"In the deep waters of uncertainty, I hear Brother Rene's words: 'Do not give up hope.' What could this possibly mean for me — a woman in her forties, living without the children she had desired to birth, without her beloved sister, without the security of steady income, and who, at the end of a long day, cannot even count on a good night's sleep.
"I need to feel hope in my body.
"Swimming has become one of my ways of hoping. When I am immersed in the water, I no longer feel separate from what surrounds me, and in this union, I reconnect with my spirit.
"I have been swimming for as long as I can remember, first in a public pool, then in the shimmering, green Atlantic Ocean, and now in a university Olympic-sized pool. As I steadily move up and down the narrow lanes, I modulate my breath, surrendering to the rhythm of my strokes. The water seeps into my skin, covers my face, changing how I hear and the way I see.
"When swimming, I am always in the divine presence. I flow within the water, letting go into what holds me. Here, I find freedom and release, whether I am floating on the surface or plunging into the depth.
"I swim like I pray, by connecting the body and breath. It is a holy experience for me, and I talk about this with my spiritual director, who is trained to listen to and support others along their spiritual paths. We sit in her cozy office located on the ground floor of her home, in two cloth-covered chairs. We talk about the sacred dimension of my everyday life, which includes my commitment to swimming and the feeling of hope I get when I am moving with ease in the water.
"On one visit, my spiritual director pulls a silver frame off her bookshelf and shows me a black-and-white photograph of an Olympic diver in midair, in the graceful arc of a back dive. His arms are raised like open wings, as he eloquently drops back toward the water. The grace and freedom of the dive reminds me of Brother Rene, with his open arms, prostrate on the church floor during his jubilee Mass.
" 'That is surrender,' I exclaim, staring at the picture. "I imagine letting go with a high diver's sense of confidence and release, boldly springing off the diving board with complete faith."