Today my girls Rebecca and Maria turn seven.
Much to my relief, I can still picture them. Together. Holding hands as they were the last time I saw them.
I’ve been thinking a lot about the idea of strength and how that relates to the hardships that so many people have faced at this point in their lives. I know very few people who are untouched by tragedy - the early or unexpected loss of a parent or sibling, the death of a child, a life changing medical diagnosis. Often times when discussing this we say “I don’t know how they survived that…” but what we really mean is “I’m so glad that isn’t me.”
Surviving tragedy isn’t really about strength or a person’s character; it is that life won’t let us quit moving forward. I don’t think I realized this until I recognized this idea in a book two years ago. Funny because it was not a particularly great book and not even one that I would recommend, but I found myself coming back to this passage over and over again.
“When all was well, you assumed that to suffer such a staggering blow would break you, but when such ills actually befell you, you somehow persevered. You didn’t survive to prove something to anyone, you didn’t press on simply because you wished to, and you didn’t endure because of what the preacher in church said. You survived because deep inside everyone was the simple, indefatigable need to press on, whatever the costs. And even if so much was stripped away that you no longer recognized yourself, the thing left was the part of you that you never understood, that you always underestimated, that were always afraid to look at. You were afraid you’d need it one day and it wouldn’t be there for you, but in fact was the one thing that couldn’t be taken away.”
Maybe that is what we term ‘strength’ but it is also so much more than that.
During the weeks and months that followed their passing, I grew to hate being told I was ‘so strong’ and ‘would survive’. As though I didn’t love my girls enough to allow their loss to cripple me as others would. The platitudes that rolled in just rolled over me. However, you could tell those who had been touched by tragedy themselves in their silence and their quiet ‘I’m sorry’.
I suppose that is why I’m choosing to write this here. There will be other tragedies in the lives of others. You will find yourself uncomfortable and wanting to shy away from those people who are suffering. Don’t give into the empty phrases, it isn’t strength they need, it is quiet support and acceptance from you to allow them to grieve and work through it. Life will push them forward and they will find their footing again, and they will remember that you helped them understand they weren’t alone.
Today I remember. It would mean the world to me if you would take a moment to remember too. Rebecca and Maria, you existed and you continue to be loved.