“Keep doing what you love. Never stop.”
KEEP. and DO.
My life mantra over the past several years has been, “Do what you love.” I don’t remember where it came from or when I started hash-tagging all my photos with it, but it’s been here and it’s been a part of who I am and what my motivation for our family has been.
When I had my final conversation with my sister, Mary-Craig, this past September, those were part of her last words to me, except that she added one word; KEEP. And that changed the verb from “do” to “DOing.” In the moment, I was so overwhelmed with both intense grief and true joy that I didn’t think too much about the shift. I was so overcome with the reality of those being our last moments together on this earth and also so thankful that in those moments, even in her cancer-ridden body, it meant that she not only knew who I was, but that she truly, deeply KNEW me.
I have been focused on that added word for 3 months now, KEEP. In the moment, I knew that she was saying to not stop life because of what she knew her death would mean for us. She knew that our worlds were falling apart and after so much time fighting for a different outcome, she had come to peace with her fate, but not with ours, not yet, at least. She still had a few very crucial and very wise words to leave with us.
Craig knew us. Really, truly, deeply knew her people.She knew how much we loved her. She knew that we know how much she loves us. She knew what this loss would be for us. She knew that it would be the fight of our own lives to KEEP going. To KEEP living when she was not. To KEEP showing up. To KEEP eating and sleeping and breathing without reminding ourselves to do so. She knew it all. We knew it would be the hardest thing we had all walked through yet. However, the difference in what we knew and what she did was that she knew what the end would be and we couldn’t see past the moment that we knew we were losing her. It was only darkness for us. Fog, maybe, but darkness all the same.
Craig had wisdom and faith unlike any human I have ever known. She knew it was all ALWAYS going to be ok and you could feel it, too, when you were with her. But she wasn’t going to be WITH us anymore and that was scary as hell…literally. A world without her in it looked like sheer hell and that night, in her room as we said our goodbyes, I felt that unstoppable train heading straight for that unfathomable darkness.
3 months have passed now. 3 months. Months of birthdays and pumpkin patch visits and Thanksgiving and ballgames and travels and elections and both good and bad news for all of us that loved her. And somehow, we are still here. And she is still not. BUT this morning as I was spending some time alone praying and reflecting on the past day and remembering a sweet trip with my husband the previous day and some texts and Facebook pictures shared by my brother-law and nephew…I realized that we were all DOing exactly what she asked us to do…and the DOing was making all the difference.
Now, don’t misunderstand me…You can’t DO and DO and expect that the single act of KEEPing busy will DO the healing. It won’t, I promise. I have to interject my own writing to say that God has been incredibly gracious to me in this season and has provided a 3 month season of Sabbatical and Sabbath. I decided to stop DOing the work that I was DOing in the midst of this season. I simply had lost the joy for it and began to feel another call on my life and my time. I have immersed myself in ample amounts of solitude and silence and prayer and meditation and scripture and study and journaling and walking and and crying and counseling…And this time of absence of DOing has been elemental as well.
Processing grief and life and life without the one you are grieving is consuming work, there’s no short cut. I know this personally because that’s the method I tried a year ago when my father passed away. I was angry and I was sad and I was tired of hurting, so I kept myself very busy DOing. But a year later my heart and my spirit were in no better condition than the night he died. Craig also knew the worth of Sabbath. She always prioritized time at the ocean. It was healing for her and the healing came with DOing and with simply BEing where she loved and with the people she loved.
Jack and Rusty went out and bought their Christmas tree yesterday for the first time in 27 years without Craig. Together with Jack’s beautiful girlfriend, they decorated it and documented it and even had some joy with friends on Facebook over funny Christmas movie quotes. Rusty shared a video with me of the new puppy that our other sister had taken. On the heels of one great loss came yet another for our sister, Katy and her family. Their family dog, of many years had passed away a few days ago as well. BUT they were brave and they chose to take the risk of loving again and the joy that came through that video of their new puppy and her precious girls was balm to my weary soul.
KEEP. DOing. That’s what it’s all about. Craig knew it and she made sure that we did, too. She knew that the healing could only come through the DOing and we absolutely had to KEEP on DOing. Don’t let me mislead you into believing that the DOing is anything but brutal. Putting decorations up that Craig touched over and over…brutal. Trying to remember passwords that Craig set on emails for my mom…brutal. Thinking of our first Christmas celebrations without her…brutal. Watching Elf for the hundreth time and remembering when she introduced us to it…brutal. Not having her to consult about what kind of puppy would be just right…brutal. Her mother, Anne, continuing to minister to her parish when her own heart is forever broken…brutal. BUT we all KEEP Doing it. And the healing will come in the DOing.
It’s her legacy to us. She instilled it in us. And she is proud of us. And to be fully transparent, I’m incredibly proud of us, too. It’s hard stuff. It’s brutally, hard stuff. BUT she taught us all to DO hard things. To KEEP DOing hard things until they either aren’t hard anymore, or until the joy cancels out the hard. Healing the hard. Redeeming the hard. Bringing light to the darkness….or at least the remembrance of what light looked and felt like and the HOPE of seeing it again.
The Advent Season is all about HOPE. And in this, the hardest Advent season of our lives, I thank God for His everlasting message of HOPE. And I quietly whisper thanks to my sister, yet again, for reminding me of the HOPE that healing will continue to come if we KEEP DOing what we love.