I struggled to find joy in the aftermath of tragedy. I mean, I smiled. I laughed. But, that deep down no one can take it away from me kind of joy had been hiding for a while. I knew it was still in me, somewhere. I tried to unearth it, to dig it out from under grief and the black of loss. I remembered its steadfastness, how joy brought hope with it and longed to see its face again. I needed it and thought please, let it come to me.
I knew how to survive, to fight and win. I endured surgery after surgery and each battle that followed. I knew how to clamp down, grit my teeth and do my best. It was the emptiness afterward curled in the pit of my stomach that scared me the most. It attacked me with a ferocity that took my breath away. I didn’t know what lay ahead and ‘what now’ scratched at my mind, relentless in its bleakness.
One evening Scott and I were at my parents’ home having been given the day off from the rehabilitation center, which had become home for me. I was shivering not from cold, but from this emptiness that was present at every turn reassuring me of my hard-earned existence and my aloneness in it. I whispered to anyone, anything, “Does it ever get better?”
Scott answered, “I think it’s going to be love that will get you through.”
I didn’t know what I was looking for. A booming voice from the heavens giving me the answers to a cure, promises of rainbows and happily ever afters. Love wasn’t good enough. Love was mocking in its inadequacy.
How could he be so sure? I felt bottomless in my need. Nothing could fill me up. Love would sink like a stone and be lost.
How could he be so sure?
I turned it over in my palm. I weighed it against everything that I knew. I looked hard at love and gave it a chance.
It didn’t happen overnight. It wasn’t fast, but love did its work freeing joy, releasing her to me. Love wasn’t limited to one source. Love came from everywhere. From a father who finally told me he loved me, from a nurse holding my hand when I couldn’t hold in my tears, from a friend that pulled up a chair next to my hospital bed, from a physiotherapist that was firm in her belief, “You can do this” and held me to it, from a stranger telling me I was beautiful when in this world I knew I was not, from a boy I just met, and from myself – to not give up, to guard the light I had trusting it would grow greater than the emptiness that threatened me, to know that hope, joy, and love were always and would continue to be mine.
for old time’s sake