Spring in Pittsburgh
by Liz Johnston
Once before I had written that life moves like water, moves the way it will, not the way you may want. And I have been thinking about that notion a lot lately. Having lost my son, it’s quite obvious my life has not gone the way I wanted. Less obvious to some, Spring buds bring new feelings of what should be and what isn’t. Hope and sorrow are the twins of Spring. At least for me.
I've been in the city of 3 rivers this week. The home of my own mother, a place that brings both comfort and sadness over years lost. I have spent some time hiking besides moving waters. I’ve found myself standing, watching, marveling at the life force of nature, its will to keep going. Try this with me if you will… picture yourself sitting at the edge of a riverbank... the water is moving quickly; your eyes are fixed on it. Notice the direction of your attention. What are you looking at? Most likely, you are watching where the water is headed, not from where it comes. Why is that?
I’ve been pondering this as a metaphor….. especially when faced with the empty platitudes people spew: It’s not where you come from, it’s where you’re headed. Don’t look back; you aren’t headed in that direction. The past is the past; let it go. The best is yet to come. But what if the past is full of your best days? Your fondest memories? Your greatest joy? What if the past holds your child’s life because the future won’t? No looking forward. No water rushing towards new adventures. At least not on this earth, in this life. Would you still recommend not looking back?
Not only do I look back, I spend time there in my mind and in my heart. I never want to let go, or forget, or move on from our life together. In fact, today, as I walked through the woods that brim with new life, I thought about how Jordan, when he was little, would say “Mom, let’s go walking in the woods so I can sing Hi Ho!” (A reference to Snow White, a movie that was, for a short period, his favorite.) I need those memories to move forward. I do not need to let go of the past in order to have a future. I won't fall for platitudes or be forced with false dichotomies. I won’t forget my past. And I don’t have to.
Instead, I sat by the moving water at the end of the hike— watching intently and intentionally from where the water came. Wondering about its origins. Speculating on its reason for moving. Admiring its will to keep going. Honoring its journey. And I realized in that moment: to look back is to remember, but to move forward is to live. I have to live. That is how I will honor Jordan’s life the most. I will cherish my past, honor my journey, move like water, and love my son for all of eternity.
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