After my dear best friend was brutally murdered in her home one fall night seven years ago, I felt the world was turned upside down. Everything I once thought to be the truth seemed to no longer be -- uncertainty and confusion ruled and consumed me. Perhaps this was because there would be no arrest for more than three years to come. Or perhaps it was because it was so utterly shocking and unexpected. We are not supposed to die this way at age 29. Was it perhaps because she left behind a young baby girl? Or perhaps it was because an even younger baby, still in her womb, was gone with her. Seven years ago, and for many years thereafter, Michelle's death was the first thing I thought about when I awakened each day and the last thing I thought about each night.
During those years, I vacillated from optimistically, yet quite seriously, devising a way to bring her back (surely if I just wished it enough, she would return); to a feeling of total denial, frequently grabbing my mobile phone and dialing Michelle's work number thinking maybe she would actually answer; to feeling overwhelmed with anger; to feeling overwhelmed with sadness; to simply missing her; to feeling completely confounded and confused, asking the same question over and over. "Why?"
Today, the question of "why?" has not been answered and I acknowledge that it never will be. I have, however, found a sense of peace and over the course of many years, an ability, to let go of the chaos and confusion that once reigned so mightily. Just how did I do this? Well, Michelle told me to. No, I have not figured out how to bring her back nor have I built a time machine or similar device to change history. The story of how I learned to let go started about a year after Michelle's death on the night my son was born.
His labor came on quickly. The contractions were quite fierce and less than an hour into it I decided it was time to leave for the hospital. My son would be my third baby and though I experienced childbirth twice before him, I do believe Mother Nature blesses us with the gift of amnesia when it comes to recollecting just how painful labor actually is, lest we would not endure it repeatedly. I was feeling shocked as the pain set in and thought to myself, "I am not ready to go through this. Please, not tonight. Let's do this tomorrow instead." The contractions continued despite my request for a rain check. I wanted it to stop hurting and just before arriving at the hospital parking lot, I cried aloud, "I cannot do this!"
In that excruciating moment, a familiar and tender voice whispered into my ear, "Fi, yes you can, and after you do, I want you to let go." Now I have heard that Lamaze is helpful to labor in part because it distracts us from the pain. I have not, however, come across any information about visits from our dead loved ones as a means to distract us from labor pains. Indeed though, that is what I miraculously experienced that night and about 45 minutes later, just before midnight, my baby boy, Fisher, was born.
Fisher and I slept peacefully until the sun started to rise early the next morning. In our hospital room I gazed upon his beautiful face with Michelle's words still very fresh in my mind and began to process what she had said. Amazingly, I felt clear for the first time in a long time. That morning, I awakened as I had done every day for that entire preceding year, but this day, I did not engage with the chaos and confusion I had grown so accustomed to. I did not run through my usual questions about why Michelle died in the awful way in which she did. It wasn't that I didn't feel inclined to. Rather, I purposefully did not. In the sweet quiet of my room, I made a conscious choice to gaze at my new baby and simply focus on him alone.
Fisher is almost 6 years old now, and since his birth I have come to discover a greater understanding of what it means to let go. Letting go means to release the things we have no ability to change. For me, this meant releasing the resentment, fear and anguish surrounding the inexplicable way in which Michelle died. Despite letting go, I still keep my love for her, my love for her family and all of my wonderful memories of times spent with Michelle. In fact, I think of those beautiful memories often. Letting go means I wake up each day doing my best to embrace what is rather than feebly attempting to change things outside of my control or seek answers to unanswerable questions.
Little by little I learned to let go of many thoughts that are not useful while still holding onto beautiful memories that bring me joy. This has taken time and much practice, but in doing so, I have discovered great peace in my own life. This extends not only to the circumstances surrounding Michelle's death but far beyond as well. I can apply this in a multitude of situations in my life.
Through Michelle's death, I learned the concept of letting go and I am grateful for that. Of course, I would take her back in a heartbeat if it were possible, but since the reality is that she cannot come back, I must accept this -- I do not necessarily like it, but I do accept it. Likewise, I make a conscious choice to be fully present in my own life. A greater appreciation and sense of peace has emerged by releasing that which simply cannot be changed.