Pallas was assigned this book in school. I would read sections of it to her. The first time I read the section below out loud, I could not finish it. I was sobbing as Pallas watched me curiously. Mau had put into words the way I feel about being a widow.
I hope you will read the entire quote, for nothing I have read has fully encompassed what widowhood means to me than this single paragraph.
Back story: Mau’s entire family and village are wiped by a wave. The wave also shipwrecks Daphne (ghost girl). As the days go on, survivors from neighboring islands arrive. Mau and Daphne (both approximately age 12) find themselves in charge of building new lives for themselves and this new nation.
From Nation by Terry Pratchett
Daphne asks, “Would you go back? If you could?”
“How can I answer you? There is no language. There was a boy called Mau. I see him in my memory, so proud of himself because he was going to be a man. He cried for his family and turned the tears into rage. And if he could, he would say “Did not happen!” and the wave would roll backward and never have been. But there is another boy, and he is called Mau too. And his head is on fire with new things. What does he say? He was born in the wave, and he knows that the world is round and he met a ghost girl….. He called himself the little blue hermit crab, scuttling across the sand in search of a new shell, but now he looks at the sky and knows that no shell will ever be big enough, ever. Will you ask him not to be? Any answer will be the wrong one. All I can be is who I am.”
There was a woman and her name was Kim.
I see her in my memory and she is a fairly happy person and she has a husband and three children and dreams of being “somebody.’ She cried for her husband when he died and couldn’t see how she could live with such great loss in her life. She would say “I can’t do this.” She would wish her husband alive, make bargains in order to bring him back. And would spend long periods of time wondering around her house, functioning but unable to think or move without her husband. She wondered how she was going to get through the day.
There is another woman named Kim too. And her mind and life are on fire! She says “OMG! I can do so much and I feel so happy!” She was born in her husband’s death. She sees his death as his last gift to her. She has discovered herself and her courage. She sees that life is full of hope and fun and new things. She sees her abilities are growing and she discovers new ones too.
Can I ask her not to be? All I can be is who I am.
I spent the last moments of 2010 making a list of all the things that I am grateful for in that year. In contrast, I spent the last few moments in 2009 (the year my husband died), praying/hoping/begging God to make 2010 better. I gave 2009 the finger as I stepped into 2010.
I gave 2010 a sweet kiss and hug as I stepped into 2011. I cannot go back. And I cannot ask me not to be, either. The old me and the new me make up this me whose potential I am quite excited about.
If you are new to this journey, if you don’t know how you will make it, know you don’t have to know.
None of us knew.
I still don’t at times.
But there is one thing I do know, the pain does not last. It comes less frequently and with every time, every cry, every longing, I find nuggets of courage and light.
In 2010, I discovered my strength, my courage and my ability to handle adversity. It was not pretty and yet I stand here before you in my newly discovered inner beauty.
And by jove (I have always wanted to use that saying!) if I can get here, so can you.
Welcome to 2011! May you marvel and celebrate your strength!!