Sunday, January 26, 2014

this is not John

In our support group, one of the recurring topics is the struggle of what to do with all the visible reminders of our beloved child. . . .   the room filled with memories, the clothes, the favorite toys.  When do we dismantle this physical evidence of their very tangible parts of our lives and how do we bear that? 

Well, one thing is for sure.  There is no need to rush this part.  The day will come when changing the immediate surroundings seems right, so it is good to simply give ourselves the patience to wait for the heart to let us know when that will be.

One of our support group moms taught us a lesson about this. 

They had lost their 9 month old baby, John.  He had been sick since birth, so their lives were filled with intense and constant care giving for him.  When he died they felt the immense abyss of his absence . . . going from constant-moment-to-moment-attention to silence.  The change was so hard.   So having his “things” – his crib and the rocking chair in the nursery, the jump chair in the middle of the den and the baby bottles in the kitchen – having all these reminders of the strength of his presence in their family was important. She sometimes worried that she couldn’t put things away, but our group helped her be patient with that.   

Then one evening she arrived to our gathering saying she had put his bottles away.  It was a huge step.  So, we asked how she did that.  And she said,

            “Well, I picked up one bottle and said, “This is not John.”
             And put It in the cabinet.
            Then I picked up the next bottle and said, “This is not John”.
             And put it in the cabinet. 
            That is how I did it . . .  one bottle at a time, remembering I still
            had him with me.”

The courage of that moment is palpable.  It takes our hearts time to learn that these tangible things are not what we really need . . . and that what we need, we have.  Forgetting our child is so frightening, but eventually we realize that forgetting is impossible. 

Saturday, January 11, 2014

finding our rhythm again

                                                                           "Live like the river flows."
                                                                                          John O'Donohue  

Saturday, January 4, 2014

cultivating the habit of peace

Grief can sometimes feel like a disease we’ve contracted, like a sickness that steals our energy and sense of well being.  It can feel like a weight that we cannot put down, so that our very way of walking is heavy laden.  What goes with that feeling is an intense need for something to lift the heaviness, if only for a moment.  

Grief can sometimes feel like gasping for spiritual breath.  It can feel like our soul is starving for a sense of serenity and calm we can only barely remember. What goes with that feeling is the need to become aware that some truths are still unchanged, some goodness still remains.  

I remember in the early days and weeks after our son died, I would take walks.  I was mired in a loss I could barely comprehend and something in me needed to move even though I had no where to really go.  But, as I walked our new neighborhood, I noticed that I frequently encountered the same woman who always smiled at me and said, “Have a good day.”  Her presence and her blessing felt like a dose of medicine and I began to watch for her and wait for that encouragement.  Slowly, I was beginning to carry our loss and the presence of goodness, beauty and tenderness all in one embrace. 

Thich Nhat Hanh, the Buddhist sage, says that “cultivating the habit of touching peace in each moment” is an antidote to whatever steals our energy and saps our spiritual strength.  

I believe this is true.  It can be the very air we need to regain our spiritual breath.   

One reason this suggestion has integrity to me is because it doesn’t pretend to replace the sadness that is appropriate to the loss of this precious life?  Rather it is possible to learn to stretch big enough to feel both truths at the same time.  “Touching something” doesn’t take a lot of effort or time, in fact, it can happen instantly.  It can be simple . . . no more complicated than remembering to stop and look.  

So . . . begin to notice whatever is in your path . . . the smiles that are offered, the way the sunlight streams in the window, the day’s first bird song.  With each wave of sorrow, intentionally stop and look for something that still nourishes your spirit.