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.