life // boldly to grace.

You can always go forward, but you can never go backwards…

Three years have passed and the above is the line that comes to my mind daily these days. May began in the lovely spring way it always done, and it ended in the way that has become common place over the past three years, in a place of remembrance. A posture of humility and sadness. Lots and lots of tears.

We miss people no less at the end of year three then we do at the end of day three. In the beginning I spent a lot of time wondering why, why does death happen when we’re young? Now the question of what next often lingers in my mind. What is the next lesson, what will next be taken away, what am I supposed to learn from this?

I realized very quickly that this wasn’t something I could fix with my Mary Poppins bag of tricks. It took longer to know that no matter how hard I tried I couldn’t make the pain go away. And in this moment, a whisper swept over me and it spoke so softly, “just feel it.” My heart shattered into a thousand pieces. Picking them up seemed impossible, and when I tried, it was a recipe for disaster.

I tried hard to make it all work. And there in lay the problem. I tried. Me.

Realization #45005: I can’t make life come together in any neat and tidy sort of fashion. That is out of my hands, beyond my control and it’s wonderful.

In complete and utter honesty, I knew that I couldn’t stop the pain and the sadness and it overwhelmed me. So I decided to do the next best thing and channel all of my feelings into one deeply satisfying, soul crushing emotion. I decided I could just hate the living people who made me feel like a failure. I couldn’t hate Kathleen, for leaving me…but that wasn’t the case for someone else.

A constant visual reminder of what I considered a failing. I couldn’t maintain a friendship. I couldn’t hold it together. I wasn’t nice enough. I wasn’t helpful enough. I didn’t give enough.

I wasn’t enough.

It echoed in my mind. I needed to be perfect. I forgot that it isn’t about perfection, it is about progress and grace. I forgot that somethings don’t live on forever. I forgot that hatred is a secondary emotion that is born from fear. Fear of many things, but mostly, a fear of vulnerability. And living a vulnerable life is often times more then we can handle. The fantasy world in my head, oh heavens, it is so much easier than the unknowns of life.

I want to hate him, and I know why. A wall around me to keep the feelings in and the hurt out. I want to hate someone because I don’t want to care, I don’t want to be affected, and I definitely don’t want to be judged for something completely normal.

The best part, this isn’t the story of a sad girl who can’t find a boy to love her. This isn’t twenty years of unrequited feelings. It it all a normal emotional response to caring, it is a story of loss and the blessing of redemption. There is something about owning your feelings, your reactions, that is powerful. It provides a place of truth, a safe harbor in a storm. It is about trusting myself, about trusting my feelings and not second-guessing them to be incorrect or untrue.

Grace and not perfection is the place where we should rest.

Kathleen was always laughing, wondering what the next big and great thing would be. As I look to the remainder of the year, I find myself wondering how to carry her legacy to the world. She believed in me when I was at a place where I didn’t even want to leave my apartment. She validated my love of photography and challenged me when I went off the rails. What does it look like to carry on the legacy of a departed friend?

It looks like a life of love, peace, joy, hope and thankfulness. A life where grace and mercy are freely received and freely given.

So it looks like late evening dance rehearsals and singing in the car. Booking photography sessions and having coffee with those who inspire me. It is dancing in the rain just because I can and not being afraid to get a little wet. Staring up into the sky and rejoicing in blue skies and puffy clouds. Choosing forgiveness. Embracing the beauty of the unseen. Enjoying bright colors and flowers and sunshine. It is finding a quiet place and loving the chaotic times. It is having the will to carry on in the face of sorrow and anxiety. It is smiles and family. It is stillness and love. Clarity and vision. Spontaneity and silliness. Living life joyfully. Knowing what I’m worth and striving for good things.

My dear Kathleen, my darling friend, thank you for living fully and daring greatly.

When shadows fall on us
We will not fear
We will remember
When darkness falls on us
We will not fear
We will remember
“Shadows” — David Crowder Band

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