The Voices of Wisdom Series continues …
NOTE: Ten days ago Kathy had a fall and broke her wrist. She is in a cast and one-handed typing is slow. She greatly appreciates your comments but will not be able to respond at this time. Her recent post tells the story as well as memoir writing highlights from the International Women’s Writing Guild Summer Conference. READ MORE
We’re wishing you a speedy recovery Kathy!
How My Dark Night of the Soul Led Me to a Deeper Faith
by Kathleen Pooler
You necessarily have to be lost, before you’re found.”
~ T. Scott McLeod, All That Is Unspoken
The “dark night of the soul “ is a term that originated with the writings of Saint John of the Cross in the 6th century. He refers to it as a journey in which “darkness represents the fact that the destination, God, is unknowable and the path is unknowable”. He postulates that ”the mind and body with their cares have been stilled” and “the only light in this dark night is that which burns in the soul. And that is a guide more certain than the mid-day sun. This light leads the soul engaged in the mystic journey to divine union.”
We’ve all had moments, often triggered by external events, when nothing makes sense anymore. Life as we know it changes forever in a moment.
My “dark night of the soul” came to me through a series of events over a twenty-five year period that rendered me lost and despairing—single parenting after two divorces from abusive marriages, a simultaneous battle of a cancer diagnosis and a teenaged son who spiraled into substance abuse. Everything I had thought would or should happen in my life collapsed around me.
For me, my “dark night of the soul” led me to a deeper faith.
As a “cradle Catholic, I was born into and brought up with the traditions and ceremonies of the Roman Catholic faith. I have, by conscious choice and deepening desire, remained true to these beliefs and teachings, except for a brief period in my twenties when I questioned and even rejected them.
My faith did not deepen until I had to face several life-altering, as well as, life-threatening events. It was then that my religion became my faith and my spirituality, the source of comfort and meaning in my life. Gradually.
This excerpt from my memoir, Ever Faithful to His Lead: My Journey Away From Emotional Abuse ddescribes how the memory of Great-Grandmother Rose Ranze, guided me through a dark night as I waited, pregnant and lonely, at the bay window for my husband. I stood wondering what condition he would be in after a night of drinking:
Sitting by the Bay Window, 1973
My slow, rhythmic breaths echoed through the quiet darkness and steadied the anxiety bubbling up from the pit of my stomach, colliding with my view of what I wanted and needed. My thoughts drifted to my great-grandmother.
Great Grandma Ranze, Mom’s grandmother, had been pregnant with her ninth child when her husband died at the age of thirty-three. Surely I can get through this. The memory of watching Grandma Ranze praying the rosary when I was eight-years-old warmed me as I sat at the bay window on that cold night.
Wrapped in a pink-knitted shawl, her long white hair pulled back into a neat bun, she had prayed with such fervor I was afraid to disturb her trance. As I walked beside her bed, she opened her eyes and smiled, reaching out to hold my hand. With rosary beads dangling, she continued to murmur her prayers in a soft, soothing drone.
“Katerina come-a-here,” she motioned while making the sign of the cross after kissing the tiny silver crucifix on the rosary beads.
As I sat on the edge of her bed, she pulled me close, the rosary beads woven around her worn, wrinkled fingers and kissed my forehead. The rosary beads tickled the back of my neck as I melted into her embrace.
“God-a–bless, God-a –bless,” she said. The musty scent of an old person lingered as she gently rubbed my back. Her soft, tiny hands felt smooth, like a plush leather glove.
I felt her gaze on me now and wondered if she were here what would she say to me as I sat lonely and anxious by the window. I grabbed my rosary beads and started praying. It made me feel close to her.
This scenario is just one of many over the twenty-five year period of my “dark night of the soul”. Faith is a gift given to me and nurtured in my childhood by Grandma Ranze. The visions of that tiny woman with her unwavering faith came to me in whispers and glimpses throughout my life as I faced my own challenges. She is still with me when I say my daily prayers.
“My faith became my anchor that brought me back to myself.”
God wasn’t lounging at a pool, watching a mountain sunrise or dreaming by a babbling brook. Nor was He locked up in the Tabernacle on the altar in church. He was on the battlefield with me, guiding me back into the light.
Simultaneous to the cancer journey was my young son’s spiral downward into alcoholism. The cancer was easier to deal with than watching my son’s descent. At least I had options for cancer treatment and felt some control. I had no control over my son’s addiction. So I prayed and leaned on my faith in God. I learned to hand my son over to God and let go of my need for control. And I never, ever gave up hope that God would heal me and my son.
The words of Grandma Rose echoed in my ears, “God will provide” and He did. That is the miracle of faith.
Having walked through these challenges—two abusive marriages, a life-threatening illness, and terror of loving and letting go of any addicted son has forced me to dig deeper to find the treasures of my faith within.
But now that I am on the other side of these challenges, I see God everyday in the people I love, nature, all the little things in life that matter.
My journey through the “dark night of the soul” has given me the gift of perspective about what really counts in life. It is through a deepening faith that I have seen the light.
Kathleen Pooler is an author and a retired Family Nurse Practitioner whose memoir, Ever Faithful to His Lead: My Journey Away From Emotional Abuse, published on July 28, 2014 and work-in-progress sequel, The Edge of Hope (working title) are about how the power of hope through her faith in God helped her to transform, heal and transcend life’s obstacles and disappointments: domestic abuse, divorce, single parenting, loving and letting go of an alcoholic son, cancer and heart failure to live a life of joy and contentment. She believes that hope matters and that we are all strengthened and enlightened when we share our stories. She lives with her husband Wayne in eastern New York.
CONNECT WITH KATHLEEN:
Read her weekly blogs at her Memoir Writer’s Journey blog.
LinkedIn: Kathleen Pooler
KATHLEEN’S SHORT STORIES:
“The Stone on the Shore” is published in the anthology: “The Woman I’ve Become: 37 Women Share Their Journeys From Toxic Relationships to Self-Empowerment” by Pat LaPointe, 2012.
“Choices and Chances” is published in the “My Gutsy Story Anthology” by Sonia Marsh, September, 2013.