By Lindsay Fernandes
It’s never been mysterious to me that life changes in an instant.
I’ve known since earliest memory that my dad’s mom died when he was a young child. My own grandfather passed away when I was in kindergarten. A mere handful of years after that my uncle was killed in a plane crash, and that marks the first memory I have of actually hearing the words that change everything; actually watching the world as it freezes in place.
“Kathy, Bubba was on that plane.”
I was a young child, watching from the kitchen as my mother froze and my gut clenched. Terrified and wanting to fix it and knowing that there was nothing to do but clear the dinner dishes that suddenly didn’t matter.
After that I went year after blissful year of a world without hiccup or personal tragedy. We recovered from those losses in whatever way you do, and felt normal again. But I never held that innocent belief that many do. That, “it won’t happen to us” feeling. I knew it could and would and was just a matter of time.
And since that night, I’ve had many such frozen moments, heard many such freezing words. “We have to hurry, Grandaddy probably won’t make it through the day.” “I think you need to come home, Grandmom is in the hospital.” Then more recently, “Aunt Linda has cancer.” “Your cousin has breast cancer.” “Your aunt has breast cancer.” “Lindsay, my husband doesn’t love me. He says he hates us. He’s leaving.”
And more recently still, from a friend who is family, “We’re at the hospital. He’s in agony. It’s dire. Please pray.”
I feel, today, that I have spent the past several years bracing myself for wave after wave of crashing, crushing news. I feel wobbly, unsteady on my feet, all the while knowing that this news has all been periphery to my family, and I watch anxiously as I wonder when it will be our turn, when our world will come to a grinding halt.
I’m good with words, so I offer them up. I offer strength for others to borrow, all the while wondering, would I follow my own advice if it were my turn for personal tragedy? Or would I crumble?
In all honesty, I’ve been struggling. I feel, in so many ways, that the world is in shambles. Our country is in shambles. Tragedy lurks around every corner. I have friend after friend struggling with the totally unexpected, the seemingly unendurable.
I have one particular friend who was waiting through a long, impossible, hellacious night this week, and we were texting one another. I told her, in what was possibly a bland cliche, that the sun always rises, and she responded that she was watching for it out the window. Not twenty minutes later, while driving my girls to school, we watched in awe as the sky turned magenta and orange, fluorescent yellow. Stunning, unearthly colors. Too early, I might add, as the sun typically doesn’t rise until later in the morning. I took a picture and sent it to her, knowing that in Eastern time, my sun was rising earlier than hers.
“Here it comes.”
The only comfort I have to offer myself, or anyone, is that the sun does always rise again. And that no matter how unsteady we are, no matter how wobbly and broken we feel, there always seems to be a hand to hold onto. Friends that rally, neighbors that step in. A community to offer support.
The thing to remember, or so I tell myself this morning, is that the human spirit cannot be quantified or underestimated. Our capacity for love, friendship, and hope above all, will always see us through and emerge in ways that seem impossible.
There is so much darkness. It’s everywhere. It creeps in, uninvited, unexpected. We have to daily beat it back, daily rise above it, daily swallow the fear that the darkness is all there is.
We find strength in ourselves; we borrow strength from those around us; we hold hands; we cling to faith. And we watch for that sunrise.