“You’ll never be the same,” he said.
And he’s right, my friend who said these words. I won’t. My Curly Girl won’t. We won’t. We will not be the same. Ever again. And we will carry scars. Maybe even deep, ugly jagged ones. But sure as I sit here on the long southern porch of a guest house in western North Carolina, a storm rolling across the mountains, the sun setting, with some damn good colleagues around me, I know this to be true: We will be okay.
We. Will. Be. Okay.
On June 27, after a really awful and unimaginable series of events, my daughter’s father, my former husband, took his own life. My heart is broken for my precious girl, and for all who knew and loved her father. Completely broken. And in the days since his death, I have often felt as if I am living someone else’s life. Like I somehow wound up cast in a stage play for which I have no instruction, no lines, no real idea of what the plot is, but am still expected to play the role I’ve been handed.
It has been a fucking nightmare. And there’s no way around that. And no way to soften the vocabulary I use to describe what I’m feeling.
There’s a whole lot of grief. A whole lot of questions. A whole lot of angry. A whole lot of wondering how in the world we got to this point. And there is so, so much that I do not know. And perhaps might not ever know. So much I will likely never understand. And I think, somehow, I may just have to live with those questions. The unknowing. The not understanding.
But there are some things I do know, and these are the things I’m holding onto this night, as I sit a long way from home and caught in a delicious/painful/awful/necessary in-between of what was once my life and what it has become. Liminal time, some folks call it. A sacred in-between of thresholds of existence, when we move from what has been to what will be.
I know this:
- That I will be able to tell my daughter, with a full and clear heart, all my days, that in his own way and as best as he was able, her father loved her Very. Much. And that his last thoughts were of her and her future. There is promise in this. Hope. Even in the awfulness.
- That we are all many things. And sometimes we have in us awful and terrible things. And sometimes those awful and terrible things win. And when the awful and terrible wins in the life of someone we’ve known and loved, perhaps the best thing we can do is stand as witness to what is good. And extend mercy to the places where its so desperately needed. And close our mouths to judgment and open our ears to grace. This is how love wins. Even when evil seems so close to the finish line.
- That darkness is all around us. But so is light. And in the last few weeks, I’ve known light at its best and brightest in the people around me. The family and friends who have, no matter the cost, no matter the inconvenience, no matter the pain of it all, stood with us. Firm. Tall. Strong. And said, “We’re with you. You are loved. And you are never alone.” This has been everything. And it has meant that even in our darkest, and most terrifying moments, we have been able to stand. Even if with faltering steps and weary hearts. Because not for a moment have we been without help. Without unconditional redemptive love.
- That gossip is as hurtful in a situation like this as it was on the middle school playground. And those who wish to engage in gossip do not get to be part of our lives right now.
- That there are no guarantees in this life. And some times it seems as if some sort of celestial throat punch has been delivered just when you least expect it. There’s no protection from sorrow. No escaping deep and tremendous and life-changing pain. But there is surviving it. There might even, one day, though just now it seems impossible, be thriving.
Tomorrow I am supposed to speak. About the book I recently wrote. To a group of people I don’t know. At an event called Wild Goose. I’m scared as hell. And cannot imagine how I’ll find the words, even as I rehearse them in my head. And I also know that a whole lot of ugly crap has gone down in the world in the last few weeks, even as I have been caught up in our own trauma and sadness. I’ve no idea how to merge the pain of our own story with the pain of the world’s story. But I do know this–our stories, they shape us. To be sure. But they do not have to define us. They do not have to determine our futures. We get to choose what happens beyond the sorrow.
And as for me, I’m choosing light. Even in the darkness. For me. For my Curly Girl. And my desperate hope is that in choosing the light we will, together, somehow help bring that light into being, just as all those who love us have begun to help us see that light’s existence.
Sunset in the North Carolina mountains tonight was something to behold. Pure and golden and majestic. And like the most beautiful of blessings. On the darkness that has been. And on the light that will be.
Light. Even in the darkness. Wherever we can catch a glimpse. Even on the days when we wonder how we’ll ever be okay again.
Because one day, I know, deep in my bones, we will be.