The lucky ones find a kindred spirit in life; someone with whom they share an unusual understanding and connection. About a year ago, at age 33, I found mine in an eleven-year-old girl named Caroline, affectionately referred to by her dad as “Girlie.” What I didn’t know when I first met her was that we were both about to experience losses that would bind us for life. Mine was the ending of my marriage, and hers the loss of her mother.
Circumstances and, I believe, fate brought us together and I became her teacher first, then her caregiver after her mom’s death. In the short time I have known her, she has taught me the most important lesson of my life.
Caroline is a girl with more than the average difficulty getting moving. She has definite ideas about what is fun and what is not and an unwillingness to rush to unpleasant tasks. The phrase, “hold on”, floats easily from her mouth many times a day. I tried to count once, but lost track or interest- I’m not sure which.
“Caroline, it’s time to leave.”
“Caroline, you need to start your homework.”
“Caroline, it’s time to get ready for bed.”
The words have a sweet, melodic sound, but they made me cringe because of what I thought they represented- a long time pattern and predictor of a lifelong struggle with procrastination.
Then one day I began to hear it differently; as a gentle reminder; as words of encouragement. These two little words that used to make me cringe are the basis for my belief and a constant reminder to me of what is important. As it turns out, they are her mantra.
“Hold on” is a reminder to herself that if she doesn’t, she could be swept away by the grief of losing her mom to breast cancer.
“Hold on” reminds her to cling to her gentle soul, her free spirit, and her innocence.
“Hold on” tells her not to lose what so many people admire about her and what so many girls lose during adolescence: independence of mind.
“Hold on” suggests that it’s possible to preserve a belief in love in spite of tragedy.
“Hold on” tells us that we have nothing if we let go of each other.
Caroline and I have talked at length about how we believe that people can rescue each other and how goodness can rise from devastation. “Hold on” represents her persistence of spirit- she just refuses to let go of life. Her simple command has changed the way I view the world. It’s all that matters.
She is also writing a “This I Believe” for my seventh grade speech class. Her topic is, “I believe that in dark times, you have to look for the light of tomorrow.” When she experiences life’s darkness and light, I will have only one piece of wisdom to offer her; “Hold on, Girlie.”
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