Tucked in the middle of Jack Kerouac’s “belief & technique for modern prose” is the suggestion “19. accept loss forever.”
When I first got accepted to college, I didn’t consider the finality of moving on. I didn’t consider that “loss” might apply to the absence of a familiar face or needing directions to get to the store. In a few weeks, I will be hundreds of miles away from home and leave a peculiar hole behind. A chapter closes, a chapter opens. Life changes, and Kerouac is right, in the simplicity of his words and the resounding, downward finality of the last syllable. Time moves like the tide, not forward but upward, and you can drown, trying to hold on to memories like millstones. Life changes, and that is terrifying but inevitable. Accept loss forever.
But I like to take Kerouac’s nineteenth suggestion with the consolation directly underneath it: “20. believe in the holy contour of life.”
Holy contour of life, as sculpted by divine hands. As Catholics, we have the consolation of a plan that ultimately, we believe, has our best interests at heart. We believe in Christ as our rock, an eternal landmark over the water, a refuge if we have the courage to swim to it. Wherever we travel down the path of life, we never walk alone. No matter how many times our feet are swept out from underneath us, or change comes with an excruciating crack of broken bones (piecing the very self together again), we do not walk alone, but with a divine Creator at our sides. Always.
Compared to that, what is fear? Who are we to refuse to walk along a path created for each one of us individually by God: flowers, thorns, and all. But sometimes, the road ahead is cloudy, and we fear what we cannot see with clarity. We hesitate, glancing back to where we cannot go and ahead into the fog. The Prayer of Abandonment, written by Blessed Charles de Foucauld says: “Let your will be done in me… Into your hands I commend my soul: I offer it to you.” Our feet are meant for the path God has created for us, in all the twists and turns it contains, and we never walk alone, even hundreds of miles from home.
Life changes. It changes in hesitation or in hindsight. It changes for the better and best, and it changes in an outward spiral of entropy, where every best intention crumbles between your fingers. There is hubris, and the human condition of desperately grasping for control. Surrendering to God requires humility and undeniable bravery in matters great, but most often, small. Move forward and upwards, moment to moment, and though there are many things left behind and many yet to come, know that the contours of your life are holy, and no matter what else changes, there is always a hand to hold.