Brace Yourself

Shared by Steven Sundstrom on April 7, 2021
I know how much La Tia and her husband Bryant enjoyed going to the movies. When you look through the new movies, you read the synopsis and choose what you’re in the mood for. I know La Tia and Bry often went to see scary movies or suspense movies. When you go to see a movie that’s made to take your breath away, you brace yourself.

However, when someone in our lives, someone we love, someone who has brought so much color and fulfillment to our otherwise regular, humdrum days, takes their last breath, we are unprepared. We don’t know the synopsis of life, so we often think, “Maybe it’ll be like a romantic comedy. Something to sit back and enjoy. Have a laugh, munch on some popcorn,” and then at the end we hope to say, “Hmm, I actually liked it!”

But we all know life isn’t like that. There is no singular genre to life. Life contains all of the genres of movies, and there is no telling what one moment will resemble against another. It is suspenseful, but we can’t live our entire lives in a state of suspense, so we let our guard down.

In life, it’s only when something happens do we realize “the genre” has changed, and it is time to brace yourself. We have to, because we don’t know what comes next, but it’s after the fact. Since we’re already in it, there’s a feeling of being cut and hiding our eyes from our own wound. If we allow ourselves the faith and the wherewithal to do so, we step back just a little, and we observe our emotional state. We accept that this turn in the plot is not what we expected. This twist hurts.

We look around the theater and the audience is full of those that care about us. They are also hurting. They are also bracing for the next scene. We all cover our eyes, sometimes to hide a tear.

The word brace comes from the Latin bracchium, which means arm. It’s as if we are an arm’s length from ourselves as we try to hide from life. We are doing our best in those moments to reassess this world and our place in it. We brace ourselves for the impact, knowing it will hurt. Unlike in the movies, this hurts in our souls. This ache causes us to seize up and hold our breath for a moment. In that moment, we reassess. We deserve to take it at our own pace. To recalibrate our breath now that the quality of the oxygen we breathe seems forever changed.

When we’re ready, we look around the auditorium again. We realize the seats next to us, behind us, and before us are filled with others: bracchia, arms extended. If we are ready, we allow that clasping of our own hearts to loosen. The armor we put on to guard against impact can be loosened so we can let in the empathy of others. We embrace others that can empathize with how we are feeling. They do not know exactly how we feel, but they know the hurt; they are feeling pain too. The Old French word bracier, to embrace reminds us that when we brace our hearts for the impact, the best armor to withstand the pain is to embrace those we love, embrace ourselves and allow the grief to express itself.

Through tears, we peek through our fingers at the scary parts of the movie, and look for a sign that it’s safe again. This time, reminded that this is not an easy-breezy movie, but a life full of the unexpected.

La Tia loved the suspense of a good movie. She loved so many things about life and shared that joy with those around her. We all have our stories of how she made us smile. She once told me, a little embarrassedly, that she would chew on a blanket while watching movies sometimes. I loved her stories because at the heart of each one was a signal that she did not take lightly what life has to offer. She grasped it, she braced herself, she embraced it, and she lived fully. I hope each one of us whose heart she touched is reminded of the smile she inevitably put on our faces, at one time or another, and likely repeatedly, til it hurt. You don’t brace yourself for that. You welcome it until your cheeks hurt, and your tummy is tight, and you take another breath. When you remember La Tia, remember that feeling.

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