I did not choose to become a mother because I had dealt with all of my fears. We say yes to new life not because it’s logical, not because we believe we are prepared to handle the brilliance of the pain and the complexity of the relationship. We say yes because of love, which as Pascal said, “has reasons of which reason knows nothing.” Our yes means accepting mortality, feeling life and its frailty in our very bellies.
In the midst of all of this, I overheard the old saying: That which doesn’t kill you makes you stronger. It stuck with me, turning over in my mind as I held Dad’s hand in the hospital or rubbed my daughter’s back as she hunched over a bucket by our bed.
The reason I kept thinking about this cliché is that it rang so hollow to me. I do not feel that these hard days, these stresses and sorrows and challenges, make me stronger. At the end of these three weeks, I feel profoundly weak and vulnerable.
For the last year I’ve been trying to understand my mother in a deeper way. I’m confused by so much, even my inability to see things for what they were. I don’t have a lot to help unlock the mysteries, so I hold tightly to the things I do have that represent her life and tell her stories: the photo albums and scrapbooks, an interview I did with her in 1976 for a college class, and the recipes.
You don’t have to have a sidewalk to take a walk. One side of the street will do. A dirt road will do. The edges of your neighbors’ lawns might do, depending on the lawns and the neighbors. But those have other purposes. A sidewalk is a zone between where we live or work or shop and where we move in vehicles. It is made for walking.
People were made for walking, too.
Out of belief comes life and all its attending stories. I have, over the last ten years deliberately chosen to keep some of these stories quieter or even private. Other than a few interviews and the occasional post here and there, I’ve required of myself what I’ve so often hoped for from others — a little reserve, maybe even silence. And so, on the topics of God, People, and Place — interdependent topics I’m very passionate about — I had gone mostly quiet.