It’s Memorial Day in the states, they don’t celebrate of course in England, but across the miles, I am acutely aware of what this day means. Fifteen years ago I got the call that Aaron was missing. The call that changed my life and brought such agonizing trauma I can only marvel at the miracle of survival. I think you all understand what I am talking about. In the beginning, we are in such shock, we don’t realize the fullness of what it all means. We are faced with the sheer intensity of response to something so awful, we cannot take it in. I have heard so many of us say “I don’t think I can get through this, I don’t think I can live through something like this–and if this pain lasts forever, I’m sure I don’t want to.” We are caught up in a wave so huge, we are shipwrecked at sea and we think we are lost forever. And for a while, we are. And then, by some miracle of grace and the hard work of living every day, we survive. Things get better, we reclaim our lives, some marvelous things happen along the way that teach us the true meaning of love. We begin to heal and we find meaning and purpose and hopefully gain the great gift of joy, born out of true and deep sorrow. But despite all these good things, the anniversary comes, as it does once a year and we stop and we remember it all. And the tears come slowly from a place deep inside, a room that most of the time is quiet and the door closed. But today, I go into the room and remember the time before the phone call, when Aaron was alive and I thought he would be there forever. He is, but in a different form, and I am too. some By some miracle, I’ve survived as have we all, and we go on to live again in faith, hope and always Love.
Well, I’ve arrived in London after a grueling several weeks finishing up everything. Every day was full to the brim with closures of every kind and far too many goodbye’s. I had a sale of almost everything I owned and watched as things that had travelled with me since before Aaron was born walked out the door to new homes. I sent boxes of childhood memories to my children in Los Angeles along with two boxes of odd things I couldn’t seem to part with. I also shipped 15 boxes to England (I can’t remember what’s in them) and arrived here with a few suitcases. In the end, I was overwhelmed with the sorting of it all, and I am sure made some choices not to keep some things which I will probably regret, such was the weariness of my thinking. Still, what is done is done, too late now, as they say. That’s the thing about change, even when it’s a good one, there are things lost at sea which were unintended or not meant to happen. We unleash a storm that has its own energy and its own methods. We cannot control what happens. We know this all too well because of the storm which came one day out of the blue and swept it all away. Without choice, without our consent, without our desire. That storm almost killed us with its sorrow, fury, relentless rain and wind. We survived that and lived in the depths of the ocean for a long time, coming out in the end a changed person–not all for the better. In the choices we make afterwards, we are still affected by that first storm, like a perennial shadow no matter how far away we go. Still, some changes are better than others, and the ones we actually get to make ourselves are much better. So, here I am a little bewildered, tired and wondering what is next. The sky is grey here today, but the winds have settled and they say the weather will be warm and sunny this week!
Love and Peace
As I head down the final stretch of my move, so many changes are happening, it’s hard to catch my breath. A part of me watches as this all unfolds and wonders what I’m doing, and why. Yet, the part of me that is my soul knows that it’s time to go and the path will open and love will lead the way. My living space is emptying day by day. I had a moving sale last weekend and I watched as bits and pieces of me went out the door to new homes. I am reminded that these are only material things that we possess for a while and then they leave to go with new owners and new places. What remains are the memories and the enjoyment we experienced. And of course, they are mere shadows of true joy. That true joy comes from the people in our lives, especially the ones who left on their journey to eternal life. Yesterday, I went to the cemetery to visit Aaron for the last time. I laid out on the green grass and watched the perfect blue sky above and the rustle of the spirit through the tall tree that stands guardian over his grave. It seemed to me that the tree was shaped like a woman, and I felt comfort to think that she, like a mother, would be there always with him and I would be there too. I thought of the funeral and the first time I stood by his grave. The shock carried me through the unreality of what had happened–and there were so many people with me then, all of us witness to the love we had for this most beautiful person Aaron. Later, when I visited, I would want to burrow into the ground and be buried too. And a part of me was. The grief, as you know dear friends, is unspeakable, words a poor vehicle for the conveyance of its depth. Through the years, I would wash the stone and care for his resting place and over time, the horror changed into acceptance, the grief grew softer, the desire to die with him lessened and at long last, life found me again, calling me to new horizons. Yesterday, I felt his bones, the bones I knit in my womb, but there was more of the sky present than the earth. More of eternal life than the tomb of death. And this is the great transformation we experience–death holds us in its grip until we learn to live again and then it loses its power, it becomes our friend, our companion rather than our jailor. We are free from its bondage because it is the door that has opened our lives to eternity. We can never lose the ones we love, we become closer in spirit to them, and we go on to rejoice in life, knowing that one day, the door will open and we too, will pass through it and join those who are already there.
I haven’t been able to write for at least a month now–I am planning to switch over to my new blog and website, but that’s still in the works, as are so many things right now. This move of mine has been quite an ordeal, and it’s not over yet. The last several weeks were so difficult that my health was affected. Just entirely too much stress and things going haywire!! But finally, things are clearing up and I can see the light at the end of the tunnel–or to use our ocean metaphor–dry land is in sight. The process of change, as you know dear friends, is not always a good one. In fact, most of the time it is painful, even when the change is a new, positive direction. The process always creates a loss which brings anxiety, pain and fear. But, we must not lose heart, instead pray for the courage and strength to go through the process so we can get to the change itself. It is the time between the call to change and the change itself that brings us the most difficulty. Yet, there is one thing we know. If we can endure the loss that brought the biggest change of all, we can do almost anything. And with the grace of God’s love, we move forward, sustained, until the wave brings us to where we will be. I’m almost there, it feels like the worst is over and path, as always, opens before me.
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.