Dear Courage

Grandmother, retired nurse, and unshakable champion of the human spirit, Courage Turner Jones.

“Be brave, Beloveds, and somehow we’ll all make it!”

Dear Courage,

I am at a major turning point in my life and I feel completely unprepared for it. My husband died two years ago and my daughter and son think it’s time now for me to sell the house and move to an active adult community. Part of me knows they’re right—I can’t keep up with maintenance, cleaning, etc.—but most of me is set against the idea. This is where our family has lived for 36 years, and I can’t just walk away from it. Every time I stand at the kitchen sink and look out the window, I can’t imagine not seeing my lilac bushes. I can’t imagine not hearing the creak on the third step before bedtime. I can’t imagine painting over the kids’ height marks on the pantry wall.

I know it’s not grief. I don’t feel nearly as raw as I did in the year and a half since my husband died, which was more intense than when I grieved each of my parents. I’m past the hard part. And I certainly don’t think I’m afraid, which is what my daughter and son tell me not to be when we discuss it. I just think the time is not right. “In a few years,” I tell them. “I’ll be ready in a few years.” They get frustrated with me, but they are exercising some patience, I can tell. I think my son has taken up yoga, given how deeply he breathes during our conversations.

Lately, though, I wake up in the middle of the night and worry that I’ll never be ready and that I’ll never be able to imagine leaving until the house crumbles around me. How can I keep pleading my case to them if I’m starting to doubt it myself?

Signed,
Stuck in Shelburne

Dear Stuck,

My eight-year-old granddaughter just took a week-long sailing camp, something I gave her as a birthday gift this year. In one of their first exercises in the water, the instructor intentionally capsized the boat so the children could practice how to save themselves and each other during an emergency. When I asked her if she was afraid when she went under, she said, “Even though I knew it was coming, I still got scared. But then I just did what I had to do. We all did.” Her face was beaming when she told me about the experience.

This anecdote could be helpful for you to remember, Stuck, as you learn how to move through this major adjustment. There are things we can prepare for in this life, absolutely. We can make lists, accomplish goals, develop plans and prepare ourselves for what’s to come. We can call a realtor, pack up boxes, apply fresh coats of paint on walls that have been well loved and will be loved again. We can make new friends and have different views out of our kitchen windows. We can get in a boat, knowing that it’s going to capsize, and feel confident that we’ve figured out what to do to right it again.

But surely you know by now, having said goodbye to your parents and your husband, that grief doesn’t make lists or follow plans. Grief has one goal, and like it or not we are at its mercy. Grief prepares us for death, a thing we all have to do. But luckily, grief prepares us for life too. Whether or not we’re scared when we learn its lessons, we know, ultimately, we will be able to do what needs to be done. And in the meantime, we must navigate our lives so that we realize how glorious it is to move through the world with intention and be with ourselves and others in ways that make our faces beam. You’ll know when you’re ready. By writing to me, you probably already are.

Signed,
Courage

Need Courage? 

People ages five to 500 are encouraged to send their questions via email to
dearcourage@thecharlottenews.org or via good old fashioned post to: Dear Courage c/o The Charlotte News, P.O. Box 251, Charlotte, VT 05445.

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