“Give me hope in the darkness that I will see the light.” – Mumford and Sons
“If you’re going through hell, keep going” – Winston Churchill
“Only to the extent that we expose ourselves over and over to annihilation can that which is indestructible in us be found.” – Pema Chodron
“We don’t know what’s possible. Our ideas of what’s possible are based on the past.”- Geneen Roth
These are the some of the quotes that have been circulating through my head these days.
This year has been one of change and loss and gut wrenching decisions. And I’m trying to let myself be annihilated so I can better see the indestructible in me.
In every moment, things are dying as others are born. Death gives way to life in the most unexpected and mysterious ways. In the wise words of Semisonic, “Every new beginning comes from some other beginning’s end.”
In September of last year, my granddad died of leukemia. I was with him for a good part of his last month on earth, and it was one of the more meaningful experiences of my life. I would swing back and forth between denial that we were actually losing him and sobbing at the thought of life without someone I’d never known life without.
As he got sicker, I watched an innocence and purity emerge from his often hardened exterior. I felt so close to him in those last weeks of his life and could see so much of who I wanted to be in him. Even after retiring a wealthy man, he lived a very simple life. He was one of the most frugal, yet generous people I’ve ever known. He was genuine, loyal and consistent and inspired me to think creatively about how to save and reuse things in fun and meaningful ways. I’ve wanted to write a post that honors him somehow, but every time I’ve tried, it’s felt so inadequate. Maybe I’m able to best honor him by trying to embody those same values in my own life.
As we sat with him by his hospice bed in the living room of my grandparents’ home, I started to feel less afraid of death. Movement was painful, but overall, it seemed to be a peaceful transition. We were all together as we watched him slowly let go of us and life, and being with him through that process, also helped me be able to let go of him. I felt sad for all the people who didn’t have the chance to say goodbye in the way that we did.
As he was dying, people would ask my grandmother if she was going to be ok, which was my greatest concern. And she would say, “Well, I figure I have two choices: to be ok or not. So I’ve decided I’m going to be ok. “
And she has been. I don’t know how someone manages to be ok after losing someone who has been by their side for over 60 years, but through this, I’ve realized that it’s possible. I know that she misses him terribly, but she still finds meaning in her life. She seems to feel peaceful and has found her own strength in learning to do things for herself that he had always taken care of during their life together. Seeing her live through this has helped me believe that it’s possible for me, too.
Around the same time, my dog, Stevie, of 11 years was also getting older and sicker. So not long after losing my grandfather, it was time to go through the same experience with my dog. It was haunting how similar of an experience it was- I watched Stevie slowly decline over the last few months of his life, and I went through all the same stages of denial and grief. And again seeing the life slowly leave him allowed me to see that it was time to let him go. But he had been the only constant being in my daily life for the past eleven years, and on the day he died, I felt like I wanted to die with him. I felt like part of me was missing.
Through both of these experiences, something changed within me. I felt stronger and more capable of facing things I had been terrified to face. As my friend Chalo wrote when Stevie died: “There will never be another Stevie, nor will there ever be another Lauren that loved Stevie. Everything is temporary and for that reason precious.” I’m trying to not let my fear of losing something trap me because ultimately I will lose everything.
But while I’m here, I want to love so hard that it destroys me, knowing that sometimes love means letting go. I want to know the limits of what I’m capable of. I want to love my life, the people in it, this world and myself with all of me. I want to be raw and vulnerable, to take risks and throw myself out there knowing that I don’t always get to control the outcome.
There have been many days in the last 9 months where I was hurting so much that I wasn’t sure I could take it. The temptation to self-destruct, to escape somehow or to find something to numb the pain has been so great. But most days I don’t let myself go there because I know it will only make things worse.
I know that I can’t be fully alive without feeling pain. I want so bad to believe that at some point I’ll have everything together enough to where I won’t ever have to hurt again. But I guess that’s a luxury we don’t get in this complicated, messy life.
So I’m trying to let myself be broken and to feel my way through the dark, knowing that an immeasurable joy and freedom can be found in not running from the brokenness. And in the midst of it all, I feel so grateful for the support and unconditional love that I feel from the people closest to me. I couldn’t do this without them.