When I was away in Toronto last week visiting my sister, I received some awful news from home. Someone I know was killed, tragically, in a charity bike race she was competing in. She was knocked from her bicycle and crushed by a garbage truck. She was a mother of two young children, and our kids had played together at family events.
It was such a shock, and it’s kept me reeling all week. Demons from the past resurface when things like that happen. And I’ve been remembering what it was like to lose my own mother, who died in a car accident when I was just seven. I keep thinking of this woman’s little girl, knowing what it’s going to be like for her growing up without her mother. And it’s heartbreaking.
But I have to be careful, projecting my own experiences onto another, because perhaps it won’t be as hard for this little one. Perhaps she will navigate these next years better than I was able to. Her extended family connections are much stronger than mine were, and that family is near her. It will help. All I can do is pray that it will be enough.
Sometimes life is beyond hard. Sometimes you’re fighting tooth and nail to hold on and it seems like everything is stacked against you. Sometimes, it’s all you can to get yourself through another day. Some days it will be like that for this little girl, and it’s something she will have to cope with for the rest of her life.
At the wake I held the hand of a woman I know, who, about twenty years ago, lost her only child when she was struck by a car as she played on her bike. Hit and run. Together we stood, watching the images of a mother’s life flash by on a screen on the wall. We both struggled to hold in the tears. And she said to me: “We know what it’s like. We’ve been through this. And we need to be strong for them.”
“Yes”, I said.
And we will be; we can’t help it. We made that choice — to be strong — long ago.
And one day, when she is ready, this little girl will also become one of the strong ones. One day she, too, will realize that it doesn’t matter what any of us have been through in life. Because in every moment we all have a choice about how we’re going to live our lives. We can choose to constantly relive the trauma of the past, or we can instead use it to build something new; something beautiful; something incredible. Something that only we, with the experiences we’ve had, could possibly create because we’re the only ones who understand things the way we do.
Because those of us who have been through hell are like the mythical phoenix; we cannot stop the devastation wrought by the firestorms that sweep through our lives, but we are always stronger than we were when we choose to re-emerge from the ashes that are left. We learn to harness the power behind those flames of destruction and use it to create something greater. We are the ones who choose to turn our drops of tears into sparks of fire that we may light the way for those who follow.
But none of that matters today, because the only thing this little girl can feel right now is the confusion and grief spilling out of the gaping hole torn in her heart. May both our mothers help her through this until she is strong enough; until she is old enough to realize her own power and is able to forge her own wings from the shattered pieces of the life that was; until she is ready to learn that her drops of tears can be formed into jewels more precious than any diamond.
photo credit: pixabay.com cc
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