I’ve listened to “This I Believe” since I first graduated college in 2005. I’ve listened to Albert Einstein, Eli Wiesel, Isabel Allende, and countless other men and women across the country share their “personal philosophies.” I haven’t always agreed with them, and sometimes, I haven’t always liked them. Still, I keep listening. I want to know what it means to other people to live, to hope, to learn—perhaps just because I have a fierce curiosity or a maybe even a sick fascination with other people’s lives, but, when I dig deeper, I know that it’s really because my act of listening to other people’s beliefs grounds my own: I believe in believing.
I believe that we all need to believe in something—in ourselves, in our family, in our friends, in a higher power. Some need to believe that things will get better, that our natures can persevere, or that things always happen for a reason. Some need to believe that kindness and humanity will conquer and that maybe hope can remain during any circumstance. In my case, my act of believing came when my mother, at 45, was diagnosed with acute myeloid leukemia in 2003. Over the course of four years, two bone marrow transplants, four rounds of chemotherapy, a period of remission, and a period of mourning, my beliefs vacillated almost as much as my mother’s condition. I believed that she could make it, that she would live, that things would be okay, that she would meet her grandchildren. I believed that she couldn’t, it was too hard, that no human being as good as she is should ever have to bear such a burden. I also believed that if she died—the woman who was our glue and our nucleus—my family would fall apart.
When my mom passed away in December of 2007, I didn’t know what to believe anymore. As everyone told me and I told myself, I questioned if she were actually better off. I didn’t know if I could believe that she was any more than worm food. I didn’t know if she was safe. I didn’t know if all the things that I had been told would happen when she died were really true. I also didn’t know if she wasn’t suffering anymore—if her life—or her death—wasn’t in vain.
And then, I realized that it didn’t really matter if I knew if any of it was true. It only mattered that I believed it was. If I believe that my mother still knows me, if I believe that I can still talk to her, and if I believe that she can still answer, then that is my truth. And while I will never stop missing her, or questioning, or listening, I will take solace in the truth that I am what I believe.