Darkness makes us rethink
Somewhere along the line, the woman I once adored left me. I was her star, her joy, her best companion, her confidante, her only child. My mother and I were more like sisters, more like friends, than we were like mother and daughter. She told me everything. I lied to her only once.
When my stepfather didn’t want me to start dating, I told them both that I was going to a movie with girlfriends and then met the boy on a corner somewhere. She figured it all out, however, and instead of cutting me out of the warm circle of her trust, let my stepfather know in no uncertain terms that insisting on unnatural absolutes was exactly what would “make a liar out of me.” After that the rule became that boys were to come to the house first for the regular parental review. And she and I went back to telling one another the truth. About everything.
I expected we would have long and happy years together. I actually planned for them. When my stepfather died, leaving her a relatively young widow, I was sure we’d go places together now, and celebrate everything together, and work together on the projects that had become my concentration.
But, little by little, the relationship began to go awry. She got testy and irritated. She didn’t do the things she promised she would. I’d squeeze in a trip to take her to the bank and when we got there she didn’t have her bank book. Then one day, she began accusing me of making phone calls to her—and hanging up when she answered. We were strangers now.
It was years before they began to call it “Alzheimer’s disease.” By then I was full of anger. After that, I was full of guilt. She lived for twenty-eight years with the disease, and so did I. It was a long, dark time but, I began to realize later, it was not a useless time.
Darkness is that period of life when nothing seems to be going as expected. We find ourselves derailed in our journey to our dreams, not only by things we didn’t foresee but by things we simply could not have imagined. Darkness comes and envelops us. It also makes us look at life all over again. Whatever we once took for granted, darkness makes us rethink, reevaluate, relinquish.
Darkness is a time of beginning again. We are forced to determine a new way of being in the world. It is a frightening time—but a liberating time as well. It gives us the opportunity to make new choices about life, about relationships, about our dreams and our plans. It tells us that the old world has passed away and the new one is of our making.
In a busy world, we seldom get the luxury of reviewing where we are. We simply get up every morning and go on. Yesterday becomes today and every day thereafter. It is a very spiritual time. It is a time that challenges us to recreate ourselves in the image of the Spirit who calls us to become everything we can be. The darkness that blocks us from becoming is the very womb of a new life.
The message in the darkness did not come immediately. But if we can possibly learn to trust darkness, to understand that life is a pattern of starts and stops, of celebrating the past, of coming to terms with the present, of believing the future to be kind, then we can come to understand that the dark parts are only those closing down moments, like flowers at night, till the sun shines once more.
—from 38 Personal Stories to Transform a Life, by Joan Chittister