The Walk: A Story of New Hope
Since my husband died, I have taken up the habit of taking a daily walk and meditation practice. Come rain or shine, hot or cold, I choose a dog (I have the honor of having 5!) and happily skip, sometimes trudge, along the same concrete path. No matter what has gone on that day, no matter how much I have grieved or smiled, I always have a time to reflect. One particular day on my walk, it was lightly sprinkling and the sky was gray. I don’t feel JR’s spirit all the time, but every once in awhile, I get an overwhelming sense of a certain emotion. This time it was pride. I don’t know why but I felt him smiling down on me. He was letting me know he was proud of me for all I had done to keep moving forward. It was a strange and beautiful feeling. I have had so many emotions since I started this journey: anger, doubt, fear, anxiety, ANGER, acceptance, exasperation, ANGER, depression, and most of all, guilt. I felt guilty that I was still here, that I had to somehow keep on going, and that I had to live my life somehow without him.
So every day I got up and just kept putting one foot in front of the other. When people would ask me questions like “Where will you be moving?” “Are you going to find another job?” “What are you going to do?” I would smile and say, “I’m just taking it one day at a time. There will be time for all that.”
That day, as my dog Batman and I walked in the rain under a dark sky, I felt J.R.’s pride “wash” over me. I closed my eyes, lifted my heads to the heavens and kept walking forward. I felt his voice in my spirit, as I sometimes do, saying, “I’m still here. I see you. I’m so proud of you.” All the fear, the doubt, and the anger, for a few moments, were gone. I was whole for a moment in time.
Yesterday I had the great privilege to be with a family as their loved one passed on Good Friday. She was a vibrant woman full of life and color. Her amazing family surrounded her with love, as she took her last breath. As I reflect on those moments today, I also remember the path that Jesus took to the cross. His family too, surrounded him as he passed away. With overwhelming love, they grieved a great loss together. We think of him as Jesus, the Messiah, but to them, he was their son, their best friend. Did they think of the great sacrifice he made for the world’s salvation or did they just grieve for the loss of someone they loved deeply?
There is no way around it. Death is traumatic, yet we all have to go through it. When we love hard, we feel the loss just as hard. It feels like someone ripped your heart out of your chest. You physically feel all of the emotions and pain. There are no magic words. There is no cure for grief. We can’t skip it. There is only love that can keep you company through it all.
On this Holy Saturday, we must remember trauma does not just leave us, but lives with us. During holy week, many of us tend to avoid the dark places during the story of Lent, because it is uncomfortable. Then we come to church on Easter morning with bright dresses (or pants!) on and shout, “Christ is Alive!” It is a beautiful story, but we often forget to remember that the trauma does not just go away. Instead, God’s love through the suffering endures. The Resurrection is a “story of love that survives.” (Rambo, Spirit and Trauma: A Theology of Remaining) Only through time, self-reflection, and days of putting one foot in front of the other, can we finally start feeling like there is a way forward and hope for a new beginning.
Finishing my walk this afternoon, I felt the sun shine down on me as I watched my dog, Giraffe, happily strut along the sidewalk. As we reached home, we passed my rose bush. I frowned to see that none had bloomed, but as I walked forward more, I saw the small bud of new life spring from the slender green branch. A bush that three weeks earlier seemed dead was coming alive. Even in the darkest places, at the bedside of a lost of loved one or at the cross, hope springs eternal. Love walks us through the grief and trauma and we can begin to see new life. My husband’s body may be gone, but his spirit and love for me lives on. I feel his love and his pride hold my hand as I keep moving bravely into this unknown future.
God of love, walk us through this time of grief at the cross. Hold our hand as we put one foot in front of the other each day. Let us remember that tomorrow, even though the trauma may remain, you bring us new hope as the sun arises. Your love remains with us in the darkness and in the light of the new sun.
Photo by Laura Watson Byrd at Little Elm, TX