I think maybe my mother lived better dying than I have ever lived living.
In the last months I don’t know that she was ever really free of pain. She knew long before the end what was coming. She would never see her grandchildren grow up. They would never know her like she hoped. She was young… in her 50’s. She had family and friends and so much. It was so wrong and so cruel the way life finished for her.
It was so right the way she finished.
She lived. She tried to live fully. She wanted nothing unfinished. She made amends with all those she needed to make amends with. She thanked all those she was thankful for. She never used less days as a reason to live less on every day.
What follows is not just about her. I have known many people who have lived with terrible tragedy or terrible life circumstances. I have known and still know many people who are victims of other people, of abuse and trauma, of illness, of accidents, of poverty, of injustice of an untold variety of misery and pain. I have known people who died. I think I know people who are dying.
This is not so much about how they have suffered as it is about how many of them have lived. Most of them saw themselves as ordinary people and not especially courageous. One guy once told me that courage is when reality meets necessity.
Some of these things people have said to me. Some of them I have just seen. They are my way of making sense.
1. Anyone who tells you that you must get past the pain has never known the pain. Some things do get better. Some stop hurting. But some don’t. They are always… Always will be there. I think it is not so much about getting past the pain as it is going forward despite it. It is not about the journey without weight. The journey always has weight and life is about what we do despite the weight.
2. Life can be very hard and sometimes trying harder or looking at things differently or having a different attitude just doesn’t seem to help. It just seems inescapable. Life can not be fixed or cured and suffering is not a disease. Nor is it the sentence or verdict on who you are. It just is. It is life. And for some it may seem to be all life is. The people I know who did the best seemed to know this. Life is. Whatever the explanation, whatever the reason in the end life is.
3. They thought it was important how they lived. No matter how hard, how unfair, how uncertain life was they thought it was important how they lived. I knew someone who had been made a paraplegic when she was hit by a drunk driver. She lived a life I could barely imagine. At 24 she lived a life I could barely imagine. But she wanted to talk about what she was going to be, what she was going to become. Life was what she was doing and yet to be done. Not what was done. I asked her once if she thought of giving up. “Every day. Sometimes many times a day. I tell myself the verdict is not in and try to do the next thing.”
4. Their question seems to be despite what is hard, despite what hurts, despite the circumstances of my life what can I do? What can I do today that is important for me to do? Sometimes the answer is not much. Sometimes it is nothing. But they seem to know the best you can do is the best you can do and give themselves grace. And they know my best today need not define my best tomorrow.
If we live by what we must get past we find there is much we can never get past. But sometimes despite what we cannot get past we can move forward. As much as anything else that is what my mother taught me.
I have had real losses in my life, especially in the last years. Many things have not turned out like I hoped. I have deep sorrows that I don’t know will ever go away or that events will ever make better. I have tried so hard to get past them and some have gotten better but some may never.
If I am going to build a better life I must do it despite the things in the way. My focus must be on what I can do. Like the lady in the car accident I have to each day and really each time remember the verdict is not in yet.
Some days nothing works. But that is still not the verdict. The story is not over. It may feel that way. Some days it feels that way a lot. But it is not.
The strength of human beings is not in suffering but in sacrifice. We can be resilient in the hardest of circumstances with a reason to lean on. I am not particularly brave or strong. I am often afraid. I often don’t do as well as I hoped I would.
But I believe down in my heart of hearts and soul of souls that my life is worth living and I am worth being. I think the same is true of you.
I don’t know how much any of this makes sense to you. A lot of people have taught me a lot of things and it makes sense to me. And when life is at its messiest and loudest it has helped.
I pray you find what you need to build the better life you deserve.