I can do hard things


On a child’s t-shirt were the words, “I can do hard things,” and when I first saw it I loved it. 

I loved what a wise and powerful thought this was for any child to carry around and proclaim to themselves and the world and then..

my mother died last month and although she was 84, it was unexpected and I had just been with her two nights before and then..

I didn’t know how to handle such a hard thing and I didn’t know how to be in the world that was just going about its business like nothing had changed when now everything was different and then..

that day because I had just arrived on the east coast, far from home to help my daughter who was soon to have her first baby, I walked and walked in a strange town where I knew no one, wanting to find a chapel, I just wanted to find a chapel, I would have chosen a garden but it was December and it was drizzling and gray and cold…..

and then while I was walking had the thought that if I could find a hospital it would have a chapel so I used my phone to find the nearest hospital and walked to it with guidance..

and then I sat alone and was so glad I was alone because I broke down and through my sobbing kept asking my mother, “Why? Why did you go Mom? Why did you go and why did you have to go now?”

And that’s all. I got lost in that and I let come what came and I realized it was going to take a while to get used to the fact that she was gone.

You see, I had just moved from out of state to be near her and I had so enjoyed her company for those six weeks and she had this new great-granddaughter on the way and she would so have loved to meet her and I had these plans, you see, I had these plans…..and I had to hold onto them and I had to hold onto her.

And then this morning, on my computer, this picture my son had taken from the top of Notre Dame after he and I had climbed all those hundreds of spiraling stone steps gave me pause and immediately circled around to that t-shirt that said, “I can do hard things,” and then back again to my mother leaving us all here without her.

Okay. Yes. I can do hard things.

For almost every one of us, there will be unfinished business. And the mere existence of things undone should be a sort of satisfaction; that at any age – our lives are full enough that we are not, though still alive, living like we’ve been long since dead. My mother lived and planned like she’d be on this earth forever. What a blessing to have a life where we still have, “promises to keep and miles to go before we sleep.”

When my son and I climbed those steps, I was wearing sort of high heeled ankle boots and it was a hard climb. I’d just gotten used to the counterclockwise steps, when very near the top, they switched directions and moved clockwise and that new direction threw me for a vertigo loop. My feet wouldn’t move, my hand couldn’t grip hard enough and my equilibrium was off. Everything in my body said, “Turn around. Just stop.”

Fortunately my son coaxed me on, reassuring me it would be just fine.

And it was. Just look at the view from the very top.

The struggle and the experience was so worth the joy and beauty and perspective from above. What a day it was! What a gift.

I’m slowly moving toward that sweet spot of peace, that bigger, broader view, knowing that our life is a constant journey of change, but I’m going to hold onto her, always holding her memory for a blessing.

I’ll have waves, unexpected sneaker waves, of grief and sadness and longing for her and then…..

I remember: my mother did hard things. She did many hard things. And so can I.


14 thoughts on “I can do hard things

  1. I am so sorry for your loss, Barbara. You have created a beautiful, poignant expression of your feelings here, your love and wisdom and disorientation and loss. It is hard moving into the ‘elder’ slot, hard losing our parents.

    Yet how wonderful to welcome that brand new life into your family.
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    1. Yes it is hard on both fronts, D.A. but we can all do hard things when called on, can’t we? And yes, you are so right, sorrow is gratefully and gracefully tempered with joy in life.

  2. I was so moved by your words and saddened by your loss of the woman who gave you life. I, too, know that grief, as most of us have. “What a wonderful thought…”I can do hard things.”

  3. So very sorry for your loss. That was one of the most beautiful post that I have ever read. It touches us all. Hard things make us stronger….


  4. Dear friend, we’ve spoken about that huge and sudden loss in your life, now I’m so happy to learn a thing or two from your beautiful mom … to try to live life like I’ll be on this earth forever, what a true gift she had. And I have to believe she is sharing in the joy of that sweet new babe.

    I always enjoy reading your words and hearing about all your adventures … ankle boots on those steps? impressive!
    Thanks for the view from the top and for sharing your strength and also the sadness.

    1. Well the ankle boots were at least, very well made, beautiful taupe leather (which YOU, of all people can appreciate) and were very comfortable….it’s just all those, I think 387 in all, fan shaped spiral steps were work at any age with any shoe. And yes – I agree with your belief that my mother, is in some way, sharing in the joy of this new baby. In sweet moments holding her and gazing at her, I believe she’s there.

  5. Oh, Barb, again, I’m so very sorry to read of your mom’s death. I still have my mom, but I lost my dad to cancer eight years ago. It’s still hard at times, too. Yes, every day we gain strength — through that philosophy of “I can do hard things,” I suppose — but one’s heart always yearns to have one’s family at hand.

    I’m glad you found a chapel in which to have a good cry. I find my faith sustains me during the difficult, trying times … and comforts me as nothing else can.

    Congrats on making it to the top and capturing such an inspiring view! Congrats, too, on the new addition. I can almost see your mom smiling down from Heaven, can’t you?!
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