You can get through this. You can do this. You can survive and go on.
Trust me. And I will tell you why.
She’s a bit over five feet tall and 100 pounds soaking wet, but don’t let that fool you. She won’t say much most of the time. But never mistake that for weak. My wife, Marquita is the strongest person I know. She got the call. That voice on the other side telling her that her youngest son, her baby, was dead. That is a blow that can kill any parent, or render the average mother mad… and I saw her break. I heard it. I saw her melt into the earth through the carpet and floor in a torrent of tears and screams. And a lesser woman would have stopped there. She took what few women could take with full force and it knocked her down and almost out.
And she got up again.
And I got up because she got up. I can do this because she is doing this.
She gathered the strength to say goodbye. To cry. To speak. To drive. And she cleaned up his mess, claimed his lifeless body and made arrangements for cremation. How? Where did the courage come from? Where did she find this strength? I don’t know. But I can tell you where I found mine. I found it in a woman who is not very tall.
How she ever put together a coherent sentence or went back to work or cooked a meal or washed a load of laundry after that or go to work or smile or laugh or be something like herself again is a testament to her strength. And maybe it is prayer or faith or God, I really don’t know. But I can tell you, that even with the help of God, and thank God, and through prayer and the strength and encouragement of others– the bit of strength that got me through came from her. Marquita never quit. Never gave up, gave in or gave out. And if she could walk and work, and laugh and love, so, by the grace and mercy of God, can I.
And if I can do it so can you.
The words of others helped. The actions of others helped. The prayers of others helped and when I could do nothing but be held… someone was there to hold me. If I needed to sit and stare for an hour at a spot on the floor and weep until my shirt was soaked someone was there with me. Help was there. And I needed it. I was broken. With help, I got up.
My son Justin. Smart. Young. Fit. Handsome. Quiet. He has her strength in his veins as well. Maybe it is some Creole fire, some French Quarter magic flowing in their bloods like the blood red cayenne sauce from the table. I don’t know. But I do know that he lost his brother and like his mother, found the courage and strength to go on. To find a job. To build a life. To be himself. And because he kept living so did I. I know he’s brilliant.
And he didn’t just knuckle under and become one of those people living a life of silent desperation. Now he’s taking a risk and putting himself out there. To dream. To pursue something that sounds crazy to others. That is courage. And what it tells me is that if he can live his life, so can I. That is strength. He isn’t giving up. He can work and live and dream and take a risk– take a leap of faith. So I know I can to.
And if I can do it, so can you.
You may always be grieving. But you made it through the worst day of your life and the next and the next. You have buried someone you loved and even though they are not coming back, you are going on. You did it yesterday. You will do it today. You can do it tomorrow. Somewhere in those hardest, darkest, worst days you endured more than you thought you could. You were knocked down and almost out, but somehow you scraped together enough strength to get up. You found the courage to go through the motions when you felt broken. You found your voice and your feet and somehow skirted the edge of that darkness that was pulling at you… you did not go mad, or become catatonic, or stay down. You somehow, by the grace and mercy of God, endured.
And I did too.
Hopefully you understand. No one walks exactly the same path. You will need help. You will need strength. You will need courage. And things will never be the same. Yeah… it doesn’t get any worse than this. You need time to heal a wound that can’t be healed. You need time to process. To weep. To grieve. Maybe there are stages, I don’t know. But if you go through stages, go through them. Whatever you feel, those are yours, your feelings. Maybe there are steps. Take them. And maybe you can find the “right” answer. I don’t even know if there is one. All I know is that you just keep going today and then when tomorrow comes you go through that. I wish there was a magic book, or a special prayer, or a regime of therapy. But in the end you know what is real. You know pain. You know loss.
And I know you can find the strength to go on. Because I made it this far.
And it is a path that no one else knows anything about. And sometimes when they try to help it just hurts all the more. But take courage, even that is healing. Accept the help. Draw strength from wherever you can find it. Certainly, pray and breathe and eat and rest. Cry as much as you want. Cuss. Walk. Run if you have to. Have that talk with God… you know, that impossible one, and say what you aren’t supposed to say, and ask what you know He can’t answer.
And surround yourself with positive people and love. If you need to see a doctor, see one. If you need to take a trip take one. If you need a day off, take a day off. If you need a hug, hug someone. Get up. Live. Even if it feels fake. Even if you are just going through the motions. Do it.
And if my strength gives you strength… that is awesome. Together we are stronger… those that grieve together.
Sometimes it helps to know that someone else understands.