In my spiritual reading this morning, it said that fear and love cannot dwell together–that perfect love casts out fear. It also said that fear is the bane of our existence, and that we must fight it as we would a plague. And it is a plague upon our hearts. It makes us act unwisely and think things we should not. It tries to convince us that we are alone and must act alone. And finally, it separates us from the grace of God and the goodness right in front of us. I think that traumatic loss makes a hole in us where fear enters in. We fear so many things because, indeed, a very, very bad thing has happened, so all things seem to be tainted by that one act. Therefore, we must be vigilant against allowing fear to enter in and take over what little strength that remains. We must pray for more love, because in that perfect love, the love that endures all things, we are safe from the ravages of fear. I am confronting this daily because of the stress involved in my move. The hole from my loss is still there and fear wants to enter in and ruin everything I’ve worked so hard to regain. I realize my only defense is the power of love to hold me close. Love never dies, love heals, love protects–and it is the essence of our God and the life we have now.
The storm has passed leaving a hard white blanket covering the hope of spring. We are winter weary and our heart longs for the song of spring to call us from our sleep to live again. I hear the birds singing and saw a robin with her red breast blazing, surely a sign that no matter how hard the winter, and it has been brutal, it must give way to the warmth of the coming spring. This is our journey from the death of winter to the rebirth of spring. No one can escape this truth of nature and life itself. We are human and therefore we will suffer. We will live our lives and in that we will see all things come and go. We have lived through the death of love itself. Yet, we persevere because we know that love cannot be destroyed. It is only sleeping in the winter, unseen but there in the quiet beneath the snow. Love rises in the breath of spring and we rise with it, born again. So, today, even in our weariness, we hear the song of spring calling us, promising new life and we listen, hope and find our love again.
I am watching outside my window as the winds whip the falling snow into a frenzy of white. Yet another storm comes our way, so many this winter that I’ve lost count. My life feels that way too. Each new day brings a storm with it, creating all sorts of havoc. This move has been so very difficult, as I think all major changes are. I forget sometimes that this move is meant to be a good thing–and ultimately I believe it will. But for now, it is a series of ups and downs, of stops and starts–the condo deal has yet to go through, so I am in limbo at the moment and praying for a quick resolution. I do know one thing, all of this has made me step up my prayer and meditation throughout the day so that I can cope with the ongoing storms, large and small. I have talked about how vulnerable we are to stress after our trauma. I am certainly living proof of how that works. I cannot handle stress as well as I might have before Aaron was killed. Things seem to trigger major stress reactions and I know this is my trauma response. It is so easy to go to that place of disaster when a storm strikes. Then the very next thing I do is pray for the strength to withstand the storm and not allow it to disable me. Easier said than done. Perhaps this is why we fear change. It brings with it memories of such dark places, that we cannot even get close to it again. It takes enormous strength to withstand such assaults on one’s mind and body. I see more and more that it is only our spiritual life that can bring us through such storms. We remember our time in the ocean when all was dark and our only guide was the small light in the distance that became stronger as time passed. We remember surrendering our little ship to the guidance of the strong captain of our soul, praying for the strength to calm the storms and bring us to a safe place. The same guidance holds true today in any storm large or small. Do we trust, do we believe, do we love? Time to surrender again and believe.
Thank you for your emails to me about my move! It has, as you can imagine, been a very hectic and challenging time and will continue to be until I land on the new shores. I do want to share with a story which is so breathtaking, I am moved everything time I think about it. I had my condo up for sale and it wasn’t going well, another stress on me that was hard to deal with–would I ever get out of here? Anyway, last week, an agent brought a buyer who indeed, made an offer. When I got the offer via email I was taken aback by the agent’s full name, Aaron J Crossman! As many of you know, my dear son’s name was and continues to be Aaron. But his middle name was Jay–and his initials were Aaron J, which we often called him! He followed the Catholic faith, and often, I thought of his death as a kind of crucifixion of the good. He believed in the cross and the resurrection. So, when I saw the young man’s name, it took my breath away and I knew this was a gift from my son Aaron–as if he had come to help me. I thought of how much I missed him and loved him–but one of the things I realized is how much he loves me. And this is something I wonder if we think about. We are broken hearted in our love for them and our loss. We might forget the love they have for us. I believe this story reminds us that they continue to love and care for us from where they are now. If anyone has any doubts, then surely this story will convince you of the life that continues on past death, and the love that endureth all things, and continues our whole life long.
I know I haven’t written for a while and told you all I was taking a break. I have been in the midst of life-changing events and I now I can speak freely about them. I am moving to London at the end of April! It’s been a long process of prayer and deep transformation, as you can imagine. As many of you know, I have been going back and forth to Europe for some time and as things progressed, I was led to a decision to move there. It has been a very difficult process–one challenged by fear of the unknown and of change. How well we who grieve know this– a dear friend of ours said to me “Sometimes it’s easier to stay in the ocean because we know it so well.” How true that is. But we were never meant to stay in the ocean, even though it will always be the place we learned our most painful lessons and has a strange kind of comfort. We were meant to come out and be among the living, even though our hearts are always with those we lost. We bring all this into our new lives and perhaps the ocean is always within us, in the deepest part of our being and one day we shall re-enter its gentle waves and they will take us home. But today, we are alive and we go forward into the changes that living brings to us. For me, it is a move to a new, but familiar and well-loved territory. I ask your blessings and good wishes as I give mine to you. Our hopes are unified in our desire to live and love again–and we never leave our loved ones behind, indeed, we bring their light with us to warm us and show us the way.
It seems like forever since I’ve written, I miss my daily time with you all. There are some significant changes underway–and I’ll be able to talk about them as they unfold, suffice it to say, it’s a very challenging time waiting to see which direction unfolds. If that sounds mysterious, it’s because it is!! But then again, isn’t life like that? The hardest thing is to stay open to change and go with the flow. After our trauma, any change, even good ones, can be re-traumatizing. After all, just getting to a safe place after the tsunami of our lives came through, was enough change. Now, to think of change as a good thing in and of itself brings with it the spectre of the past and how bad it truly was. It begs the bigger question, do we really get to have a new life, with good changes and to be restored as best we can to health and happiness? Most of us have our doubts, oh yes, we might agree, but sometimes I think we are whistling in the dark. We are not at all convinced its true. The struggle is real, the ghosts ever with us, the pain of what we have endured burned into our hearts. Yet, we must persevere and pray daily for more faith, more trust and more love.
I know I haven’t written for a week or so. I’ve taken on a project which requires me to work earlier, and it’s been very difficult to get to the blog!! I am also developing a new website which will have a blog built into it and am making the transition to that in a few weeks. This year has gotten off to a busy start with lots of changes which I’ll be able to tell you about in the next few weeks, but in the meantime, please bear with me, until things get straightened out! Although, I wish I had energy to do everything, I just can’t!! I must say though, that during a more leisurely meditation, this Sunday morning, I saw falcons gliding blissfully in the early morning quiet skies. It’s unusual to have falcons in the midst of a busy city, but here in Philadelphia they have made their nests in our old City Hall as well as the natural history museum. They soar high above the city, reminding us that there is more to life than the world that we humans have created. There is a freedom and a height that only those who can receive the gift of wings can enjoy. That was a good lesson today, to remember that all we have is only temporary, and not all there is in life. We can take flight up and away from it all– we can remember to soar, to glide, to enjoy and to see further.
The first few days of the new year give us pause to reflect on our lives and understand things differently than before. We are challenged to adjust to the past, to recognize we cannot change it, but we can allow it to shape and change us in new ways. We can, in our quiet times, ask that the clear, clean air of the fresh new year dissolve the bitterness of the past. We can be channels for the purity of the spirit that survives all things and lives another day. How can we find purpose and meaning when our channels are so blocked from despair, hopelessness and the bitter remains of what has happened to the ones we love? If we realize that we need to process these things that block our channels, these legitimate feelings, we will have a better chance in unblocking ourselves. This is not an easy thing to do. We cannot bypass our feelings, our grief, our pain. But we do have a responsibility to deal with these feelings. We do this by first recognizing them, gathering the courage to allow them to wash over us like the waves of the ocean. Each time they do so, they purify us. They work to transform us into what we will and must become. This takes time, but if we can work with the process instead of fighting it, we will move through it. The first year is all about the feelings, the overwhelming, never-ending feelings of shock, disbelief and deep abiding grief. By the second year, we have learned to master our emotions, and this brings us into deeper waters where we will surely drown if we do not learn to accept what has happened. Along the way, we discover gratitude and then we uncover the great gift of creativity. It is here that we explore the meaning of what happened. There are so many ways to do this, as different and unique as each of us is. We explore ways to honor our story, our grief and above all the ones we still love–the ones who may have left this earth, but still live in our hearts. It is a fearsome journey, this grief of ours, but one which should transform us into new and different people. This beginning of a new year gives each of us a chance to see where we are at in our process–and respecting that, where we will go. It is not important to know the way, that will be given to us a day at a time, but it is important to trust and be open to change–and allow ourselves to be guided to a new place, where we will find meaning, purpose and a life worth living.
I awoke to a brilliant, clear blue sky and a blanket of soft white snow–all illuminated by the rising sun. Winter landscapes can be so very beautiful! They reveal the bare bones of the structures we take for granted. The trees are not lush and green; the fields are hard and brown. We are faced with the stark beauty of the world as it is, not as we would like it to be. But these landscapes are important too. They show us how to live with the truth. They show us what it is like when all has been stripped. Yet, as I mentioned yesterday, the seed still lives. The current of life still runs even though it is deeply buried in the fertile earth. It awaits the warmth of spring to bring it forth. We learn this lesson from our grief. All seems lost and we are stripped of our lush green lives. We feel bereft in every way and lost to the endless winter of dark tears. But our tears are like the river that nourishes our souls and bring us back to life. We learn that beauty grows stronger in the clear, cold, barren landscape of winter. We breathe in the frigid air and it cleanses us, encourages us to keep going because life calls us to endure and live again. Only in winter, when all is stripped away, can we see the truth of life. We are still alive even during the barren times. We will grow new branches that will reach towards the clear blue sky and out of our long winter will come new meaning and purpose. We must live for that truth.
The second day of this new year dawned cold and grey–another storm is on its way tonight. Much of the country has been plagued with ice, snow and rain storms, knocking out power and leaving people dangerously exposed to the elements. But then again, it’s winter and this is the way it is, until the maiden of spring wrestles the earth away from the old man. And this is the way our grief is too. It holds on for many seasons, until one day, the gentle breath of spring renews us and brings us the joy of new growth. This new growth springs literally from the season of winter and the depths of darkness. Yet, it is important to realize that all the while, the darkness holds the seeds of what will become our meaning and purpose. We often don’t see or feel them. But that does not mean they are not there. That is why hope is so valuable to us. It is the light that penetrates the darkness so that we may know and believe that the seeds of meaning are silently growing. Sometimes, we do feel them, or are given signs and symbols that tell us we are still connected and that all the darkness in the world cannot destroy the meaning of life itself–its mysteries and its purposes. The seed is always present in every moment waiting to be born, waiting to bring the next chapter of our lives to us. So, as we begin the year, we hold the light of hope, believing when we cannot see, that the seed is within us, growing, waiting to be born again.