“We may encounter many defeats, but we must not be defeated.
You may not control all the events that happen to you,
But you can decide not to be reduced by them “
“It is the greatest gift you can give yourself – to forgive.”
“In the flush of loves light
We dare be brave
And suddenly we see
That love costs all that we are
And will ever be
Yet, it is only love
Which sets us free” – Maya Angelou
A Tribute to My Mother:
Love and forgiveness are two of the most powerful things in this world. Or at least they are to me. Learning these two words has been the hardest lessons of my life, and it is a continued path I walk to fully understand the scope and depth each has on me.
Mother’s day is a day where we honor those who brought us into the world, the amazing women who have dedicated their love to nurturing us, caring for us and loving us. It’s been 6 years since we lay my mother to rest, and it still feels as if it were yesterday. Losing someone is never easy; it is the ultimate cycle of life, the one thing we can never truly prepare for.
As her health started to steadily decline, we all knew it was only a matter of time before we would get the call. Every time an RCMP officer or Emergency nurse would call I wondered if it would be the last. It’s a devastating thing to watch someone you love so much, lose themselves in substance abuse and mental illness. You strive to not see them that way, to remember them as if you were still a child. I loved my mother, her beauty her childlike laugh, her desire to help people, even on her lowest of days. In her sobriety, I would catch glimpses of this brilliance, and in her darkest hours I would hear disgruntled, discombobulated stories of the horror we endured decades earlier, from a life she no longer lived, abuse from a man who was long gone from our lives.
That’s the thing about trauma and abuse – it’s a lifelong healing process. It’s memories still haunt you from time to time, the fear sometimes creeps back in to remind you of the power it has. Some of us find solitude in trying to forget, to erase its memory from our very existence, but the reality is you can’t. Our brain doesn’t work like that; life doesn’t work like that. What you cannot forget, you can learn to forgive.
I have learned that when you choose to forgive yourself, you start to break down the walls of armor you build up to protect yourself from very thing you are seeking – and that is love. In the short term it is easier to stay angry, it is easier to feel sad, disconnected and at a distance, but the void is never filled in this space. It can never be healed and we can never move forward. I tried to teach my mom this, and I know to an extent she heard it some, but for so many years I slept with guilt and shame as a persistent bedfellow I could not shake off. I felt more comfortable in the victimization of what happened to “me,” and for a time forgot what happened to her.
A year before she passed, she was sober for a few months, went to rehab and for the first time in nearly a decade I had my mom back. We would sit and chat, we would share and some of that armor I had built up started to diminish. It was a brilliant and beautiful time with her and it would be our last time in that sacred space. A few weeks after, she would slip back into booze and prescription drugs and we would lose her again and this time her sun set would not see another sunrise.
For nearly a year, I would wake up every day, wander the world and after the sun would set, we retire to do it all over again. In this year, I never saw the sun, a soul cannot flourish without the light of life, without love present and I felt nothing, I felt a void, a numbness, and with that a deep and silent darkness. I had no job, no place to live, I couch surfed, I lost friends, my closest people wondered if I was losing it – and to an extent I was and I did. Everything I had worked so hard for; meant nothing.
A person cannot survive like this – I was on life support and red lining fast. Funny thing though, I never fell down the road of drugs or alcohol. Instead, I funneled my energy in RUN4ACAUSE. All that rage; that hurt, that confusion I pondered how to make meaning out of all of this. I found myself re inventing my life and my inspiration, as childish as it may sound – was in stories of our iconic Superheroes.
And one night, at the lowest of my lows, I found myself wondering if life was worth living at all. Yes, I pondered suicide, but not because I wanted to die, but because I wanted to live, I wanted to feel something – anything. I had reached the fork in the road, the end of the proverbial rope of bullshit.
Could I take my own life – no.
Did I want to live like this any longer – hell no.
Then what’s left? The answer is simple – change.
That night I realized that I was nearing becoming my inner villain. We all have one, just like we all have the potential to be a Superhero. That line; that divides a villain from a Superhero – is forgiveness. A villain acts out of rage, vengeance and with no thought to mercy. A true hero, a superhero – understands humility, honor and even though justice must be served, does so by exhausting all avenues of non violence and peacemaking. The only way to know this path, is to have walked it and to be brave enough to forgive yourself.
Forgiveness takes courage. It takes a certain kind of bravery to move past anger, guilt and shame; all the emotions that seek to take you down deeper into the abyss of darkness. It takes understanding that even though the sun cannot outlast it’s own sun set, that it will indeed, rise again tomorrow with a dawn and a new day.
Forgiveness is accepting that nobody is perfect, not you or I; or anybody.
Forgiveness is recognizing that we all make mistakes, which make us stumble at times, when we strive so hard to stay upright.
Forgiveness is remembering the we are all human, and in being human means that we are all so much more than we give ourselves credit to be.
Forgiveness is in the understanding that sometimes the world gives us more than we can gracefully handle, and that sometimes that in handling the ugly, dirty, not so perfectness, but ever endearing part of life – like loss… means revealing to the world the absolute beauty of your own authentic vulnerability and what lies in your heart.
Every year on this day I am reminded of this journey, and even though I have lost a mother, she is never truly gone, because her lessons are still to this day – I am learning.
The biggest lessons she has taught me – is to never back down from what you love and dream of in this world.
To stand tall against all odds, even when others choose to live on their knees – you help the up.
That violence is never the answer and in the eyes of our creator, man and woman are equal – and that is a powerful thing.
Lastly, that the most beautiful thing about a sun set, is that there is never really darkness, because once the sun is set, there are stars to light the sky. These stars remind us that there are unlimited possibilities and if we can only choose to move from a place of love and forgiveness – anything is possible, anything can be overcome. And with this we each have the power to change our world, and the world around us.
This is a tribute to my mother, my best friend, my greatest teacher – Nora Lynne Donnelley 1951-2008.
SAVE THE DATE: Saturday July 25th, 2014 #RUN4MOM Vancouver event. This will also be a virtual event through Fit Cause! This means anyone around the globe can participate. Supporting the Canadian Mental Health Association (North Shore Branch) and Battered Women’s Support Services.
Honorable Mentions to those who inspire me and who have been a great resource for growth and transformation, as well as a little self love: