Strong – like Water

Jennifer Collins, author, began writing novels in 2021. A retired physical therapist and college professor, she became inspired to write after enduring the loss of several immediate family members, including two of her children. Encouraged by many to write her own story, the attempts to capture feelings found their way instead to a debut novel, Comfort in the Wings, bringing a seldom heard voice to fiction. This emotionally satisfying story of engaging characters navigating the tragedies and joys of life was soon followed by its sequels, Wonders in the Waves, and then, Bridges Between Our Hearts, to complete the trilogy. Ultimately, the main character, Larissa, and her family of friends discover that love does not die when people are no longer physically present. Comfort in the Wings was recently named to the Short List for the Eric Hoffer Award. Another testimony to the poignant work she has created, Collins won the MartinArts Council 2023 Award in the Literary Arts. The books can be found on her website or at online retailers, such as Amazon. When purchased on her website, Jennifer is happy to sign your copy. Jennifer feels honored to be able to run a family business alongside her eldest son. She enjoys long walks every day – either in the rolling terrain of Upstate New York or along the beaches of Hutchinson Island, Florida.

An excerpt from Ch. 27  “Comfort in the Wings” by, Jennifer Collins

Sitting back down, I absent-mindedly start scrolling through emails and find myself clicking on a link to a blog for grieving mothers. Before long, I am wrapped up in reading. Some of the entries intrigue me, some make me cry, others make me laugh, others bring on anger. One entry makes me do all of these. A mother is lamenting how difficult it is to have conversations with people who have not confronted any real loss in their lives. She relates that her son was born with serious medical problems, and although he received excellent care, he died after three long years in and out of hospitals. She shares that she, like others, is often puzzled by her response when they say things to her that they believe should be comforting; that some comments or questions make her downright angry. I am, of course, pulled right in. As an example of something well-intentioned people say that makes her angry, she poses a question to all of us out here in “blog-land”: Can someone help me understand why in the world I get mad when someone calls me “strong”?

I have asked myself this dozens of times, and suddenly the whole concept becomes clear in my mind and the words finally come to me. I can’t help but type a response:

Dear Sad/Angry Mom in Albuquerque: I share the anger reaction to being called strong. I truly believe everyone who has said it to me thinks they are giving me a compliment. I couldn’t figure out why it didn’t feel that way to me until recently. Not sure if it will help you, but here goes.

When I hear the word “strong,” something very hard and immovable comes to my mind – an image like rock, like the Grand Canyon. The qualities required to sustain me through challenges since my child died are anything but hard and immovable. Every day presents a new, unforeseen challenge that requires me to change my entire life as I’d previously known it. Each challenge crumbles the core of my being.

What comes to my mind instead is the need to be resilient, to be able to alter my course without any warning. I remember coming across an article one time challenging the reader to conjecture which is actually stronger in nature, rock or water. Of course, most responded that rock is stronger. But the point of the question was that water can morph when anything, even something as hard as rock, gets in its way. Water will always find its way through to the other side by re-routing around any barrier, or by slowly wearing the rock away, breaking it down, little by little, over time. The answer then, to the question of which is stronger could be that water is actually stronger, more enduring. It will prevail, it will find a way to where it needs to go, no matter the obstacle. It is resilient and adaptable.

Those are the qualities that have really allowed me as a mother to endure the pain, the suffering, and the countless obstacles encountered since my child died—the qualities of water. I think we are strong, but strong like water.

I have found, or stumbled, my way through medical examiners, funeral arrangements, and countless questions, all while enduring my own feelings of loss, failure, and loneliness. All of that has not hardened me like a rock, but rather taught me to adapt and change my route in order to survive. The last thing I want is to harden, to be like stone. I know that I will survive, not by being immovable, but by finding new ways, carving new paths, opening my heart to those around me, and resolving to keep on regardless of the hurdles. I hope it helps you to hold the image of a meandering stream working its way along all sorts of terrain to new outlets. That very image is helping me as I write to share this realization with you. Bless you, Mama.

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