The days are short now. The bright sun of summer is a far distant memory. Add fog, cloudiness, rain and suddenly I find myself getting the light from bulbs rather than rays. Yes, I live in California, but even here this time of year brings a decidedly different orientation to light.
For most of my life, I’ve leaned towards the sun for my light like a many-limbed plant, hungry for nourishment. It’s only been in the last part of my life that I’ve discovered the rays inside.
In the most difficult moments, I’ve stumbled around in the darkness inside. There was a reason I hadn’t ventured in willingly. That darkness is really dark. The rays aren’t apparent at first…at least they weren’t for me. I fumbled in this darkness many, many times never finding anything remotely resembling the light outside that I was so familiar with.
One time in particular, these inner rays finally broke through. It was in the midst of one of the most heart-wrenching experiences I can imagine – my grandson’s fight for his life, which began when he was twelve hours old.
When the light broke through, there were no bells and whistles, no sudden chorus of voices, no wildly evocative images, no mystical experience. There was only a deep darkness that gave way to radiant rays so bright, that my heart knew it was held, held by something so much greater than anything my mind could imagine. And in this holding, I discovered a strength born of a thousand suns.
This radiance came when I let go of my struggling. My baby grandson, my first grandchild, lying in a full size bed so completely covered with hospital trappings, that we could only stroke his fingers or one cheek.
I was at the end of the many ways I had found to cope in life with difficult things. What I had tried didn’t work. I desperately wanted to be there for my daughter and son-in-law, someone who could provide loving support and nourishment. I wasn’t much help if I couldn’t be there for them.
I marched myself right down the hall to the hospital chapel and went inside, closing the door behind me and vowing not to leave until I was able to come out in a different frame of mind. I vowed I would come out able to be really available to them, to my grandson and to whatever lay ahead. I don’t know how long I was in there, but I prayed. And prayed. And prayed. I had never been someone who prayed like this, but it was completely instinctive.
I prayed to be shown a way to let go of my struggle, to let go of my neediness so I could be truly a source of nourishment for their needs. My fighting the whole thing was simply a way for me to not want to feel what was happening.
In the deepest moments of my prayer, I stopped asking and I began to listen, really listen. And in the listening, I opened to the grace that was already there. Light upon light.
I didn’t come out enlightened. I didn’t come out as mother of the year. I didn’t come out knowing the right things to do or say. I did come out knowing something deeper was holding me. I came out having reconciled that in that moment Lucas was as Lucas was. Accepting this didn’t mean at all that I couldn’t pray and hope he would get better; it didn’t mean I was happy how things were. I did mean I wasn’t fighting it any longer.
And when I was no longer fighting life, life began to move through me. I was available. I could be with my daughter and son-in-law. I could sing to Lucas, read him stories, hold his finger, stroke his cheek, hold my daughter, hold the space.
I could sit in the waiting room for hours on end as procedures came and went, able to be with the not-knowing, able to witness other young parents and their babies, some of them surviving, many of them not.
I could say hello to the little ones who live at Children’s Hospital, those who have no hope of ever leaving, feeling my connection to them rather than allowing my discomfort, my not wanting to take it in, my wanting to fix it and make it different get in the way of what was there…their beautiful souls.
The three months Lucas was at Children’s Hospital in Oakland seemed an eternity, but he survived against so many odds that they called him the miracle baby. They do amazing work there. He is now almost ten. Talk about light; this boy is radiant.
For me, this light has come in the letting go, in the surrender, in the giving up of what I thought should have been. It’s come in the genuine desire to let go of my wanting so that I could serve another. In those moments, what was born was born through me into life.
For me, this light is strength, but not strength that breeds pushing and striving. It’s strength that flows.
Sometimes with the day-to-day life stuff, this inner light seems distant; yet when I come back to now, back to what is really happening, it’s always here. It always was here.
Image courtesy of Narrow on Flickr, under CC 2.0.
This post is part of the Support Stories – Strength From Within at Square Peg Reflections, by Karen Casterson. Be sure to take a moment to read some of the other inspiring stories about finding strength from within.