Sunday, October 28, 2012

how long is long enough ?

Perhaps the deepest sense of anguish for those of us who bear the loss of a child is the feeling that their lives were cut short.  We can list the many things they will not get to do, be, or share.  And worse, we can list the many ways and times we will miss them for the rest of our own lives. It can take on the strength of a litany of sorrows.  

But, what if we consider that there are ways in which their lives were enough? . . . were in some way whole, despite the length ?

It takes time to even allow such considerations to enter a broken heart . . . but even a glimpse is a start.

his life was enough

his life was enough
          enough to endlessly flood our hearts with memories
          enough to imprint our souls with his tenderness
          enough that his laughter echoes in our ears
                   and his smile lights up our eyes

his life was enough
          enough to litter the world with friends
                    who treasure his part in who they are
          enough to hear his whispers of encouragement and
                   feel his delight in our joy

his life was enough
his life is enough

entwined with ours
          in wholeness, not days

pure gift

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

untangling the knot of resentment

One of the most difficult parts of grief – especially when it is complicated – is the resentment that can take hold in our hearts. 

To look out at the world that has suddenly gone all wrong and find “the cause” is such a normal reaction.  We immediately look for reasons to make sense of what has happened. If we know “the cause” then we can turn our attention to that and avoid the searing inner pain for a little while; we can know the power of being right instead of the devastation of loss; we can see the path ahead of us as a march toward justice, instead of allowing ourselves to feel the hurt of the moment.  But, understandable though it may be, resentment throws up blocks to our healing. . . . no matter how justified it may feel. 

This may sound harsh or, even worse, like a refusal to “do something” about the wrong that has occurred.  But, tempering feelings of resentment doesn’t mean that we do not act if there are important responses to make.  It does, however, mean that we know that our actions are more effective, more honest, when they do not originate out of knee-jerk anger.  

So, what do we do instead ?   How do we manage such normal reactions ?

One way is to simply slow down. . . . although slowing down isn’t simple.  It is more like untangling a knot, one confused turn at a time.  Relaxing helps and limiting the scope of what we take on helps.  Doing what we need to do in order to feel what this loss has created in our hearts and our lives is critical.  Not all at once . . . in small bites . . . with moments of relief and distraction scattered along the way. . . . but, courageously, with time, by confronting the reality of what has happened – anger and all  - we can find the way past the anger.   

By going slowly,  the energy emerges to begin to look at the circumstances that surround loss in all their reality . . . from various perspectives . . . as honestly as possible . . . allowing each question, each injustice, one at a time to fall open.  In this way, step by step, resentment has a chance to be heard, to cool and to transform into an appropriate response, born of honest heartfelt, peace-making intention.    

Thursday, October 18, 2012

drought relief

We lived through a terrible drought about a year ago and the desolate dryness of that time is etched in my memory.  Now my response to rain is altogether different.  Even though I've always loved the sudden rumbles of thunder, the soft sound of a shower running off the roof , blowing through the trees, still after all that parched and harsh heat, rain represents an even greater and more precious gift.   

Recently we had rain in our forecast.  I went outside early that morning to sit on our covered patio and wait.  As thunder echoed its approach and I smelled the sudden freshness in the air, relief seemed to permeate my whole body.  It is a feeling I'm familiar with from a different kind of drought.

When loss sinks into the depths of your heart, there is a pervasive inner pain that longs for relief.  Blessedly, if we can pay attention, it will come . . . . sometimes briefly,  sometimes from the most unlikely and unexpected sources . . .  a brightly colored hotair balloon high up in the clouds drifting with the wind, the quick glimpse of a rainbow - complete with all its colors, sun sparkling and dancing over the water, a dog's wet nose kiss, the startling brilliance of a blossom that wasn't there yesterday, children's giggly noise, a full moon in the dark sky, spontaneous laughter or the almost endless changing glow of sunset. 

When we are blessed to take in such gifts, relief rushes in without warning, maybe only for a moment, but that moment reminds us of the Beauty that cannot be destroyed and pours hope into a parched soul. 


saturating our thirst
slowly feeding our need in steady offerings
washing the dust of drought
and doubt
til hope emerges and
trust is revived

in deep renewing breaths our hearts come alive again
drinking in the nourishment of honest vulnerability
at peace in the truth of the moment that opens the way
a precious surprise
once again
grace rains down
and brittle souls gasp back to life

Tuesday, October 9, 2012

step by slow step

Several years ago our family had an incredible adventure.  We rafted into the Grand Canyon where after 6 days on the river, we then hiked 7 miles up the Kaibab Trail to the top.  It was hard, exciting, exhausting, beautiful and unforgettable.  I’ve remembered and learned from that experience over and over again.

The first part of the trip on the river was pure joy.  Slowly sinking into the heart of the earth, quietly allowing the river to take us into a whole different world, camping by the undulating constant flow of water made any problem you brought with you seem less crucial.  Even the white water stretches were exciting, not frightening.  But . . . when we reached the section of the river where we were to leave the rafts and begin our hike out, things changed.  I looked down at my two legs and thought . . . can these pitiful looking things get me out of here?  And to add to my concern, our river guides seemed unusually worried about our water provision.  They kept checking to be sure all our water bottles had electrolyte replacement added.  So, my already tentative confidence was compromised even further.  What if I couldn’t do this ?  But I didn’t have a choice. 
It was the only way.

In my determination to trust my legs to carry me,  I started out strong.  It was very hot and I quickly grew tired.  About half way up, I began to drag and could feel serious doubts building.  Then two things happened to boost my confidence.  First, a park ranger came down the trail on a mule telling us that they had put extra water up the trail for us.  Whew!  I drained one of my bottles and felt instantly better.  Then our daughter, who was several switchbacks ahead of us, came back to walk with us.  Her Peace-Corps -savvy-advice was to slow down . . . she reminded us that we had all the time we needed to get to the top.  With the assurance of the nourishment I needed and this wise and strong young woman joining us with her steady pace, I relaxed into the journey.  As my mind eased and my body found a more sustainable rhythm I could look around and see the amazing beauty of the canyon, notice how far I’d already come and feel the strength building within me to make it.

Grief is like that . . . while we didn’t train for this one and certainly never planned to take this journey, we can still find our way out of this abyss.  We can drink from the nourishment offered, listen to the advice of those who have traveled this road and welcome those who willingly walk with us to steady our pace.  And as we lean into the journey, we can find a way to relax, to listen with the ear of our heart to the precious voice of the one we miss encouraging us to keep going.  We can notice that while we may not be out of the depths yet and while we have moments when we must sit down and rest from the effort . . . still, we know we aren’t as breathless and frightened as we were in the beginning.   

Step by slow step . . . patience by compassionate patience . . . strength by soft strength we will make it.