A farmer’s daughter like me knows that deep in the soil of winter, stuff happens in darkness. When the world seems most barren, life is teeming in places we can’t see. I’ve come to regard loss that way, too. Life goes on. It does. And though it’s hard after suffering a loss to see possibilities and opportunities to thrive, the fact that you can’t see them isn’t the same as their not being there.
The losses in my life seemed to lie in wait to ambush me, not once or twice, but repeatedly. With each new onslaught, my faith that God was forever minding me diminished; my trust and confidence in myself was shaken. How could I survive, much less, thrive again? In deep grief and confusion, I stretched out on the stone wall in my garden and cried every day for four months. Nothing would ever be the same.
The dark “winter” of my life started with the sudden and unexpected death of my mother and then my father-in-law and a favorite aunt. A year later, both our family cats passed away. Two years after that, my spouse received a heart transplant and after eight months into a future that held our biggest dreams, he died. He was only forty-six. I could barely breathe. I didn’t know how I’d get through the next five minutes, let alone the rest of my life without him.
With a lot of anxiety, I took to the helm of our company and ran it while I worried about paying off our home mortgage and finding a college I could afford for our son. During the year following my husband’s death, my business income remained steady. We prospered. I began to feel more settled. But I didn’t know what was coming. It was as if I was looking at the Roman god Janus, who had two faces. Lurking behind the face of prosperity was another face–one that would soon reveal a catastrophe already in motion.
Our distribution company had one steady, well-paying client. That client decided to fold distribution into its organization and eliminate all its independent dealers. The day before Christmas Eve, I was called to a meeting and told our arrangement was over. Shocked into a stunned silence, I handed my gift to the man who fired me and left to find my car. Wandering in the parking lot, too overcome with emotion to think straight, I cried for an hour. How would I survive through Christmas? Through the rest of my life?
I had practiced yoga and meditation after learning techniques in my twenties during a stay in India. In the darkness, safe in the temple of my heart, I surrendered my being to a Higher Power. I listened to the sound of the Divine, hoping to drown in the tranquility of that river. I longed for healing, security, safety, and serenity. Whenever I felt unstable, afraid, and overcome with emotion, I took refuge in the sanctuary of Self. I undertook devotional walks, communed with my Maker, conversed with my departed spouse. Inspired, I realized I didn’t want to just survive but to live more simply, closer to the earth, in harmony with nature’s cycles and rhythms. And then something wonderful happened.
Neighbors showered me with love, leaving frozen casseroles on my doorstep. A girlfriend began to ferry me to and from Mass so I wouldn’t have to drive. My company’s workers gathered as one big family to tell me goodbye. A friend called and asked me if I was ready to write a book for her company. Another friend helped me sell my home for ten times what I had paid for it. Consumed by grief over my losses, I’d retreated into the darkness to connect with the taproot of my being. Now light was dawning.
God had been minding me all along. The holes in my wholeness were healing. Helpful people seemed all around me. Opportunities flowed continuously after I wrote that first book. I can see now that loss and assaults upon us matter less than how we deal with them. I lost my beautiful, talented, accomplished husband but found myself, moving eventually from his shadow to stand in the sunlight of full acceptance of who I am and what gifts I can share with the world.
The late Celtic scholar John O’Donohue wrote in Anam Cara, A Book of Celtic Wisdom, that “If you could trust your soul, you would receive every blessing you require.” I keep that thought close. Today, I own a farmette in Northern California where intentionally I have created a simple life. I go to sleep with the chickens and rise with the sun. I keep hives of honeybees, garden to my heart’s content, and share my bounty with neighbors. I write books and blog. When I need something, I form an intention and ask for it. I see prosperity through the lens of “having enough” rather than storing up wealth. I count my blessings in darkness and light. Life, with infinite possibilities, is good.