“... pay close attention to the times that God calls you away from the valley and invites you to tiptoe quietly back into the light. It is still there, waiting for you.”
I received an email months ago from a dear friend who was to undergo surgery for cancer later that day. She spoke these words with a peaceful wisdom that comes both from life’s experience and a God fearing heart. Her encouragement and sweet invitation to tiptoe back to the light were initially met with resistance from my fortressed heart. In the months since Cate’s death, I have learned to guard my heart even more and to protect it at all cost. So, to step out “into the light” was much more than I desired to do. But the email stuck with me, and a day or so later another sweet woman gave me permission to ... fight for the happiness I deserve. And then I got it ... If I want to somehow start getting my life back together than I have to start embracing small steps to wholeness.
I will be the first to admit that the stages of grief are all consuming in moments and sometimes days. The stage of anger was and is one of my biggest struggles. I have unleashed my furry on a few dear friends, who thankfully still love me. My anger comes from a place of honesty and although it is somewhat uncomfortable it helps to continue the softening of my heart. They are small steps in a powerful direction, allowing me to not hold so tightly to my fears. Anger is not one of those “pretty feminine” attributes that I “do” well, but I am learning fast that it does have a place in a mother’s heart. And if you channel it well, anger can be both liberating and productive. And although I will admit that “angry Ali” is not an enjoyable place to be, (or enjoyable to be with) she does have a valid place in this process.
Yet through the anger, the months have unfolded, life has continued on, but the reality of Cate’s death remains the same. What I am learning is that there is no finish line on this journey. There is; however, an embracing of the “new” me and my “new” family. The marathon race we began with Cate’s surgery has continued on without her, and the load we carry now is more than we anticipated. I changed the day Cate died, we all did. Our family is not who we were seven months ago, and I don’t anticipate being “those people” again. We will continue to develop and grow, hopefully for the better. However a part of each one of us died that day. Along with grieving Cate, we also grieve that part in ourselves, which we buried with her.
Trust is harder to come by, and faith in God is often a decision, rather than a way of life. The “new” me hurts more often, cries more easily, and often ungraciously lashes out in anger. But the “new” me also take pleasure in great conversations and delights in hardy laughs. The “new” me has learned that evenings with grade school friends are some of my best treasures, and that my own children can give the most honest advice. The “new” me is learning that I find more solace in chocolate milk rather than wine, and new shoes take a back seat to worn-in boots.
The “new” me is learning that (if you allow yourself to listen) God shows up to comfort us when we least expect Him. A good friend invited me to attend a support group a while back for grieving parents of infants/babies. I felt much resistance to go. My heart felt filled with anger, not from her invitation, but from the sheer fact that by way of Cate’s death, I even needed to know about this support group. I didn’t want be counted among “them,” I wanted my baby girl back and to pretend that I never knew this group existed. Yet, when the group was over, there was a great sense of unity to be joined with others, who feel just as lost, confused, and left-behind. I felt a great sense of relief when others shared wisdom or expressed concerns that were similar to mine. One of the greatest gifts I received from the group is that I do not feel that I need to rush to complete Cate’s headstone. Her precious grave is still the humble concrete with fresh dirt. It brings me great comfort to “play” there many afternoons with the kiddos. We draw all over her grave with chalk and we blow bubbles. We walk ALL OVER the cemetery and the kids find comfort in bringing flowers to other graves that are “flowerless.” It does hurt my heart to know that an aspect of their innocence has been robbed by Cate’s death, and yet their resilience is inspiring, and hopeful. They continue to remind me that love abounds in our life, even when, and if it hurts.
So for now, I am embracing the “new” me. I embrace all that I have learned and will continue to learn on this journey. I embrace all of the hurts, loves, and new joys that we are experiencing through all of this. They are all incredible teachers. And I also embrace all the …peace that today offers… as I place one toe out of the valley and feel the light that waits to shine on us again.
All my love, Ali