The university where I got my BA required all students to take a semester of swimming in order to graduate. I had been to the beach on occasion in my nineteen years on Earth, but I was from south Texas, desert country, and few of us knew how to swim. I waded. I let the waves splash me. I had no idea what to expect from a “swimming class.”
While the other students took off like fish, I had to learn how to keep my eyes open while holding my breath under water. The college instructor required me to come in every day and she would help me learn the basics. I went from scared-to-death tadpole to swimmer in that one semester. To get my PE credit, I swam twenty laps across the school’s Olympic- sized pool, demonstrating a different swim stroke with each lap. I did twenty dunks in the deep end where I had to plunge myself downward, hit the pool bottom, and shoot upward to catch my breath before going back down again.
It was the most frightening experience I had ever faced, but I had no choice if I wanted my college degree. I had to do what I was afraid to do.
Life is like that – full of frightening experiences that give us no choice. In order to survive, we have to learn how to swim, whether we want to or not.
The death of a loved one was not new for me. I was at the bedside of my grandparents, my brother, a grandson, and my father, and held their hands and prayed for them as they took their last breath. I was there, in the deep end, water up to my chin, no choice.
We knew our mother’s passing was inevitable, but still nothing prepared us for the day itself, the loss of our mother. We each faced the same vast deep ahead of us, and we each reacted to the onslaught differently.
Like the little fish in the child’s movie, I kept swimming. I learned to go on, day by day. The days flowed into weeks, the weeks into months, and now I get to count her passing in years. Like that swimming class I took so long ago, I force my eyes open, I hold my breath, and I learn to swim underwater.
I just keep swimming.