This I Believe

Cynthia - Dallas, Texas
Entered on February 26, 2007
Age Group: 30 - 50
Themes: hope
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I believe in the invincible summer within us.

Albert Camus wrote: “In the depths of winter, I finally learned that within me there lay an invincible summer.”

On April 10, 2002, I entered the depths of winter when my husband of 19 years died suddenly. Bill was 47 years old, I was 45, our children were 11 and 14.

With his death, I was thrust into a frightening and unfamiliar world, a world filled with mind-heart-soul crushing pain and sorrow, a world in which I felt utterly alone, a world in which the thought that I would never again see Bill in this life literally took my breath away.

When you experience a profound loss, you have two choices: you give up or you find a way to survive. I wasn’t going to give up. So those first days, weeks and months were about survival.

But the invincible summer within us is about more than surviving – it’s about moving beyond merely surviving to thriving. For a long time, I wasn’t aware of the invincible summer within me. Looking back, I can see evidence of it in my realization that, despite my sorrow, I felt tremendous gratitude that Bill had been part of my life, and in my commitment to raise my children as best I could, to find a way to give meaning to Bill’s death by making a difference in the lives of others, and, with a new awareness of how precious and fragile life is, to try to live fully.

It takes a lot of hard work and a long time for a journey of grief to become a journey of grief and healing, and finding the invincible summer within me didn’t happen overnight. Twenty-one months out, with the decision to take my teens on a vacation unlike any we’d taken before, I realized that I believed in myself again, that this life I was rebuilding could be a good one. After the many months of feeling so defeated and uncertain, it felt good to know that I was starting to do more than just endure, that I was starting to live again. I was finally finding the invincible summer within me.

As time went on and I continued to deal with my grief, the cold and darkness of winter slowly receded, and shortly before the fourth anniversary of Bill’s death, I realized that I had emerged from the depths of winter. While grief may revisit me occasionally and I will always love and remember Bill, I no longer yearn for the past or fear the future – I try, in the words of Marcel Proust, to be aware that “the miracle is in the here and now.”

I am convinced that most of us have within us an invincible summer. Some people may never have occasion to find it, others may not be able to find it, and yet others may not want to find it. But I think it is there.

Because not only did I find the invincible summer within myself, but I have seen others find it within themselves. My children grieved long and hard and learned difficult lessons at too young an age, but they too came to thrive. And time and time again in the last few years I have seen other young widows and widowers pick up the shattered pieces of their lives and create new and fulfilling lives. Not only have we refused to let our grief destroy us, but we have risen above it.

I believe in the invincible summer within us. I believe in hope.