Joshua 1:9 "Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged, for the Lord your God will be with you wherever you go."
I cannot believe I have now existed for a year of my life without my mom. It still doesn't feel real, and yet it is the reality of my life. That day and so many of the days that followed are seared into my brain unlike any other life experience. I woke up to a "call me when you wake up" text from my dad. I already knew. I called him and the sorrow, heartbreak, and devastation in his voice destroyed me. His final words before we ended the call "BJ go to school, Bianca go to work." I spent the rest the rest of day doing not much else but answering when people asked my why I was at school "because my told me to go." We sat on my bed crying, and crying, and crying, and holding hands, and crying until I had to throw up. Time came, and I had class so I put on clothes, put my headphones in and got on the bus. I went to school.
My friend saw me outside and new something was wrong. That was the first time I said it allowed - my mom had passed away. I caved and cried. I went to tell my dean of students, and sat through all my classes. At the beginning of each I went up to whisper to my professors what had happened and to ask if it was okay if I didn't speak today. I went to dinner with my co-counsel group, and to bar review that night. I existed. There was nothing else to do or to say. I was just there to be there. There are still so many moments where I just here to be here, but slowly but surely being here doesn't seem pointless. There's an ember less where a fire used to be and it smolders on.
People often comment how jarring it is for me to mention my mom passing away so recently and for me to be who I am simultaneously. It's always but "you smile so much," and I cry a lot too. I think when we experience hardship and heaviness we can be consumed by darkness or we can emerge in light. I don't really understand how or why but I am so incapable of anger. It's an emotion that is not really part of my life. I don't get mad very often if at all - I cannot even recall the last time. What a dissonant experience. There have been so many moments where I wondered if I was feeling the right things at the right time and the right amount. Anger has been one of those where I almost felt guilty for not being angry. That's not me though. I don't get to control much of anything save for myself and my responses to living. Hope has long been the strongest emotion in me. I love that word. Hope is bright. Hope is light. Hope is holding on to the possibility for change. Things can be different, and if things can be different - that difference can be better. Without hope what is the point of continuing to live? Hope is what makes life so remarkably dynamic. I am so grateful to be imbued with hope. Keeping it safe has been the greatest challenge of my lifetime but it still remains. Hope is the ember instilled in me to keep me warm, keep me going, and to keep me living.
I don't subscribe to the notion that everything happens for a reason or that there are lessons to be learned from all that happens. Life can be cruel. Life can be unfair. Life can be downright awful. Sometimes there is no lesson to glean, no metaphor to be read into, or no grand purpose. I do think sometimes we can reframe our experiences for resilience, for motivation, for power when we take the process time, energy, and effort to process through them. I know this is going to be in process for me for rest of my Earthly days. Somehow I am still bright. I still have light to radiate. I still get to be a benevolent force for change.
I thought that me would have to depart to like she had to. I thought I would never feel the light again like I did from her fond smile. I thought I would never have joy but her energy is continually with me. I am so proud of who I am and who I get to be through her. What makes me uniquely me is her. I get to be her son - how did it take me so long to realize that meant selflessness beyond compare, easy relationships of depth, sharp brilliance, charisma to charm the masses, and love like nothing else. The way I show up, carry myself, and communicate compassion with others is her. What am immense gift. Thank you mommy for giving me the light that emanates from me, that draws others in, and that gives guidance and refuge to those who need it.
I am an ember smoldering with warmth. I thought this year would extinguish me. I didn't think I would have any fire left. I am a blazing star giving my brightest energy. How am I brighter now in the world than I have ever been before? How am I bigger? How am I more than who I ever was? Why now? None of it makes sense. Everything has changed. Life is so much quieter now. I miss my mom singing. Her talking loudly on speakerphone regardless of where we were. Her skipping lines and just walking to front. Her big laugh, her playful antagonism, and her constant adoration. Life is so much quieter now because so many people left with her. I didn't know people would leave, and chose to do so when she didn't have a choice.
So much silence. So much not knowing what to say so saying nothing at all. So much isolation. So much teaching people how to be empathetic while being the one who needs the empathy. My ember is remaining kind through all of it. My ember is forgiveness without the need for apology. My ember is radically vulnerable candor. I want people to see me. I want the entirety of me to be real. I want the fullness of me. I want people to see what living with loss looks like up close, personally, and honestly - so they can prepare, so they can show up better, so they can be more human. I hope my ember provides solace, peace, light, and love to others for the duration of my time here. I hope knowing me or of me is a benevolent reflection of who I come from. I hope people experience the monumental magnitude of my mom and dad, of my brothers and sister, of my family, and all those I carry with me - through me. I hope my ember sparks something profound for all.
Living with loss forced me to take stock of my life and what it means to be alive. Oh to be between planes of existence. Half here with those around me and half hoping, praying, and waiting to be reunited in the afterlife with the greatest love of my lifetime. I learned to let go, to give up on perfection, and to choose peace as often as possible. I stopped hesitating and instead found bravery where I thought there was fear. I am fearless because my biggest fear already came to pass. What more could scare me in this world than the loss of my world herself? I learned to set people free. I moved people out of the home that I let them live in inside me, rent free. I made space and didn't immediately fill it with new tenants but have relished in the expansiveness of myself.
So many departures. So many friendships, relationships, and connections severed. I stopped having to care. I stopped having to give the entirety of myself to others. I stopped the flimsy relationships, empty platitudes, and draining conversations. All of it - gone. I get to just tell people when I am sending them on their way and disconnecting. I get to embrace leavings instead of dreading them. I learned what choosing to be stuck in shame instead of apologies does. I learned what apathy, inaction, and the cruelty of voyeurism look like. I learned how embarrassment, awkwardness, and perfectionism lead to lost relevance. I'm not afraid anymore. I don't have anything left to be afraid of. What more could be taken from me? I can never be less. I can never be dark. I can never be defeated. I get to be strong, and I get to be courageous - it's already been promised to me. I am owed that. Life has been both remarkably kind and unbearably cruel to me. I am have a lifetime worth of gratitude and memories to sustain for the duration of my lifetime. X