Friday, April 17, 2020

God's Will Be Done

I know I'm no doctor but I know
You can't live in the past
But the only way to go is to go back

- Darlingside, Go Back

Eighteen years ago today, my mother let go of her life and I let go of my hope that her troubled heart might heal. Sometimes I wonder which has affected me more, the loss of her or the loss of hope. This is not where I want my heart to land when I think about her. My heart should not be a place that is defined by loss. Because, defying the weight of grief, there is grace here too. What a miracle it is that when you lose hope, hope waits patiently for you to claim it once again. So today, for my mother, I will write what I know of hope.

I once read a definition that suggested that hope was to 'cherish a desire with anticipation'. To me, the sweetest of all those words is cherish. Perhaps when we are faced with loss we have to let go of the hope that things are different, yet we can still cherish what once was. This much is undeniable, to survive loss we must move forward. It is a profound thing then, that sometimes to move forward we must first go back. I must shift my memories of my mother from the day she took her life, and remember instead the best of her. Her kindness, the value she placed on compassion, and her belief something greater than ourselves could relieve of us of our pain.

On this anniversary, I am feeling particular empathy toward the struggle my mother endured in her effort to stay alive. It's been a difficult year for me. I have more in common with my mother than just a love for writing and art. I also share with her the tricky neural pathways that can lead to despair. Some might call these pathways broken, but I prefer tricky. I believe that one day I might learn the secret to their tricks, and repair them once and for all.

Before my mother died, I held on to the hope that she would recover. That she would reach out for the right kind of support. That the right pill or the right doctor or the right therapist would assuage the thoughts that so often took her away from the people that loved her. I believed my mother was damaged, and I hoped that one day, the right thing would fix her. When she died, all of that hope was dashed. I have lived in this place of dashed hope for many years. This fear that the worst of our pain will kill us in the end. When John died, these fears were only exacerbated. For so long I've vacillated between the fear that loss will break a heart forever, and the conviction that when relationships are damaged, reconciliation is not a thing that we can depend on. Some days, there is little space between those two thoughts
 and the hopelessness that ensues is as desperate as it sounds.

My mother used to tell me that we must ask the universe for the thing that we wanted, whatever the thing might be. The universe provides, she said. For all her unhappiness, her trajectory away from depression always involved a purposeful decision to believe in something greater than her despair. It was that trait that kept her alive. To me, because her beliefs were new-agey and The-Secret-ish, it made them easy to to dismiss. The truth is though, the best of the days that we had with her, were the days she'd made the decision to believe in a peace and a joy that we couldn't yet see.

Sharing tricky neural pathways or not, the truth is, my mother taught me more about hope than despair.

There was a time in my life when my concept of hope was a byproduct of circumstance. When things were good, I had hope that they'd stay that way. I have since learned that this standard made my relationship with hope tenuous, at best. When left to circumstances out of my control, any semblance of hope is quickly dismantled.

It has taken me a long time to see that my mother's efforts to stay alive were an act of intention, as was her ability to hope, too. That is what I choose to remember today. That when we despair, making the decision to live another day is an act of hope in and of itself. And I choose to take those words that I once bristled at - the suggestion that the universe will provide - and turn them into an equally ethereal and spiritual prayer. These four words, uttered by so many, speak to letting go of our own ideas of what should be provided to us and on whose time. These four words sit with me and my own spiritual makeup more precisely:

God's will be done. 

My mother taught me that if we believe that God's will is being done, we are better able to participate in both the heartbreak and the miracles that make up life.

So this is where I will sit today. Surrounded by hope, and hope's shimmering big sister, faith, too. Instead of remembering my mother's loss, I will go back to the days that she was still here. Those are the days that count. I am gathering her memories around me and I am leaning into when she still had hope. That is how I can honor her. 

I don't believe that it was God's will that my mother die, but I do believe that God can soothe a broken heart, and that God is at the root of any and every reconciliation. On the days when my heart is heavy and when I feel lost, I have to make a choice to believe those things still. Those beliefs are intentional. Today, my hope is intentional too, and I offer it up in memory of my mother.