A few days later I had a birthday breakfast with some of my girlfriends from college. One of my friends, Leah, gave me a gift and asked me to open it while we were waiting to get our table. As I undid the tissue paper wrapping and saw the small cream-colored drawstring bag I remember thinking that there was “no way” my friend knew about The Giving Keys. BUT she did!
The word on my necklace was strength. Leah told me that she had prayed about what word to give me and that God had pressed that word for me on her heart. I thought I knew why I needed that word. I thought I would need a lot of strength to get through my last semester and a half of graduate school/work/fieldwork/major big tests. But that was only a small part of the reason.
A few months after my friend gave me that key my Mom passed away. It was unexpected and heartbreaking. I miss her SO much. Her passing also brought other things to the surface that I had not healed well from and I found myself facing many of my biggest fears all at once. I knew my Mom would want me to finish my program and I also knew she would want me to take care of myself, but I was having a hard time trying to figure out how to do everything myself.
During this time I recognized the need to find out what having strength really meant to me. I learned, and am still learning, that vulnerability is beautiful. I acknowledged and defeated the lies I had created in my mind surrounding crying and became okay with shedding tears that cleanse my soul. And I also began to welcome help from others during times when I was, and am in need. My strength during this time has been my willingness to acknowledge my own loss and grieve and to share with others how much my Mom meant to me. That is how I can allow her to live on and leave a beautiful legacy, and that is how I have been able heal and become a more beautiful me.
During the time I had my key, I started out wearing it nearly every day then, slowly, I started only wearing it with particular outfits. Soon, I was wearing it only once and awhile. This past week on the day that I wore my key, the door opened for me to pay it forward.
I knew the time had come as I sat talking with a co-worker who had decided to quit her job and was struggling with her decision. She didn’t have a new job to go to and she wasn’t retiring, but the current job she had wasn’t working out for her and her family. She had misgivings regarding how others would see her and how leaving would be creating more work for the staff that were still there, people she cared about. As I sat there trying to support her she mentioned the word strength. She talked about how she needed it now and for the future and I knew immediately that it was time to give my key to its new owner.
I shared about how I’d gotten the key and how she too had a responsibility now too to pay it forward. She wanted me to keep it at first, but I told her I’d always carry it with me and that it wasn’t really mine anymore, nor would it be hers forever. It would be something for her to remember our office by: that we sent her with strength for the next steps in her journey.