Finding Strength

May 13, 2013

Guest Post by Shane Davis

“Where there is love, there is life.”
-Mother Teresa

I’m a crier. When I went into preterm labor with my daughter, Olivia, I was surprised by my lack of tears and the strange strength I got from my shock. And when I held her in my arms knowing this was the first and last time I would physically hold her, I continued to surprise myself. But the biggest surprise was what she gave me in that fleeting moment. When I took her in my arms and looked down at my beautiful baby girl I knew immediately the powerful feeling overcoming me was a mother’s love. That is the one memory of that day that gives me strength.

My love for Olivia is a life raft when waves of sorrow wash over me and I curl up under a blanket of grief. And I’m not living if I allow myself to go to that dark place and camp out. Don’t get me wrong; I’m definitely not saying that it’s a bad place to go. Especially since I’m pretty sure it’s a place I will visit for the rest of my life. There are many days when it offers a necessary and welcome release that allows me to fully experience my inner turmoil. But my grandpa always said, “Life is for the living.” Believing in that has gotten me through some rough times in my life, just as it is helping me now. This is especially true because I also believe that there are lessons to be learned from our losses, and that we don’t honor those we love unless we do it through our lives and actions.

While reminding myself that life continues will never soften the blow of saying goodbye to my baby girl, it reminds me that if I’m not truly living I’m not honoring her either. Some days this means I just get up out of bed, and I go through the motions the best I can. On those days I usually drink a lot of coffee in an attempt to fill myself with some kind of life. (Well, in all honesty, that’s really most days.) I also just sit around a lot, maybe work on a puzzle, and definitely throw in a nap on the couch wrapped in the comfort of our plush blanket.

The flip side is the days when I can enjoy the warm feel of sunshine on my face, even when the small feeling of joy brings a tear to my eye. This is when I can fully feel the gentler, calmer more patient person that I am now and the way that I feel kindness in both my actions and reactions. I’m a teacher, and on some days this manifests itself in my classroom. I give my energy to my students all while thinking about how each of my students is someone’s daughter or son. And I know all that their parents want for them, because I wanted that too. Other times I put on my social hat and go watch my husband’s band play or go to book club even if I didn’t read the book. The thing about this roller coaster is it all leads me to the same place. To reflect on how my daily life pays tribute to my daughter’s short time with us and how I can continue to honor both her life and my own.

So, now, when I’m crying all these tears of love for Olivia, I ask myself how am I continuing my quest to be the perfect mom and role model I wanted to be for her? How am I living my life with the compassion and kindness that I would have liked for her to witness, learn from, and show others? How am I being the person I wanted her to be? Because that is how I keep her alive. I draw strength from this love with no place to go, and I use it to be the kind of person she inspired me to be.

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