The Countdown to the Rest of My Life

I had a surprising and surprisingly pleasant Christmas. As it turns out, I did not have to spend the holiday by myself in this echoingly empty house. My dance teacher and her husband adopted me for the holiday, which gave the Yule a family-like aura.

I even went to church with them on Christmas Eve. I was nervous at first — it’s been decades since I set foot inside any church — but it was nice. And powerful. I could feel the belief of those present, and it seemed right to be celebrating CHRISTmas with them. (Particularly since I have recently taken ole Mr. Claus in such distaste.) I felt a bit envious of the congregation’s belief, and nostalgic for the days when I too believed. I had just enough belief, though, to picture the knowing looks on my parents’ faces as together they looked down on this unexpected visitation of mine.

Now begins the countdown to the rest of my life, though I still have not a single clue how it will unfold. I am still going through my stuff, sorting out and packing what I will keep and getting rid of what is no longer important. (I found a cloth fodownload (1)r cleaning vinyl records that I bought probably around the last time I went to church, along with some of the adaptors for 45rmp records. The records and record player are long gone, of course, but somehow until now it never occurred to me to get rid of these unnecessary trinkets.)

Sometimes the sorting becomes an end to itself, and it is only when I pause for a break that the reality hits me. I am not packing for anything. webster_chicagoNot packing to go home to my life mate/soul mate, not packing for a wonderful adventure, not packing for a new life. Just packing.

I always knew this time would be hard. My stay here at my father’s house was merely a transition from my shared life with my soul mate to . . . whatever. Now that they are both gone, it’s just me heading into an unknown future.

I don’t usually make New Year’s resolutions. I have a list of things that in an ideal world I would do every day, and I will continue to strive for as many of those items as possible. (Things like getting enough water, enough sleep, enough exercise. Dancing, stretching, lifting weights, eating salads. Trying not to get hungry, angry, lonely, tired because they contribute to sorrow and feelings of futility.)

But this year, I will be making one resolution — to be courageous. A person can’t leap into uncertainly without courage, and I will need all the courage I can muster.


Pat Bertram is the author of the suspense novels Light BringerMore Deaths Than OneA Spark of Heavenly Fireand Daughter Am IBertram is also the author of Grief: The Great Yearning, “an exquisite book, wrenching to read, and at the same time full of profound truths.” Connect with Pat on Google+. Like Pat on Facebook.