The Healing Power of Water

“The fall of dripping water wears away the stone” – Lucretius

Before the global pandemic held the world hostage, I found solace in the water; swimming at the community pool early in the morning.  At the time, I found myself seeking different ways to be healthy, and my daughter, a competitive swimmer most of her childhood and adolescence, encouraged me to take up swimming.   In fact, she even accompanied me on my first toe-dip, helping me break the fear of walking into a foreign space for the first time. 

With her encouragement, and the quick results I experienced, I consistently found myself arriving as the pool opened at sunrise.  When I left the healing touch of the water, I breathed better – my day stretched out ahead of me – my mind was clear – and I was centered. 

The cool touch of the water offered me silence, delivering me as close to meditation as I had ever reached. Elizabeth would often call me when I returned from my daily swim. “Didn’t I tell you you would love the water? You can do it, Mom.”

As I swam, often playing around with different strokes I learned as a child, I would repeat the Serenity prayer – over and over.  “God, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, courage to change the things I can, and wisdom to know the difference,” I would hear my mind whisper.  Eventually, the prayer paced my freestyle or backstroke:

Serenity – courage – wisdom.  Serenity – courage – wisdom.  Serenity – courage – wisdom.  Serenity – courage – wisdom.  Serenity – courage – wisdom.  Serenity – courage – wisdom.

Heading into the fall of 2019, I was physically, mentally, and emotionally the healthiest I have ever been in my life.  I dared to let myself think life could be “normal,” and that I could find balance. However, without warning, the universe, with its cruel desire for ubiquitous humility, shifted my reality with my daughter’s diagnosis of stage four brain cancer – a shocking reality after living with a different, stage-two brain tumor. And then, as if a glioblastoma was not enough, close on the heels of her diagnosis, Covid-19 froze our communities. 

When Elizabeth’s first brain tumor was discovered during her junior year in college, I began an intense health journey. I wanted to be present, available, and physically capable of caring for Elizabeth should she need me, not fully realizing that day would come too soon. The weight loss I achieved through healthy eating and exercise equaled a small woman, but the growth of my understanding of who I am was immeasurable.  My health journey at the time, however, occurred for Elizabeth – not for myself.

With the new diagnosis, I knew one did not beat stage four cancer. One must learn to live with it for as long and as fully as possible. As her health declined, and I threw myself into her care, I took less care of myself, skipping my four mile walks or workouts. Inadvertently, I also paid less attention to the quality of food on my plate. 

My daily ritual of swimming came to a screeching hault for nearly two years. I lost myself in caring for my child, and more recently, I have struggled to find my footing since Elizabeth;s December death.  As someone who quickly adjusts and lands on her feet – pushes past emotion – prides herself in resiliency, this part of my journey has paralyzed me.  I have experienced loss before, but losing my daughter shattered my heart in indescribable ways, and I have felt lost – disoriented – adrift.

In the last few weeks, I have felt Elizabeth’s gentle nudges to find my way back to myself, and I have found myself back in the water.  Her voice comes in remembered converations urging me to care for others like her – to offer them comfort and hope – to teach them to live while dying. I have heeded to her pull – to the energy of the water, and I have found myself walking into the quiet community pool anxious, and yet eager.

Serenity – courage – wisdom.  Serenity – courage – wisdom.  Serenity – courage – wisdom.  Serenity – courage – wisdom.  Serenity – courage – wisdom.  Serenity – courage – wisdom.

My grief is the heaviest stone I have ever carried with me.  I carry it in my shoulders and my hips.  I carry it in my tears.  I carry it in feelings of disconnect.  Yet, the water will help me piece my heart back together.  It will gently chip away at the weight of anguish – of sorrow.  In the water, I hear my breath.  I feel my muscles lengthen. I am present, and I hear my daughter whisper, “You can do it, Mom. You can do it.”

2 thoughts on “The Healing Power of Water

  1. I am so sorry for your loss. I have no words because I cannot even imagine what this is like. I hope you continue to find healing and hope in the water. She must have been such a strong woman, and she sounds like the perfect cheerleader! You can do it!

    Like

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s