“Freedom’s just another word for nothing left to lose…” I blared out at the top of my lungs as I drove down Pinebrook Blvd. late Saturday afternoon. I’m pretty sure this is not where Janis Joplin was going with that line, but as I sang here’s how it resonated…
Saturday was my 28th wedding anniversary, and this coming week holds the 4-year anniversary of my beloved Adam’s passing. I spent the day fighting an imposing sadness, and frankly, loneliness, as I held the awareness of both in my heart, alone. The only acknowledgement of my anniversary was a ride to the nursing home to leave Cheez-Its and an upbeat greeting card unrelated to our milestone. (In my husband’s declined state he doesn’t have an awareness of the day, and I didn’t want to draw attention that might disturb his peace.) I drove home alone with a heavy heart and decided to detour to Adam’s spot, the bench and tree in front of the NRHS twin lakes. I am blessed that I have sat there so many times filled with peace, joy, and gratitude; and I went seeking some of that and his comforting presence. In this instance, though, there was none of it. I cried (tears hidden behind my sunglasses), “Adam, I hate this. I’m sick of being so effing lonely with all of it.“
“Hello, walk with me?” a nice looking man with a French accent stopped on his walk as he was passing. A distraction from my imploring.
“No thanks.” I smiled.
“Well then, can I sit?”
“Sure. Of course.” As I moved aside, diverted from my grief, I found myself chuckling (clearly Adam, as usual, but good for me too for being tuned-in and noticing). We chatted a bit, acknowledging the beauty of the water in front of us, the wonderful day, and he asked if I’d like to join him for a coffee. The Starbucks he had in mind was closed, so instead we went for a beer. It was a fun afternoon. My French improved a bit (starting from close to nil) and as I drove home I noticed I was cheerful, singing out loud to “Bobby McGee,” and noted the particular lyrics above.
Since publishing “Not to Spoil the Ending…” I’ve gotten many emails and letters, been invited to share my inspiration in a few speaking opportunities, and even stopped in the community on several occasions. A common response I get from people is an acknowledgement of my strong faith, almost always accompanied by a clarifying statement like, “but that’s not how it is for me.”
Well, at the risk of shattering an image, my faith has not in fact provided any magic pill for sadness. Nor has it made my grief process somehow less painful or easy. Losing a child is effing hell. Going through it without a partner (even worse, taking care of a sick one who’s not present), is a lonely place that faith, or even a vast loving network of family and friendship like mine doesn’t ameliorate… And for the sake of truth, you should know that despite publishing an inspiring book with such a hopeful title, most of my Saturday-anniversary-right-before-my-son’s-death-anniversary really sucked, bad. …
But there is, I have found, definitely something at the bottom, at “nothing left to lose,” that’s liberating – those times where the darkness is pervasive, almost suffocating. Maybe it’s grasping straws (though I really don’t believe that’s it), but a new face, unusual encounter, laughs, a beer, and some improvement in my French, were way better than basking in resignation at the bottom, even if it took being there to consider embracing it in the moment, much less appreciate an unexpected and fun afternoon. … I’m not sure if it is actually my faith that has gotten me through – or just keen eyesight and staying tuned in to the moment I’m in.
Whatever your practices or level of faith, please pray for me this week (and all of my family). I know we can all use it. 💜