I sit in a chair reflecting back upon my life
And I have so much yet to learn and so much yet to see and do
It’s love that holds it all together
I just had to let you know
That it’s love that’s holding back the weather
And the same will let it go
King’s X, 1990
Tony loved this song. King’s X was a musician’s band, and this song was a single from their 1990 album, “Faith, Hope and Love.” It seems fitting that this band and these words came to my mind today. Yesterday marked ten years since Tony passed away from a courageous battle with cancer. And despite moving forward with my life and finding personal happiness and true love again, grief continues to be the sneaky wave that hits you from behind. It simply doesn’t go away when you love someone. For me there are mostly regrets over everything he has missed with Aaron and Lauren: learning to drive, graduations, countless move-ins and move-outs, heartbreaks, celebrations of success, and so much more. I will also admit that I occasionally feel resentment over a songwriting career that never brought the success that he dreamed of and deserved. Lauren had posted something on Instagram yesterday that caught my attention, and it wasn’t her tribute to her Dad but something that in my mind relates to how we deal with times like these. Lauren is an empath and always has been. It’s her superpower but it can also be a difficult role to navigate. She shared a post of Nine Rules for Empaths. Two of them caught my attention for this milestone.
“You are not responsible for the things you cannot control.” Yep. I tried. I could not save him with all of the dietary changes, the prayer, the essential oils, elixirs, smoothies, surgery, chemotherapy, clinical trials, Vitamin C and yoga. I tried. His doctors tried. He tried. He didn’t give up. I will say this again and a little bit louder: He didn’t give up. I also can’t control that I still feel sad about this ten years later. I can’t control that Aaron deals with this by studying and going out with friends, probably not even telling them what yesterday was all about. And I can’t control on the flipside of this coin that Lauren feels it very, very deeply. Her way of navigating the milestone was not Aaron’s way. I personally cut down overgrown holly, cried a little and taught two yoga classes. My way isn’t their way either.
“You are not responsible for your trauma, but you are responsible for your healing.” About a year after Tony’s death, I met with my pastor at the time, Chris Joiner. I admitted to him that I did not want this to define me. I felt that I had been given an identity (Strong, Resilient, Widowed Mother of Two) that I had never asked for and didn’t want. I remember his advice and it went something like this: “It shouldn’t define you but it is now part of your story. There is no changing that.” Even though I acknowledge that I still don’t want this to define me as I feel that would have held me back from personal growth, moving forward and finding love again, I have allowed it to be part of my story. For within this chapter of my story, I think I have been able to help others.
As I often do when I am looking for some pearl of wisdom, I either call my Mom or find something in my many Anne Lamott books. Here is what Anne has to say about faith in times of trouble: “Faith includes noticing the mess, the emptiness and discomfort, and letting it be there until some light returns.” My hope for my two children, Tony’s family, his friends and anyone who has lost someone they love is to feel it all; but look for that light, and it will unlikely be in the form of a bonfire but more like a flickering candle.