I feel like myself this morning. Smiling and rested, I stretch my way out of bed as my morning gratitudes tumble from my lips. I plant a delighted kiss on the photograph of my mother that now rests permanently beside my bed. I feel like “me”—effervescent, full of energy, and ready to embrace the day. Particularly joyful at the very thought that I amjoyful, I walk with brisk delight in the pale morning light. The days are turning warmer. The early sun, sweet and gentle, soaks my shoulders. Doves call from within the deep green foliage. A crow flies overhead; his strident caws follow me. Pup prances by my side. He seems to sense that my energy is returning, that today is one of my better days. I stop and kiss his nose. He looks at me, turns away, and sniffs a moss-covered rock. Silly pup. Silly me. I stoop to kiss him again.
It’s been a harrowing few weeks since my mother passed. To be exact, it’s been five weeks and three days since she left this Earth. Not a day goes by that I don’t miss her terribly. Not a day passes that salty tears don’t escape my eyes. Truth be told, some days are quite good and the pain is dim. I like those days. Those are the rare days that I tip my head back and laugh at the sky. My eyes light up from within, and I feel my mother smiling upon me. Other days–most days–assault me with their weight. It is on those days that I fight exhaustion from the moment I wake. I make it through to nightfall by sheer tenacity alone. It is on those days that I remember I will never see my mother again. Those are the days that I fight my anger, fight the thought that I cannot stop by and kiss her cheeks, rub her feet, and gaze into her warm, hazel eyes. Those are the days that bring me down. On those heavy days, friends who know me well—those who really look into the heart of me—see that my smile is affixed and stoic. It is not a smile from within, but a pasted-on grin that suits me for a time. It allows me to get by.
Sometimes I am baby-stepping my way, one foot in front of the other, just baby-stepping my way through the day as I wait for dusk to come. On those days I feel my grief like a rock resting within me, and one motion follows the next. I am exhausted to my very core. Oh, this heaviness is so unlike me. And, yet, it is me. Following my mother’s death, a dear friend wrote to me, “It’s important to be whole, not just strong.” Her words are so apt. So perfect. She knows me well, that beautiful friend. I am good at being strong. I am not so good at being weak. I remind myself again of her words, “It’s important to be whole, not just strong.” I want to feel it all, I want to feel the pain so that I feel the whole. So that I know the whole. It is good for me to feel this, to feel the depths of my sorrow and my pain. I feel the weariness from within, I feel the weighty arms of grief, but I don’t want to linger in it. I want it to be gone. And, yet, grief is not done with me. Clinically, I know the stages of grief; I can recite them in my sleep. I re-read the literature on grief. It does me little good. The knowledge in my head does little to heal my soul. There is no cure for losing one’s mother, one’s friend. There is only a hope that time will soothe the heavy ache.
I stumbled across an old Eric Clapton song the other day. I played it seven times over. As he sang “Running on Faith,” I listened keenly. “Then we’d go running on faith. All of our dreams would come true. And our world will be right. When love comes over me and you.” Faith. Love. When all else is dark, there is always faith—stalwart faith. When spirits tire, there is always love. Soul-soaking love. Uncharacteristically, I turned up the volume as I listened to Clapton’s intonations. I wanted to capture each word, each nuanced phrase. Yes, I am running on faith. Those days, those particularly heavy days, have me running on faith. And love.
In my weightier moments, I find myself moving forward for my clients. It feels better to have a reason to get out of bed. I douse my temples and wrists with lavender oil each morning; the scent soothes me. It reminds me to find my center, to be attentive with clarity and balance. I have always kept a vial of lavender at my office to share with clients in need. Now, I have three vials of lavender; their contents disappear quickly these days. Between clients—a coveted five minute break when I can manage one–I breathe. I meditate. I ask for strength. I am grateful that my clients’ needs take my mind away from my sorrow. I am grateful that I am able to help them through their worries and pains. A weary client, recently faced with a medical condition that nearly took her life, confided, “I want my bubbles back. I want to feel like myself again.” Hers is no little worry. Hers is a battle to hold onto a life well-loved, a life well worth living. She is not ready for death. She will live. She has too much to offer, too much playing to do, and too much love to give. Her dark eyes sincere with pain and hope she told me, “I am a warrior.” Oh, yes, she is a warrior. Her spirit, her energy, is alive with force and determination. Already, her bubbles are returning. She will persevere. She is truly a warrior of the heart and of the soul. She is running on faith. And love.
I am grateful to be here, to be living and feeling the juxtaposition of these light and heavy days. I learn from the dark, cumbersome hours interspersed with the moments of light and joy. I learn and I remember. I remember Jen’s words, “It’s important to be whole, not just strong.” When I let my guard down, when I don’t work to be strong, tears of pain and sorrow flow at the most inconvenient and unexpected of times. Friends understand. I often do not. I know I need not try to understand. Grief is part of me now. And when exhaustion overcomes me, I will run on faith. And love.