Saturday, May 25, 2013

when there is no one to blame

Sometimes life simply happens . . .
sometimes life takes heartbreaking twists & turns, gets tangled in circumstances that are no one’s fault . . .  with utterly tragic results.   And in moments when the tragic results are personal, it is almost impossible to accept.    

We instinctively try to make sense of all that happens in our lives.  We desperately want to believe that someone is responsible for what happens – especially if what happens causes suffering.  Because, if we can find fault we can then see that the tragedy we are faced with could have been prevented. . . . and that it can be prevented from being repeated.  So, we have some measure of control.  

When the world seems far too unpredictable for our sense of safety, we often take the position that if we pray for protection then God will make sure that nothing bad happens to us or to the ones we love.  We need the assurance that our deepest prayers will be answered in the way we want and that if we “toe the line” all will be well.  We want to trust that there is a plan or a reason for what happens.  And if hurt descends upon our hearts, we want to know that someone is to blame for that.  

So, when we are faced with the undeniable fact that how we want it, isn’t the way it is, we become bereft.   Where do we turn?   Where is the solid ground?  We are left floating in the air of uncertainty . . . and frightened by the naked truth of that. We find we don’t understand the breadth and depth of God at all.  

At that point two things can happen . . . we can turn bitter and hard hearted in the sudden conviction that there is no Goodness in the world.  We can come to the cynical conclusion that life is just random and it doesn’t matter what we do as long as we look out for ourselves - whatever that takes. We are justified in our blaming because that is what makes the most sense to us. 


We can step back, slow down and make the effort to open our minds and hearts to a larger view. . . . a wider perspective.  We can stop and admit, “There is something here that I simply do not yet see or understand. Truth, God, Reality must all be bigger than I have perceived.”  We can accept that we don’t know, may never know for certain.  And when we open to that uncertainty, the way opens to a Grace, an Embrace, an atmosphere of Kindheartedness that is larger than we have imagined.  We can open to a trust in Goodness that is bigger than we knew – bigger than our view of the world or the truth – bigger than our time bound understanding of our lives.  We see that blame has no place because we are all acting in ways we think are right . . . and we can all be so deeply mistaken and confused about what is best in any given moment.  What we do feel then . . . is sorrow . . . deep heartfelt sorrow for the misunderstandings, the anger and the fear that often drive our actions toward each other.   We can feel agonizing sadness for the seemingly meaningless suffering that is possible.    

And  . . . we can also open to the reality of the opposite . . . to the beauty and peace and kindness that isn’t dependent upon anything we do or say.  It is simply there for us to take in . . . in the same way as the sorrow is there. . . . so often available to us in the most surprising places.  When we put down all our efforts to make life sensible to our limited understandings, then we can see and take in both extremes and begin to live between the sorrows and the joys . . . holding our arms outstretched to support and carry both. . . . even able to glimpse the moment joy and sorrow become all of one piece.  We are then ready to see more clearly how to respond in truth and honesty to what is in front of us.  We even recognize that when we live with this much openness . . . this much clarity . . . this much patience to wait . . . this much courage to feel . . . that the weight of what we carry becomes lighter and we recognize a freedom that is new. . . . and extraordinarily beautiful.  

Saturday, May 18, 2013

The Thing Is

to love life, to love it even
when you have no stomach for it
and everything you've held dear
crumbles like burnt paper in your hands,
your throat filled with the silt of it.
When grief sits with you, its tropical heat
thickening the air, heavy as water
more fit for gills than lungs;
when grief weights you like your own flesh
only more of it, an obesity of grief,
you think, How can a body withstand this?
Then you hold life like a face
between your palms, a plain face,
no charming smile, no violet eyes,
and you say, yes, I will take you
I will love you, again.

                                       by Ellen Bass

Saturday, May 11, 2013

Mother's Day is a hard one . . .

Mother’s Day is a hard day for bereaved moms.  And doesn’t that sound like the most ridiculous understatement?  “Hard” doesn’t even come close to describing it.  Perhaps excruciatingly confusing . . .

Because, in one way we wouldn’t take anything in the world for the privilege and blessing of having a child. . . . this child . . . each precious child in all their specific brilliance.   And yet many (if not all) bereaved moms would describe the loss of a child as THE worst pain she has ever felt. So when it comes to “celebrating” Mother’s Day, we can feel hopelessly confused and overwhelmed by the clash of emotions. 

For the children we thankfully still have, for the moments of tenderness we’ve been given to hold all our children, love them and feel their love in return. . . . for so many moments imprinted on our hearts that nothing can erase . . . we are endlessly grateful.  Think on these things . . . on the joys  . . . first.  Then when the ache comes, it will have a cushion of gratitude to rest on.

May your heart stretch to the width and depth it needs to take it all in. 

Friday, May 3, 2013

Poem for J

What she made in her body is broken.
Now she has begun to bear it again.
In the house of her son’s death
his life is shining in the windows,
for she has elected to bear him again.
She did not bear him for death,
and she does not.  She has taken back
into her body the seed, bitter
and joyous, of the life of a man.

In the house of the dead the windows shine
with life.  She mourns, for his life was good.
She is not afraid.  She is like a field
where the corn is planted, and like the rain
that waters the field, and like the young corn.
In her sorrow she renews life, in her grief
she prepares the return of joy.

She did not bear him for death, and she does not.
There was a life that went out of her to live
on its own, divided, and now she has taken it back.
She is alight with the sudden new life of death.
Perhaps it is the brightness of the dead one
being born again.  Perhaps she is planting him,
like corn, in the living and in the earth.
She has taken back into her flesh,
and made light, the dark seed of her pain. 

Wendell Berry, A Country of Marriage