Peace like a River

 Yesterday I drove to Petoskey for a massage party my old friend hosted. On the way I used the time to talk to friends on the phone that I haven’t in awhile. With each, I found myself saying the same thing when they asked how I was doing. Fine. I’m fine and I meant it. What struck me as I spoke those words was that they came out naturally and truly.

When I consider the resilience of my spirit I am overcome with deep gratitude. I feel as though that is a combination of luck and determination, as most things that matter to me are.

This morning I sit and watch the river flow and listen to the birds sing and feel the warmth dip in and out from a slight breeze, merging with the snow here and there. Life continues onward.

I can’t always remember what it once felt like to be myself on a sunny day, perfect for a road trip, or what the river said to me on happier days. Sometimes I yearn for the lightheartedness that came with my place in the world, as a woman with simpler circumstances, a woman keenly aware of her great fortunes.

Today I bear a heavier load. This truth is a weight that never lifts, and yet, and yet. I remain, atleast in the present moment, wild and hungry and whole. Pain and trauma have altered my course & opened my eyes wider, have caused my moods to shift quickly, of this there is no doubt. But my lungs continue to take in the fresh fragrant air of another spring that has come, and my heart beats strong with purpose and compassion. I am alive and well, for all intents and purposes. And each day that passes becomes the fuel for the next day coming.

If I choose to, or rather, if I’m not paying attention to the gift of now, I can step back easily into the grit of surreal and steely memory from the initial horrific loss of my beloved child. It is right here. Right here in the space of eyes closed, heart shattered, breath stifled. If I stay there, everything returns to chaos– I am wobbly, untethered, unmoored. I can’t eat or think or pray. I cannot feel and yet I embody the agony of suffering. It is palpable– and uncomfortable but familiar in a way that lures me in.

If however I stay with myself through this, if I steady my breath, I can move with it like a muscle cramp in the foot– if I don’t panic I can remember that historically, it has passed, and it will likely pass again. If I stay present I can scan the space I am in like a room in the dark, feel my way back toward the door or the light switch. Notice that I remember where the Lincoln logs, Legos and tiny metal matchbox cars/ land mines are located. And when I cannot avoid them, remember to step upon them softly so they do not hurt as much. Bend, sway, lean in, and move gracefully like the river inside of me.

Yesterday while massaging someone, the sun was sneaking in through the closed blind and shining on my heart as I moved around the table. I noticed it, lifted my face toward its direction, and smiled. I remembered how Isaac wanted to be a dad and a husband right away– he wanted life to hurry up so he could be those things as quickly as possible. While tender with him when he shared those yearnings with me, I of course told him there was no rush. But yesterday I was struck with wondering why he wanted them so badly. And was it because we did it wrong and he wanted to do it right? And I panicked– I started to cry, with my client beneath my fingers and having no idea that my mind had wandered while making space for her… I felt sadness and despair and like I could run out the door right then, and never stop. But then, I took a deep breath and recentered myself and a new thought came– the thought seemed to come from that sun shining on my heart– and it said that perhaps Isaac wanted to experience love for his own child the way that I did– the way I always promised him that he would understand someday. Maybe that’s why he was in a hurry.

It was a choice. I always have a choice. I could be skeptical, full of doubt, let fear take me into its tangled roots, and I know that I could make a home for myself there. I know that I could surround myself with evidence, with proof, of how ALL OF THIS is my fault AND how joy is ephemeral and not to be relied upon. I know this is an option.

But, for now, I choose to allow my heart to show me what it wants from me, like a child in a candy store– a little bit of everything. Joy and sorrow– doubt and certainty, love and fear– so that I can decide for myself what tastes best. Because I have a choice.

Who made the world?

Who made the swan, and the black bear?

Who made the grasshopper?

This grasshopper, I mean-

the one who has flung herself out of the grass,

the one who is eating sugar out of my hand,

who is moving her jaws back and forth instead of up and down-

who is gazing around with her enormous and complicated eyes.

Now she lifts her pale forearms and thoroughly washes her face.

Now she snaps her wings open, and floats away.

I don’t know exactly what a prayer is.

I do know how to pay attention, how to fall down

into the grass, how to kneel down in the grass,

how to be idle and blessed, how to stroll through the fields,

which is what I have been doing all day.

Tell me, what else should I have done?

Doesn’t everything die at last, and too soon?

Tell me, what is it you plan to do

with your one wild and precious life?

— Mary Oliver

Published by: christinaryanstoltz

I write to touch the supple center of unguarded ache~ To release myself from the pressure of not knowing how to move forward from the unfathomable loss of my beloved son, my beautiful boy Isaac, to suicide, of not knowing how to release my grip on of the past, both the worshipping of it as well as the beating myself up for it, and letting go of the need to know what I could’ve done or what on earth I will do now. I write to heal.


2 thoughts on “Peace like a River”

  1. What an utterly beautiful and true and genuinely authentic mommy-heart you have. Will always have.

    I believe your beautiful boy lives on through your words and kindness, sharings of your deep sorrow with others, and he is cradled safely within your beating heart.

    He is evermore your King, and now he is a righteous angel. Your most vigilant angel.

    Shine On, Pretty Mama. Shine On. You have lifted me up. You amaze me~


  2. I know your words come from your grief, sorrow & healing, but you have a gift for putting them on paper. They always touch my heart, and it just amazes me how you can express yourself so. So many of us have to keep our feelings all jumbled up inside and then often they spill out in unhealthy ways. Thank you for sharing and being real. You are a blessing to me! ❤️ I believe Isaac was in a hurry for those things because you had filled him with so much love that he couldn’t wait to share it with his own child as you did with him!


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