You go on by doing the best you can, you go on by being generous, you go on by being true, you go on by offering comfort to others who can’t go on, you go on by allowing the unbearable days to pass and allowing the pleasure in on other days, you go on by finding a channel for your love and another for your rage
-Cheryl Strayed, Tiny Beautiful Things

an image of Margo hugging Jimmy, who is wrapped in a towel, standing on a rocky beach at sunsetIn July 2011, Cheryl Strayed as Dear Sugar responded to a letter from a father whose only son had been killed at the age of 22 by a drunk driver, a father so broken that he had to make a list instead of writing a traditional letter. The letter and Strayed’s response are one of the most powerful pieces of writing I’ve ever read. You can read the piece here.

My list:

  1. I am the mother of two children – Jimmy, forever age 21 and Molly, age 26.
  2. I will forever grieve the death of my firstborn who died in 2014 after a valiant eight year battle with brain cancer.
  3. During those eight years, Jimmy taught us to live intensely, say ‘yes!’, laugh often and grab all the time together we could. Although our lives now have a Jimmy-sized hole in them, we are forever grateful for that wake-up call, knowing that we would not have lived so fully without it.
  4. On the way home from Jimmy’s celebration of life, my mother, my rock, my psychotherapist, became seriously ill. Her health declined steadily, and she died a year after Jimmy. I spent a year coming to terms with the ungraspable reality that both my son and my mother were gone.
  5. It will never be okay that Jimmy and my mom are not here.
  6. On the days I didn’t want to get out of bed, I reminded myself that I could not do that to my beloved living child. So I got up, made her lunch, drove her to school, went to her high school softball games, re-entered the world.
  7. My sweet husband, my close family members and my dearest friends kept me upright during the darkest days. They showed up. They walked our dog, they cleaned our counters, they sent cards, emails and texts with no expectation of a response. And they gave me the most important gift of all – they listened.
  8. Jimmy’s social worker stayed close to us, offering wise counsel on the burdens we could let go of, the behavior we didn’t have to accept and what we could (and should) say ‘no’ to.
  9. What enabled me to begin healing were the brave, broken, loving grievers I’ve met on this journey. Women and men who suffered unimaginable, unbearable losses and found ways to move forward while nourishing an enduring connection to the loved one who died. They helped me put one foot in front of the other, they inspired me, they gave me hope, they allowed me sit in the middle of my grief and cry and they reminded me over and over to keep looking up. Sempre ad astra (always the stars).

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