Finding Strength / by Leslie Fandrich


There is nothing more soothing for me than taking out my camera and looking for things to photograph. This week all the trees are blooming and my favorite are the magnolias. I found one today with a very deep shade of pink, it was so pretty.

Nearby were also some horses, so I went to say hello, because, why not? I stood by the fence calling at them while they ate grass and they happily ignored me until all of a sudden they both rushed up to the fence and sniffed at me. I put out my hand and the black one let me touch him, even though I think he was disappointed that I didn't have a  carrot. Horses are awesome.


Nothing can make you feel better than an animal blissfully unaware and unconcerned with our human condition. You can look deep into an animal's eyes and what is reflected back at you is so simple. So easy. Eat, drink, run. The same with flowers. It's just pure, uncomplicated. They bloom, they die. Done.


I was afraid I had missed this, while I was in Canada with my Mom. it would have been fine if I had, I took pictures last year and I will take pictures next year, but I was really glad that I didn't miss it, that after the departure of my mother, I am still able to experience the arrival of spring. Together, it is somehow more bearable for me. All is not lost. There is still spring.


I'm doing fine, by the way. Happy to be home and sorting through my Mom's things that I got to keep. I've got her sewing kit, some of her jewelry and a bunch of personal papers, plus all the notes and message that she's given me over the years. I pulled off five voicemails from my phone (three cheers for an iPhone that saves every message for as long as you have the phone!) and I was so comforted by the fact that each one started exactly the same, "Hi sweetheart, it's Mum." Every single one. So consistent, so dependable. 

Don't cry because it's over, smile because it happened. ― Dr. Seuss

The books I am reading tell me that I am looking for her. It's a normal part of the process. Actually, almost everything is a normal part of the process. We all grieve so differently. Cry, don't cry. Talk, don't talk. Pretty much whatever you need to do, it's ok to do it. I've been reading two books by Elisabeth Kubler-Ross that I really like. On Death and Dying was written in 1969 and is still one of the best books out there on the topic. Her book On Grief and Grieving was written while she herself was dying in 2004. Her co-author experienced her death before completing the book in 2007.

For something that each of us will experience multiple time in our lives, to those that we love and to our own selves, death is not something people like to talk about. Our brains are so good at tricking us into thinking that death is not possible, that it will not happen to us. We deny this truth our entire lives and it leaves us woefully unprepared to deal with loss and to face our own demise. Think about it, plan for it, accept that someday, it will happen.

You gain strength, courage and confidence by every experience in which you really stop to look fear in the face. You are able to say to yourself 'I have lived through this horror. I can take the next thing that comes along.' You must do the thing you think you cannot do. ― Eleanor Roosevelt

Facing death allows us to live our lives more fully. Accepting death as a part of life makes our time here sweeter and more precious. I'm not saying this is easy. It's not. I will miss my Mom every single day for the rest of my life, but this isn't going to break me. Life must go on. And it must go on even better than before. It must go on with even more love and more living. She would want that, as I think all of those leaving us do.

Someday you're gonna look back on this moment of your life as such a sweet time of grieving. You'll see that you were in mourning and your heart was broken, but your life was changing... ― Elizabeth Gilbert

My greatest assets during this time has been my independence and my willingness to accept change. If you can draw on those things when you are facing something like this, it will be easier. If you realize that despite all our loving relationships, we are really the only constant in our lives. Also, when things like this happen, it's not about mourning and then moving on, it's about integrating the experience into our lives, letting it change us and growing stronger and more capable.

Some people, they can't just move on, you know, mourn and cry and be done with it. Or at least seem to be. But for me... I don't know. I didn't want to fix it, to forget. It wasn't something that was broken. It's just...something that happened. And like that hole, I'm just finding ways, every day, of working around it. Respecting and remembering and getting on at the same time. ― Sarah Dessen, The Truth About Forever

Have you experienced loss in your life? Have you faced death yourself? I'd love to hear about how you have coped with it and what you have learned.