friends are also the biggest gift. I have learned to accept help, to be honest, and that I need my friends. Going it alone isn’t really the answer. Sometimes I felt like I was abusing some of my friendships because it seemed as if I just kept needing them, needed to tell them the overwhelming ups and downs I was immersed in, needed their advice. I felt guilty about asking for help, but I’ve learned that really is what friendship is about.
I wish I could say it was easy. I wish I could say I have figured it all out. I’m not that smart. However, I can say that at some point things get better. Loss is a terrible thing and something that will stay with me forever. The loss does not go away. The ache and pain does become a little duller. Less sharp and less sick to the stomach, gut wrenching and painful. I have found that I can now listen to songs on the radio that I could not 6 months ago. I think that is progress. I can see photos come up on my computer screen and can smile. I still think of my daddy when I listen to some old music, I think of my brother when I hear some of the country songs now playing (Luke and Miaranda have a couple that really get me going), I often pick up the phone to ask my mom a question, catch a whiff of her perfume on her things, but I can listen and remember and reminisce without spiraling downward into a dark place. I can ride the wave and swim. I’m thinking I’ll start humming the “just keep swimming” song from Finding Nemo.
Dr. Seuss said, “Don’t cry because it’s over, smile because it happened.” How incredibly smart was he? I feel so privileged and blessed that I had parents and a big brother in my life. They were all huge forces in my life. Instead of thinking of the empty spaces, and empty chairs during the Holidays, I choose to keep them filled with memories and the stories and keep swimming.