There is an ongoing battle that rages within. Thirteen years after the loss of my mother and the battle continues. The war between truth and lies. The inner voice that tells me that I didn't do all I could have done for her and yet I know there was nothing else I could have done. There is a movie with Will Smith called Collateral Beauty that we have watched recently and repeatedly actually that really shows the grief process. He lost a child and I lost a parent. He shuts down and closes himself up in his grief for two years and I did the same. In the beginning of the movie which starts three years prior he is on top of the world and he is giving a speech in front of his employees and he says that life can be summed up in three abstractions; "We long for love," "We wish we had more time," and "We fear death." I've thought some about these things and while I didn't write letters to Love, Time, and Death, I did spend a bit of time trying to figure it all out.
Anyone who knows the story of my beginnings knows that I spent the better part of my formative years longing for love from my dad. A love that he was incapable of fully giving. Likely because he was never shown the love of a father himself. While he did provide for me, he didn't come around and show me how to ride a bike or how to throw a ball or how to throw a punch to protect myself if ever needed. It wouldn't be until much later that I would come to know that I had the love of a father from the beginning, it just wasn't coming from my earthly father. My heavenly father loves me and knows me and I wouldn't know that until later. He, knowing this also would send a young man into my life when I was seventeen to help me navigate life and to try to help mend some fences or rather break down some barriers that I had built to protect myself when it came to a relationship with my dad. He would help me to know love and help me to grow in my faith. So yes, I do believe we do long for love, whether we admit to it or not.
I wish every day that I had had more time with my mom. I wish she could have seen my son with hair. I wish she could have taken the girls shopping and they would have heard her say, "What do you want to do now, Kong?" I wish I could have made her jewelry. I wish she could have read my books. I wish she could be here in the southern state with us enjoying the palm trees and laying on the beach with us. I wish she had more than fifty two short years. I wish she could be here to tell me about life and menopause and talk me down from the ledge when I get overwhelmed. I wish she were here to fight with me when one of us needs an attitude adjustment. I wish my kids were younger longer. I wish we could turn back time and I knew then what I know now about how fast it goes. I wish I hadn't wished any of it away. I wish I hadn't checked out for two years of their lives and been more present even though I was crumbling inside. I wish for many things and more time is near the top of the list.
I don't fear death. I think that's where the difference occurs. In a family that has endured it's fair share of deaths over the years I think it is hard to fear it. I don't long for it, but I think when the time comes I will not fear it because I know so many people on the other side. My mother, my grandparents, my aunts, and some of my cousins have all gone before me. There was a time when we had so many funerals on my mom's side of the family the funeral home was starting to know us all by name. I don't fear death for myself. I'm not sure that anyone who knows God fears death for themselves. I think rather I fear life without people I love. It always felt so weird and uncomfortable to me that someone I loved could be gone and life continued without them. The earth continued it's path in the solar system. The sun rose and set. Businesses continued to open and close at the end of the day. Life moved on. How can that be? How can life just....continue to move on when my heart is shattered and I feel so battered by grief and loss?
Those are questions that I continually asked myself and sometimes still do. When holidays come and go and my loved ones aren't here. When I'm cooking dinner and I'm not able to talk to my mom while I cook and she can't come to dinner. When a birthday comes and goes and the void of her not being presence permeates within my soul, I ask God how can life go on, how can I possibly go on. The answer is...because you just do. You get up in the morning and you put one foot in front of the other and you move. My falling into a pit for two years did nothing to honor my mother. Perhaps it was my outward sign of my grief but two years is a lot to miss.
In the movie Howard (Will Smith) missed quite a bit but he also observed quite a bit. He checked out of his own life, divorced his wife, almost lost his entire business, and yet...he still knew what was happening in his friend's lives. His wife told him as their daughter was dying a woman told her not to miss the Collateral Beauty. He didn't get it, but she did. As I sit here thirteen years later I can see it too.
My mother found Jesus as she was given her diagnosis. She went to church and the number of people that came to her visitation and funeral was amazing. I didn't know some of the people that came to pay their respects and yet they all told me of the beautiful, funny, kind woman my mother was. My mother who worked and worked to make a life for us made an impact on this world. She wasn't famous, she didn't make any great discoveries to help with furthering mankind. She worked in a factory for thirty years and also as a realtor for a few years before she died and she was beloved by many.
To be honest when I started writing this I wasn't sure where God was taking me on this. I often don't. I'm not trained in writing. I hold no degrees that I have ever used. I was a stay at home mom for eleven years. I often try and figure out what my purpose is and feel I have fallen short. I don't contribute to society as a whole the way I probably should....and yet....perhaps my view is too small...or too large depending on your perspective. I may never know of the impact I have had on this world this side of heaven. I may question whether or not I am doing enough for my family and others every day of my life but maybe I can use that as a drive to do more. Maybe by sharing my journey someone else can see themselves in it and find something to focus on outside of the pain. If you are looking for it, I promise you that it is there. Jesus can take the ashes and make diamonds. He can take your pain and use it for good. Jesus is love and he is in all of it, the good, the bad and the ugly. He is the giver of time and he conquered death. And maybe none of this is what that movie was about and this is just my translation of it. Maybe it isn't about anything at all and it is just a movie but aren't movies a form of art? Isn't art open to interpretation? I think God has the power to speak to us in ways that help us to understand what he is trying to get through to us. Whether it be a movie, or a book, or a song, or a blog from a wannabe writer, sitting on a college campus, writing in a cubicle, trying to blend in with the students while she waits for her daughter to get out of class. My hope is that instead of shutting down in your pain like I did, you will look to the light that is Jesus and let him turn your pain into a promise.