I was taught to hold on.
Hold on to my family, hold on to my comfort, hold on to my life. I was sure I had missed something, or done something terribly wrong when everything I loved and everything I fought for seemed to slip through my fingers.
I knew a strong mother once when I was a little girl. She was orphaned and abandoned at a young age, her life was formed through trauma. When she became a mother to three of her own little ones her focus was solely to keep them from any and all harm. She did not want them to suffer the way she had. Her heart was pure, but her dream was impossible. No matter how much she loved her family, she could not protect them from the world, from life. She couldn’t let them go. Disappointment has become her view, hurt has consumed her, sadness and anger are her daily companions.
I watched all of this at a close range, not with judgement but with wonder. I grew up and became a strong mother as well. I love my children passionately, I, like most mothers, have laid down my own desires in order to serve and be physically and emotionally available to my offspring. I prayed for them constantly, and when their hearts were broken my own shattered into a million pieces. It was excruciating the way I loved them. I felt everything they felt, I felt everything my man felt and then after all that were still my own feelings as well.
My burden was heavy.
In the Bible, the woman I relate to and am the most fascinated by is Mary, the mother of Jesus. What must be going through her mind; I raised this little boy and gave him life; did she ever have the thought, “I am washing his body so that they can rip it apart?”
She must have wondered how to do this, she must have felt like I always did, like this is all too much, that it all was just too big. I wonder if she felt inadequate. I wonder if she felt small to be trusted with something so beyond her own ability to carry.
My children have faced pain I would have gladly died to keep from them. When they were all small and sleeping in their beds under our roof I thought I could protect them. I believed I could keep them safe.
I was cleaning the bathroom one day, filled with worry and angst over my six little ones. I caught a glimpse of my own face in the mirror, it was twisted and creased. I was aware for the first time that what I was carrying was more than I was created to bear. I heard the still, small, yet strong and steady voice whisper, “You have not given me your children.”
I hit the floor, and I wept from my heart and the depths of my soul and I gave my children to God, one by one. By name I released them into His arms.
Although my heart was sincere, the process was a journey of one step forward, and two steps back.
Losing our beloved son to the most devastating death would suck the air from the lungs of the most faith-filled mother. It threatened to be the end of my faith, my hope and my life.
Have you ever cherished and nurtured something precious and sacred only to realize that you had to let it go? A marriage, a child, or a dream? Is the life set before you too big to carry on your own?
How do you trust a God that you don’t always understand?
I guess that is what faith is. It is believing in something that you can not see, trusting in the love of a God that gives and a God that takes away.
I can’t figure all that out, but this much I do know… HE IS GOD.
Still, all of the letting go is up to me and the list is exhausting.
I have to let go of the pain, the shame and guilt I feel for Michael’s death.
I have to let go of the anger I feel towards the people that enabled him and contributed to his addictions, to his ultimate demise.
I have to let go of the fact that I will never know what really happened, and own the truth that maybe I don’t really want to know.
I have to let go of the thoughts and the vision of his last hours on earth, hours of torment and anguish, thoughts that threaten my very sanity.
I have to let go of the dream of what our family should be and the gaping hole in the middle of it that can never be filled.
I have to let go of trying to understand what I will never be able to comprehend.
I have to let go of the grief.
But there is more I have to hold on to.
I have to hold on to the joy that he brought to my life.
I have to hold on to the sparkle in his bright blue eyes before the demons took over and stole the twinkle.
I have to hold on to the gift of the deep pain, the pain that has changed me and moulded me into steel.
I have to hold on to the hope that somewhere, somehow, all this dark will birth light and will touch the souls of thousands.
I have to hold on to the family that is still here, still living on this earth, strung together by tragedy and a depth of love that few get to experience in this life.
I have to remember that letting go is an art, one that takes time, one that is not easily acquired, and one that only is formed through the agony of being human and need of a God who understands.
It is April 17th. It is a day of mourning and disbelief for our family. It is a day when we are flooded with memories that stop us from wanting to move, make us struggle to breathe and threaten us to hopeless places. We will visit there and weep for a while, but we will not stay.
Today is April 17th. A day where I commit once again to letting go of what I can not understand, while holding on tighter than ever to a grace that I do not deserve, a God that does not run from my pain, and a family that refuses to give up the fight.