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It's Going To Be Okay

A print that says "It's Going To Be Okay"

These were the words Aaron said to me over and over and over again.

When he was diagnosed with a brain tumor, and the future we’d imagined together evaporated in front of us.

When he went in for his first brain surgery, and we both tried to pretend it was no big deal (it is a very, very big deal to have brain surgery).

He said it when the tumor came back and he was back in the operating room just a few weeks before I was due to give birth to our child.

He said it as he was dying.

And every time he said it, I nodded. 

And inside I screamed, “YOU LIAR!” 

Because how could it be okay that my young, wonderful and very alive husband was now sick, then dead? How could it be okay that his mother lost her only son, his sister lost her only brother? How could it be okay that Ralph lost his father?

It couldn’t. It wouldn’t. I would never accept it.

Catholics have a funeral tradition (maybe other people have this too, but I’ve mainly been to Catholic funerals). For every death, there is a prayer card. A small, 2x3” piece of card stock with a photo of the dead, their birth and death dates, and a prayer to remember them by.

My father, who had died just weeks before Aaron, chose this:

Pray for me, 
As I will for thee
That we may merrily meet in heaven.

The thing is, Aaron wasn’t into God. He didn’t have a religion. But he had his own prayers, and this was one of them.

It’s going to be okay.

So my friend Chelsea Brink used her hand lettering skills to bring those words to life, and Aaron’s friend Steve printed them up for us, and these cards are now tucked into books and picture frames all around my house, my office. I leave a trail of them in my wake. 

It’s going to be okay.

What, exactly, will be okay?

And when?

These words are absolutely to the contrary of our internal need for certainty, a need we have to know what is next. Even as babies we humans know we like order. We’re fed, then we’re burped, then we nap. As kids, we go into a world where our days are mapped out for us. Tuesdays? Gym class! Wednesday? Italian dunkers at the cafeteria! 

As adults, we think we have outgrown this need. We think, because we are the people sending the calendar invites or making the schedules, that we are in control. Not that we’d ever say that aloud, but the past few weeks, as an uncontrollable virus spreads across our planet I have noticed a precise kind of worry inside of me. It’s the same one that I felt that first day of Aaron’s diagnosis, when he looked at me with wet eyes and repeated what the doctor had said, “It’s a brain tumor.”

I wanted to know how it would end (preferably happily), and what would happen next. Not just when surgery would be scheduled but that the surgery would go okay, that the doctors would know immediately what it was and could tell me right away, after that first incision, it was nothing. Nothing at all.

We do not know what happens next.

Not now, and not ever.

We want, all of us, to know it will be okay. And I do think it will be, eventually, but first it sucks. First, we suffer. In big, awful ways and in minor inconveniences. 

We do not need to create a foot race to the silver lining. We don’t need to be in a hurry to turn these quarantine lemons (or cancer lemons, or any kind of lemon!) into a side hustle or a novel or a newfound fluency in three new languages.

Some of us are not there. Some of us are not okay. For some of us, this is not okay. Jobs have been lost, in an economy where most of us live precariously close to the edge and some of us have immense wealth. The weaknesses of our bodies are scary, but we are also frightened by the weaknesses of the systems we hoped to be stronger, or implied to be stronger.

I am not a designer — and apparently not a great observer, either. Because Chelsea’s design sets the word okay apart from the other four words.

It’s going to be.

It’s going to be scary.

It’s going to be hard.

It’s going to be okay.

Eventually. 

But right now? It’s just going.

The Hot Young Widows Club E-Course is a guide to grief work for widows created by Nora McInerny and holistic licensed psychologist Dr. Anna Roth. It dives into some of the most challenging and important aspects of grief to help you understand not only what is happening to you but what you can do about it. Sign up here!