Wednesday, January 7, 2015
Letting Go, Holding On
I am one who holds on. I think friendships should last a lifetime. I never know when it’s time to put something aside to clear the way for something else. I hold onto life and can’t imagine doing otherwise.
Noah let go of everything. The instinct of self-preservation no longer had a hold on him. Letting go of life must have felt like the only way out of his pain.
“Letting go . . . is a courageous act, an expression of inner power,” writes Rabbi Jonathan Slater . “It is, perhaps, the hardest thing we will ever do, as every letting go is in anticipation of our final release from this life. We—rightly—cling to life, but we become habituated to holding on, even when letting go may be the source of blessing.”
Maybe so in the normal course of events. But Noah’s letting go was a curse. The only source of blessing for those of us left behind is learning to let go of our loved one’s pain -- and eventually some of our own--as we move through mourning.
I cling to every memory I can muster, as to a lifesaver.
When Noah was nine, our family was on a small fishing boat in the Galapagos that sailed between islands at night. Noah was horribly seasick; he never went below and could only sleep outside on a bench on deck not far above the surface of the water. He was so light, I worried that he'd be tossed overboard. So I held onto him all night, and told him to hold onto the rail. We held on together through the pitch and roar of the open ocean. Each morning, we emerged in the quiet bay of an island to walk among magical creatures.
How I wish I could have held my son through the storm that engulfed him 12 years later, be a beacon to guide him to safe harbor. I never dreamed there would be a morning without him in it.
Noah marveled at the iguanas, tortoises, and blue-footed boobies of the Galapagos, and he loved swimming with the sea turtles. But most of all, he adored the round-eyed, whiskered fur seals, who reminded him of his dog back home. One night on deck, we saw a seal sitting regally atop the landing skiff that we towed behind us, hitching a ride. As we moved in for a photo, the seal dove over the edge and was gone.
How I’d like to think that Noah’s spirit is still tied to us, holding on for the ride.