Sunday, September 30, 2012


I’ve been walking a lot since Ella died.  Since I started walking back in the late winter/early spring, I’ve walked at least 500 miles, and I’m on my third pair of sneakers.  What started out as a way of getting my sad, depressed butt out of the house has turned into an almost daily form of exercise and therapy.  It’s a solitary pursuit, which is one of the reasons why I like it, and it has given me a regular time during the day to think and to pray, to cry and to remember.  That I’ve lost some weight and dropped a dress size in the process are just nice bonuses, ones that go hand in hand with another form of therapy…retail therapy.  ;)

I haven’t always been an avid walker.  I used to be a runner.  Well, let me rephrase that.  I used to try to be a runner.  My brother and sister were natural-born runners – built for it, naturally good at it, and good enough to be competitive at it.  Me?  Not so much.  As we like to say in my family, I’m of “good, Irish peasant stock.”  I do not have a runner’s build, but for years and years, I tried to run.  I ran cross country and track in both middle school and high school, and I’ve run a few 5Ks since then.  And though I tried to have one, I just don’t have a runner’s disposition.  Before anyone calls BS on all of that, let me say one more thing:  I just plain hate to run.  I’ll run if and when something chases me, but otherwise, why?  I never got the high.  I never won the race.  I never really enjoyed it.  I ran because it was the thing to do, because my parents required us to participate in a sport, and because I didn’t play any team sports.

But walking?  Walking I can do and enjoy.  Walking is a good fit for me, and walking has been good for me.  If I had tried to be a runner again after Ella died, I would still be sitting on my depressed, pudgy butt.  I’d still have low vitamin D.  I’d be no tanner and no thinner but very much worse for the lack of wear.  If I tried running again, I would quickly find reasons to not go running, and I’d quickly lose any motivation I might have had to start running again.  I would hate it, and then I’d hate myself for failing at it.  Since this is my blog and I happen to be both unscientific and lazy, I’ll just make up my own statistics on the topic.  It’s a proven fact that walking is 97% more awesome than running.  No lie.  Plus it’s easy, and mama likes easy.  If running were in the picture, I’d be able to give you 20 excuses in five seconds flat why I can’t go running every day.  But walking?  If I can walk to the fridge and the computer and the sofa, then I can walk four miles around the neighborhood.

So it was with great annoyance and consternation that I couldn’t enjoy my walks for over two weeks this month.  I caught a cold that kicked my butt and sapped my energy.  Between that and certain scheduling conflicts, my daily walks got the old heave ho.  I really missed it (though the lazy part of me enjoyed sleeping in a bit while I was sick), but I shouldn’t have been surprised by it.  Catching a cold at the end of the summer is par for the course for me.  I caught one last year when Ella was home, and I’ve caught colds several other times in the past around this time of year.  Summer winds down, and apparently so does my immune system.  Kids go back to school, yet I’m the one stuck at home with the back-to-school special of snot, the sniffles, and a sore throat.  Any exercise plan I may have had in place is temporarily derailed.

A lot can change when you’re out of commission for two weeks.  When I was finally able to go walking again this past Monday, I did so in brisk 58°F weather.  A bit of cooler fall weather had crept in, so that was a nice change.  What wasn’t so nice was how quickly I had fallen out of shape!  My husband had warned me that I might be sore after my first walk back, and he was right.  OUCH.  Everything was sore from my butt on down to my toes; plus, I had two new blisters on my ankles.  I felt a bit hobbled and it would have been very easy to take a day or two or ten off to recover, but I knew that the soreness would only go away if I kept walking, if I worked through it, and if I focused on getting past it on my way back to where I was before my end-of-the-summer cold. I may have been derailed, but you can bet your sweet bippy that I was going to beat feet and get the Bridget-walking-train back on track.  I may have been derailed, but by gosh, I was going to make sure that the derailment really was only temporary!

If only it were that easy when the derailment is spiritual rather than physical.

If only it were that easy when your life is derailed.

If only it were that easy when your soul, your entire being, is derailed.

Nothing opened my eyes to how very far off spiritual track I was than the death of my sweet Ella.  Nothing before had ever challenged my faith and trust in God more than when He took her home, and nothing ever exposed how shallow that faith and trust was than the moment she died.  I call it a derailment, but can something be derailed if it were never on track to begin with?  Because that’s honestly how I felt once she was gone.

My faith was a very basic and immature faith, I think.  I knew – and still know to the depths of my soul – that there is a God.  I know that Jesus is my Savior.  I believe that He is fully present - Body, Blood, Soul and Divinity - in the Holy Eucharist.  I know that and I believe that, but I have never felt farther away from Him than I did when Ella died.  I still feel very far away, and I worry that I’ll ever make it back to Him.

Throughout my whole Ella-centric journey, a number of people have commented on how strong my faith is, how it has inspired them, how they think I’m strong.  But hearing all of that makes me feel like a damn fraud.  I feel like I’ve had to have this Suzy Sunshine façade with regard to my faith because if people really knew what I thought and felt, if they really knew what I said to God or how I felt about His plan...well, the shock would probably blow them away.  I feel like my own “pray it until you feel it, say it until you believe it” mantra would work for everyone else but not for me.  I feel let down and alone and forgotten by the One I constantly talk to, pray to, cry to, and scream to.

I want to get back to Jesus, but I don’t know how to.  Intellectually I know I should try harder to get back to Him.  I should try harder to get closer to Him and to rebuild the relationship that’s been shattered by my own faltering faith.  I should read the Bible and pray every day because while feelings are nice, love is a decision that requires constant devotion, cultivation and work.  But honest to freaking pete, I just don’t know how to do it.  I don’t know how to get there or how to get to a point when I think or believe it would be worth it.  Some days I feel like letting Him in would be as pointless as looking for a doorknob on an elevator and as futile as pushing on a door that is clearly labeled pull.  I feel lost, and that worries and scares me.  I am derailed, and I’m having a hard time not only finding the tracks but caring enough to get back on them.
When I started walking again, even after a break as short as two and half weeks, I was comforted by the familiar sights and sounds of the neighborhood – the kids who play while waiting at the bus stop, the older gentleman who always waves at me with both hands, the flocks of geese that can barely be bothered to get out of the way for passing cars and trucks, the various bumper stickers and license plate holders on neighbors’ cars, the worms that scoot slowly across the pavement.  They are all familiar and so much a part of the scenery of my everyday walks.

Why then do I feel little comfort when I recite the familiar prayers of my faith, prayers I’ve been saying since my youth?  Why do I feel little comfort when I hear His Word spoken at church, even as He speaks to me through His music and in the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass?  Why do I feel comfort getting back to the mundane sights and sounds of a walk through my neighborhood yet feel little comfort getting back to the worship and prayers of my faith?

When I was able to go for walks again, it was good to see that everything that had a place was still in fact in its place.  Yes, my ankles hurt with just about every step because of open blisters being rubbed raw by my socks and shoes.  And yes, I was really sore after my walk, limping around like a woman of many more years than I.  But the comfort that the familiar evoked was so much better than the sometimes overwhelming apathy that I’ve experienced since Ella died.  The physical aches and pains I felt were so much better than the spiritual numbness that’s had a grip on my soul since my baby went away. 

But the pain of Ella’s absence – the pain that I’ve felt to varying degrees every single day since she died – you can’t walk that pain away.  That pain has only been compounded by my flawed human perception of Divine apathy because of His silence, because His apparent distance makes me feel small and insignificant.  It makes me wonder if He hears my prayers or if I’m praying the right way.  It makes me wonder if being able to see “The Big Picture” one day would make a difference in how I’ve felt since Ella died.  It makes me wonder how the bleep this could be His perfect will.  It makes me wonder why him but not Ella, why her but not my sweet girl.

Yet I know I’m the one who can’t seem to bridge the gap between us.  I know that I’m the one who’s fallen so far off track, not Him.  I complain about His distance though I’m the one keeping Him at arm’s length.  I complain about His apparent apathy even as I struggle with my own.  I complain…yet He trusted me with Ella.  He blessed me with the most awesome daughter ever.  He didn’t guarantee me peace here on Earth, but He gave me a piece of Heaven when He brought Ella into my life.  He had a plan for her and for me and for my family.  Why can’t I see that?  And why can’t I trust that?  Am I really owed more than that with which I was already so richly blessed?

I know I can’t get through this life without Him or without His grace.  I know that I can’t see her again without making my way back to Him.  Saying all of this out loud, getting it off my chest, off my heart and out of my head, can only help.  And even through all of my doubt and anger and pain, I have been hoping and praying for a life after death, for my life after her death. 

I may have been derailed, but I’m hoping that it’s only temporary.  I’m hoping that in recognizing it, I’ll be a step closer to getting back on track.  But I’m not just hoping for it.  I’m counting on it.
St. Ella, pray for us!

1 comment:

Amy said...

Having walked a similar yet slightly different journey recently I can PROMISE you this is only temporary.

I was so angry, and completely devastated when my father died. I struggled with my belief and more so my unbelief. Every time another person in my life moved on to heaven, including sweet Ella, I was tossed back into the stormy water that threatened to drown me.

I had trust issues with God. It was pointed out to me lovingly but firmly and I had work to do.

Please grant yourself the grace He gives everyday. Your faith is stronger than you realize right now. I know it is so cliche but time will help heal. You will never forget or stop missing her but the smiles and the laughter at her amazing awesomeness will come easier.

When I didn't feel like praying or even looking His way, I sang. Worship songs of hope, joy, grace and love.....all the things I was not feeling. Then I would throw in a little ACDC just to feel like a rebel. ;-)

One day at a time.
Much love to you,