I had seen the waterfall a half dozen times, but walking towards it on the narrow path that circled behind the waterfall always gave me a sense of anticipation. As I grew closer to it I would begin to feel the slide of the mud under my feet, the mist of the spray hitting my face even yards away. The air slightly cooler from the shelter of the rock overhang and the cliff walls almost icy to my palms as I would walk under, the loud roar of the vertical river flowing above my head. For just a moment, the beautiful imagery is slightly magical, surreal, and I can experience a feeling of escapism from the weight of the world as I know it.
As I round the corner and start to pass the lower pools I would still feel the remnants of fairyland as if I just missed the magical creatures sunning themselves amongst the moss and rainbows made by the lower falls and sunlight. Starting the long climb up the hill to leave the falls it occurred to me the metaphor the falls was showing me. See its always harder to walk away from something then it is to walk towards something.
I was thinking about the death of my daughter at first. It has been two years. Moving forward for the longest time felt like walking away from her and was impossible. My friend and who had walked my same path years earlier told me that for awhile we walk with one foot in this world and one foot in the spirit world, and it sounds crazy but it’s true. It’s why I believe we get the most signs from our loved ones in the first years and I think it’s also a way of being spirtual comforted. It’s like the world is just to harsh in full focus and we walk around with everything slightly blurred. In a way its some sort of protective mechanism. I remember my friend saying I needed to be grounded (like with meditation) I told her I was content with my mind somewhere else honestly, staring at clouds and watching for heart rocks every place I walked. In this metaphor I was stuck, and in someways will always be stuck, with the unique mysterious waterfall directly behind me and the hill out of the valley in front of me.
I’ve recently found myself with Covid-19 unknowns and my work environment to be in a comparable metaphor. Years ago we worked in a small environment, we had our struggles but we were a family. I was one of a few leaders that advocated for staff in a mama bear like fashion, and also had the ability to communicate to staff the direction of our higher-ups. We had potlucks when someone got married or had a baby, we mourned when someone lost a family member. We became a larger unit, we were in the labor pains of growth and then Covid hit. My voice became misinterpreted, schedules and patient loads has become uncertain, the work/family dynamic has been undone. I found myself looking back at what we had filled with sadness.
As I faced uncertainty with work, I contemplated the waterfall metaphor. It Is much easier to walk towards something than to walk away from something. The family atmosphere will always be a part of us, at least with the staff still remaining and even those that have moved on. We carry it with us. It is in our work ethic. It is in our compassion. What I needed to focus on was not walking away but I needed a horizon to focus on, something to move towards. I needed something that during these uncertain times, my focus could be not on the daily changes, but on something else. I decided to start taking classes towards an advanced degree. As the seasickness of uncertainty in my work environment continues, working towards an MSN could adjust my focus, and give me something to move towards.
People give advice about moving on and letting go. The truth is, the process is different for everyone and no one that hasn’t experienced the same type of loss, should ever give advice about it. The truth is, you don’t EVER let go of your child or loved one, you figure out how to carry them with you as you try and move forward. It makes me think of Jesus carrying the cross. As a parent that has lost a child, I carry my daughter Mikenna with me always in everything I do now. Sometimes it is a heavy load and though you cannot carry my grief for me, you can always help with a metaphorical hand when you see me or someone like me struggling with the weight of it.
Just like the waterfall, I carry all the sounds, the sights, the smells with me climbing the hill of the rest of my life. I wish I could tell you that I could go back somehow to before my life was changed forever with one phone call. As I write this blog the image stands out like it was moments ago. I stood in an operating room changing room. I had just started to give a dinner break to another nurse in a Cleft Palate surgery for an infant with a mission team called F.A.C.E.S. The words Mikenna died from my husband, my own alien sounding wail. She had told me she was proud of me. I would be never again be able to work in Peru and it would take months to be able to work through the PTSD of the operating room and longer still for that kind of surgery without mild panic attacks.
As I stood momentarily in my perfect world, that was like my amazing waterfall, a life with her in it. For almost two years I stood just on the other side, unable to move at all, back or forward.
I know it will be at the end of this life and into the next that I experience and hold my daughter again. I move forward, up the hill, one step at a time now carrying that life and her with me, not letting it or her go. Some people may not ever know what it feels like to have to move away from such a gift. They can’t imagine it and that’s ok. (I wouldn’t ever want anyone I know or care about to be able to). So I move forward with it in my heart, walking through the uncertainty of life knowing that it will be a lifetime but I can keep that knowledge as my horizon, my focal point to keep me steady, what I walk towards instead of what I walk away from. The moment someday, 20, 30, 40 years from now that I hold my child again. But I move.