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Strong

This may be my first of many written pieces where my conclusions are nothing but messy. But I’d like to practice putting words to the mysteries of life, love, sorrow and joy, which is really the reason I started a blog.

A couple of years ago, after some discouraging news, when we were left perplexed at the unfairness of life, Sam shared his wisdom. “You guys, a lot of things in life don’t make sense. Like puberty....and The Cloud. That’s just how it is.”

So...Sam, Here's to writing about the messy mysteries of life.

There is tricky comment I occasionally hear from well-meaning friends,

“You’re so strong. I don’t think I could handle losing my kid.”

I know the statement is intended to be a compliment, but these words solicit an emotional response that I struggle to make sense of because I don't feel the way the encourager is trying to make me feel.

Throughout Sam’s cancer journey, I felt the very same way as people who say these words to me. The thought of losing my child made me wince and recoil and I would quickly shut the door and padlock the whole idea outside of my mind. I know very well what it means to think, I couldn’t handle losing my kid.

At no point in the journey did I think, you know, it would be hard, but I could handle that. Or I think I’m probably strong enough to deal with losing my kid.

Nope. Not ever. Not once.

When bad news suggested the worst was possible, I fought reality by choosing hope, and by fighting with everything I had. I was concerned that I could never, ever “handle” losing my kid.

Sometimes, the comment above creates a defensiveness in me as if someone was suggesting that I didn’t love Sam as much as they love their child and I feel the need to reveal the intensity of my pain. I want people to know my darkness, my days of struggling to breathe, and my obsessive need to talk about Sam. And to honor him. And remember him. I started a blog so I could keep telling stories of Sam (for crying out loud)! I want to make sure everyone in the whole world knows that my love for Sam was and is crazy and powerful on a ridiculous level and, sometimes a well-meaning comment about how strong I am minimizes the pain of my reality. But, if I loved him so desperately, why do I appear strong? Why am I able to laugh and work and socialize again?

I want you to see my weakness.

At the same time, I want to choose resilience. I want to live my life with grace and strength. I want to be strong and I want to be weak. It doesn’t make sense. I am both.

I think we can carry strength and weakness together, and on any given day, one might show up more than the other. My tears, my insecurities, my diminished capacity for tension and conflict, and my daily symptoms of adrenal fatigue and concentration issues all expose my weakness. But, thankfully, I also have a strong side and I see resilience with a new lens now.

My heart is bursting with desire to make a difference in the world, to live well, to fight for justice and to walk with grace.

I like my bigger, bursting with desire heart, but to suggest that I am a better person now, because of my loss, is offensive. I don’t know what I want because, like puberty and The Cloud, life doesn’t make sense.

I have walked through the agony of grief, and it continues to come in waves. I believe it is important to allow myself to feel the intensity of that sorrow. It’s only after walking through the waves of sorrow, that I can rise in the morning with a deeper experience of life, of God, and of Sam.

I have always appreciated the words of Solomon in the Book of Ecclesiastes, his honest struggle with the meaningless ways of this world. He didn’t pretend to believe what the world wants us to believe so everything makes sense. His words are uncomfortable. But, at the end of his life, he concluded it is better to live a meaningful life, full of sorrow and joy and purpose and relationship, than to live a life of folly and the pursuit of riches and status.

Something about my loss has brought this understanding into clear focus. I’m not suggesting life is better with loss, but when life causes pain, it is better to face the pain, as much as it is tolerable, and let it both soften and strengthen the heart, than to shut it out and pursue all things superficial and controlled.

I see through my new resilience lens, that light can be displayed in the darkest places, like the stars that shine brightest on clear nights over a vast empty field. Life can appear out of death like the delicate fern growing out of the fallen tree trunk deep in the forest. And beauty can grow out of the muddy, swamp waters where the lotus flower flourishes.

I asked Bob if he wrestled with the same feelings around the observations of strength. He relates. But Bob believes that we can live a deep, rich life now, because Sam showed us how.

Our loss is not the only reason we are changed. We’ve been changed by Sam.

Loss forced us to change. But Sam made our hearts bigger and brighter.

Every day my life expresses some of Sam. His spirit was strong and contagious and I have a desperate desire to keep his light shining in this world. The mystery in our loss is in knowing, although Sam is gone, he has somehow become a deeper part of us.

I AM SAM.


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