How my childhood friend taught me to "let go"
Excerpts from my story...
They said to just let it go.
What does that mean? I’ve always searched for how exactly one let’s something go. I have heard that advice often, in the 22 years of my sister’s murder investigation. “You may have to accept that you will never know. You just have to let it go Heather”
In AA they say to “let go and let God”. It serves to remind people that when they are ready to face their addiction, they can find strength in just that. The simple act of confrontation with self.
This past holiday weekend, after the 22nd anniversary of my sister’s abduction and murder, I have found the strength to face myself. I have asked myself how do I let this go? How do I stop trying to find the person who harmed my sister? How do I accept what is, with all of its injustice and wrongness? In the past I had hoped to come across a recipe or a list that would give me a step by step guide on “how to let go”. I’ve moaned to my therapist about it being its own addiction of mine. I am addicted to finding justice for my sister. Why else could I not let this go?
Most people who knew my sister Molly tell me that she would not want me to be doing this. She wouldn’t want me spending my life putting up billboards demanding the killer come forward, or newspaper ads spreading the State Police Tip line. It would grieve her to see how I am treated by the State Police and District Attorneys, and the impact it has on our family. She wouldn’t want this to ruin my life. I know all of this logically. And yet, my ego is attached to the answer. Maybe it is because I am such a doggedly determined person, or because I am the older sister and I feel guilt, or simply because I am afraid to live in a world that does not make sense.
This holiday weekend though, I had to face another loss and the world not making sense again, in a different way. My childhood friend is dying of cancer. He is only 44 years old. Peter was the kind of person who was also doggedly determined. He loved music and was able to build a tremendous career as an organ player and conductor. He created a family that loved him and he not only ran marathons, he placed in them! He directed the music program at a beautiful church where he shared his love of music and offered lessons on the piano. He inspired others with his love and passion for music, and that is the foundation of the life he built with his beautiful wife and two small children.
Peter did everything right. He didn’t drink too much or abandon his responsibilities. He ate well and exercised. He was a part of a community that both respected and revered him. And, knowing Peter he was not going to leave that easily. Peter fought that cancer. He embarked on clinical trials and went on praying pilgrimages. He thought, much like me, I can beat this, I can fix this, I can get through this and persevere. Perhaps it was the grit bred into both of us from our small-town community, or a character trait we both shared, but our ego made us fighters, it made us survivors.
When I learned that Peter’s family was saying their goodbyes and he was moving into hospice I was profoundly saddened. At first, I went safely to anger and railed against a God who allows the good people to die and the bad ones to keep living. And when my anger grew tired, the immense sadness remained. How could this happen? How could Peter let go?
And, I thought maybe losing Peter could teach me to let go too.
Peter and I shared a quality of strength that allowed us to hang on and persevere despite the most difficult and strenuous circumstances. I know my friend and he would not willingly leave his wife and children and the beautiful life that they built, unless he had no other choice. Cancer is painful and cruel, much like an unresolved murder case. It eats away at you from the inside, just like the interactions with the State Police were doing to me. As I reflected on Peter letting go of his incredible life, I knew that I had to let go of this part of my life too. Not because I wanted to, because there just wasn’t another choice, it was simply killing me and hurting those around me. At the last battle, Peter humbly surrendered because that is all that is left to do. Surrender isn’t giving up, it isn’t letting go, it is allowing what is to be. I surrender with you Peter, because it was never about “letting something go”, it was about accepting that I couldn’t change the outcome.
Just like the AA quote “Let go and let God” this surrendering meant that neither of us was “big” enough to fix what happened in our lives. In our CCD classes we learned that we could always trust God, and that God would always be there for us. When you surrender, all that is left is you facing your God. Peter and I both believed in God and so I know he is going somewhere filled with love and the joyous music he was passionate about.
Peter gave me a final gift in this life. He taught me in his last moments on this Earth what it means to surrender, and that is the bravest thing of all.
Thank you Peter.