I’ve emerged from my post-Thanksgiving food coma to find that it’s already December, that purportedly most wonderful time of the year that ushers in a month of black-cloud days for me. Last year, I undertook my first banish-the-bah-humbug project to combat my preference to sip my bah humbug cocktail and marinate in my own bitterness for 30 days. I know lack of patience is my biggest obstacle to being more generous; this year I lack motivation and caring, despite the gains I made in December 2012. Becoming “nicer Nancy” required daily cultivation and this year, I’m not interested.
I thought about abandoning my dumb-ass, banish-the-bah-humbug project and snarling at anyone who asked if I’d repeat the effort this year. I also recalled a conversation with my dear friend Tom after my son died. The grief felt like a twisting knife in my gut, and the pain made me hostile and explosive. Many people who meant well told me to pray to God for strength and healing. That advice made me angrier: I would not acknowledge a being that had allowed my baby boy Liam to die.
“I won’t pray to Him,” I insisted when I told Tom about my anger. “I won’t believe in Him.”
Tom nodded. He understood the anger and desolation that come from loss, and assured me that I was not a bad person nor was I going to hell. Tom’s answer surprised me because he is a priest, but reminded me that beyond that, he is also a wise and compassionate human being.
“Nancy,” he added, “pray to Liam for patience. He knows your capacity for goodness. Ask him to be with you and help you.”
And that blew me away. I had been tormented by guilt, that I had failed at the most basic task of being a mother, and somehow Liam’s death was my fault. Tom made it possible for me to believe that Liam had been so beautiful and perfect precisely because I had been a good mother. Because of my friend Tom, I believe that I am not a monster and that Liam loves me. The peace that belief gives me is one of the greatest gifts I have ever received.
I don’t believe in angels, but I do ask Liam to be with me when I need the patience to be a better person. Every day this December, I will wear a butterfly as a reminder that Liam recognizes my capacity for goodness, and I will strive to share that peace through daily acts, no matter how small they may seem to me.