You Just Do: A guest post from Julia Hayes
“What would I do if something happened to my child?” These words are often only whispered in the safety of a quiet mind. Yet they are universally understood as a storm of fear and worry that rages in the depth of our protective mothering instinct. We ask the question because we’ve seen the obliterating effects of tragedy. We take bewildered notice of other mothers embroiling ourselves in the pull to understand their survival and endurance all the while we push to look the other way too frightened that our lives could suffer similar fates. It is a struggle every mother knows and despite this we become mothers encouraged by an undaunted, unseen, untapped capacity.
This well of strength was unknown to me until three years ago when I heard the unrelenting knock of Death, cloaked in cancer, whispering my four year old daughter’s name. Aria. My mind roared at Death like a shattering gale, “How do I do this? How do I face you–my greatest fear?” These words were shouted toward oblivion until I heard echoed deep from within the well of myself a profoundly simple truth. “You do what you must. You just do.”
I won’t lie. This ‘just doing’ isn’t easy, nor is it always neat and tidy. Most of the time it’s downright messy full of darkness and true despair. There are moments of light, elements of promise but they are mired in the trudge through the impossible.
Aria’s leukemia diagnosis was like being bullied by an utterly disrespectful foe all too happy to shove me into an emotional-spiritual cavern leaving me alone, chilled to the bone, frightened and without any clear sense of where to go. Surrounding me were a myriad of branching paths–self-pity, empty questions, blame, unresolved anger, defiance all meandering in a unique sort of chaos. I knew to go down any one of those would lengthen my journey and so extracting confidence from ‘just doing what I must’ I was granted enough clarity to find the one way that offered the tiniest pin-prick of light. It took every ounce of strength and courage I had to take that first step through fear.
This isn’t to say that I didn’t rub up against any one of those other paths. I toyed with feeling sorry for myself. I was ensnared by anger. I fell into the hollow of despair and I succumbed to the enticing temptation to ask absurd questions for which there are no answers. I know now that it was impossible to walk with death as a companion and avoid irreconcilable avenues.
But Aria, now seven years old, was absolutely unwavering in her stride. She poo-poo’d at Death wearing down its resolve. She entrusted many with her most vulnerable essence to save her and they did. We were spared and together we walked through death, which often hung like a shroud obscuring the landscape of wellness. We were birthed anew and it is beautiful to be here.
It is tempting to take a deep breath, sigh and say, “Phew! Thank God that’s over with! I’m glad we’re done.” It would be easy never to look back, keeping the darkest, coldest, loneliest parts of the journey tucked away in the dusty attic of my mind where memory after memory stacks into a hodgepodge of indistinct thought. I’ve discovered that to do so would be a gross injustice to Aria whose ability to endure deserves to be recognized and celebrated.
So it is here in the unspoiled soundness of her restored health that I can tell you this story. I realize that from the womb of an old life, I tumbled through a channel of perspective that taught me how to surrender to what I cannot control. As I pushed through the storms of misery, suffering and pain, I stand before you vulnerable in my joy, gratitude, and light.
When I look at Aria thriving and embracing Life, I am consumed with the beliefs that enabled me ‘to just do.’
I believe I can have fear and still be unafraid.
I believe in listening to the voice deep within echoing to be heard.
I believe in the Mystery of Life and Death.
I believe in my family and my friends.
I believe in Aria.
I believe in You.
And I believe in Me. ~Julia Hayes