Getting ready in less than 8 weeks to move to another country so far from the people and places by which I have identified myself has caused me at certain moments to feel a fearful sort of grasping. It happens every time I am with a friend or in a familiar environment. Right in the midst of these moments, I find myself thinking “I won’t ever come here again; I won’t sit face-to-face with this person in such an off-hand, unplanned way again …” and instead of being present and enjoying the moment, I am filled with dread trying to hold on to what I know I cannot keep.
You’d think I would have grown accustomed to losses by now and figured out how, as a friend recently reminded me, to “grieve deeply and fully.” But still I resist it. Is resisting loss a sign of life and hope or a way to avoid the painful feelings it creates? Do I resist because something in me believes that we are created for more than unredeemed sorrow or because I see myself as less than adequate to the task of feeling grief fully and well? Maybe it’s something of both.
Either way, the effort to grasp is like holding on to water—fingers curled tightly around my fist letting water splash the outside of my hands, thinking that because I’m holding so tightly, somehow I have captured the essence of what water is. But in doing so, I entirely miss the point, which is that water gives its gifts only as it is let go. I am refreshed because I pour out the water, not because I keep it in the predictable and contained safety of a cup. I am delighted on a summer day because I throw my whole body through the spray of a sprinkler, not because I keep it forever in a closed and stagnant pool. I am calmed by the sound that water makes only as it babbles over rocks and stones as it runs. The point is for water to show me its essence, I must let it go.
Which sounds very poetic and everything, but I am still left wondering how to let go, how to grieve fully and well? Do I simply cry as I walk through the grocery store, let the tears go down my cheeks unaccountably as I sit in the kitchen of my friend? Do I dare myself to be fully present even if it means feeling the pain wash over me?
Just minutes after I wrote these words, my friend Pat and I met for the last time before my move. She gave me a beautiful and deeply meaningful gift: a print by the artist Luba Lukova called “Rebekah, the Spring”. It is a depiction of Rebekah leaning forward with her hands wide open and out of her hands is flowing a rushing stream. I have had it less than 2 hours and already it is my favorite picture I own. I can’t stop staring at it. There is serenity in the face of Rebekah, and a smile on her face because with her care-worn brow and world-wise eyes, she has learned the life-giving power of letting water flow. Maybe if I stare at it enough, I will start to believe it is true.