From three rows back from the altar, I stared into the little girl’s eyes and into her heart, I smiled at her smile as tears streamed down my face.
Without thinking, took my father’s hand in my left and my mother’s hand in my right. The choir sang a stream of songs, one intertwined with the next. It was “What a Wonderful World” that awakened me.
For a year and a week, my thoughts, moods, grudges, darkest valleys and soaring peaks soared and plummeted like Japanese roller coasters. At my best, I saw eternal light. At my worst, a winter solstice Alaskan sun gleamed bright, always with the quiet whisper of another long winter’s nap come darkness.
In that moment, beauty and purpose and joy and sorrow washed over me and, as if cradled in the preacher’s arms, I rose like a Baptist from the river.
It seems the last year has loaded one weight plate after another on the bar making it harder and harder to deadlift reality. Taking the hands of my parents, saying the rosary of the Sorrowful mystery, and breathing the pure blessings of love from everyone in the church, my eyes drank in the smiling little girl in the photo who casket lay before me.
And I made her a promise.
The seemingly endless loop of self-pity finally broke off the reel and went spiraling in every direction. The constant barrage of negative words, bleak images and the incessant hammer blows of all my black demons were once again drowned, overwhelmed by the vibrating golden steam bath of hope I felt all around me. Surrounded by my family, the sorrow and joy and generosity and love formed a swirling column that climbed to the rafters and exploded in dew drops that fell like rose petals on the whole congregation.
Tears streaming down my face, I silently made the little girl a promise. I would shake off the mantle of sorrow, melancholy and doubt and live the life cancer had denied her. I would greet the days with the radiant glimmer of her eyes, her spirit and her cherry red hair.
I would chip away at the Hoover damn of self-pity, social and personal anxiety and murky self-conscious boot sludge until the river flowed unabated.
I decided it must come to an end. I would start over like a Solitaire shuffle. The last game doesn’t matter. Seven columns of Diamonds and spades, hearts and clubs and I would play the game for her. I had been given a chance to live, a chance she was denied.
I owed it to her. To live the very best life I can in her honor.
For her sake.
For her love.
The love of this world. The joy of her roses.
I will carry on with her courage and with mine.
Together the multitudes cry out her chorus.
Once again, my voice will join the symphony.