The Incredible Endurance of Grief

A gift-wrapped, autographed copy of Diana Nyad’s book Find A Way came in the mail today but I don’t know from whom.

For a minute, I thought maybe I’d ordered it in some drunken haze but I quit that business a long time ago. Drunken glows, which have continued to some degree, don’t result in nearly as many purchases. Besides it’s unlikely, even drunk, that I would order something gift-wrapped for myself.

Whoever sent it knows that I admire Diana Nyad for her incredible toughness. Oh, I also admire her swimming ability and her stamina. Obviously, someone who swam from Cuba to Key West is a remarkable athlete. But the real admiration is about her being undaunted by failure, about deciding to try again after having been swarmed by poisonous jellyfish, about being 62 and declaring in the most public way possible that she was trying again.

Little girls have heroes. So do big ones.

So the book came on an opportune day. I am reflecting on toughness while I watch two friends force their lives to go on after the deaths of their children. And I am thinking that Diana Nyad’s got nothing on them. These strokes my friends are swimming are painful and endless. We pull up next to them in our comfortable boats and call out. “Do you need water?” “Do you need food?” Then we cheer them on, tell them they are in our thoughts and prayers. And all the while they keep swimming while their tears fill the entire ocean. There’s nothing we can do, those of us in our little escort boats, but offer water and food. Still, they keep swimming. Day turns to night and they keep swimming. The seasons change, they keep swimming. Their strokes are steady – stroke, stroke, breath, stroke, stroke, breath. The arc and splash of their arms, one after the other, mesmerizes, stills our thinking. We love them but we can do nothing for them.

So I am grateful for the book, so very honored that someone would think of me and send me something that they know is so meaningful to me. I will keep the book forever and I promise to “Dare Greatly” as Diana Nyad wrote. But I’ll also remember that among all the people I know, there are at least two women who can outswim Diana Nyad. It seems impossible, unbelievable. But it’s true. I am a witness. I am watching from my boat.


6 Comments on “The Incredible Endurance of Grief

  1. Pingback: Honoring those grieving | Kim Kabar

  2. This metaphor is perfect, this essay SO moving. Thank you Jan. Thank you for your heart.

    PS: ANY of your many Facebook friends know of your profound admiration for Diana. Finding the culprit may take a while!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thank you. The metaphor seems to exactly describe the feeling of being a bystander to someone’s immense tragedy. It’s just how I’ve been feeling.


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