Tag Archives: grief

Linger

Sit by the water’s edge

and rest.

Linger here,

without worry or hurry.

Feel the breeze that

brings life,

swirling around,

wild and untamed one minute,

gentle and caressing the next.

Listen for that little voice,

that tiny whisper,

inviting you to

immerse yourself in the silence surrounding you,

to dip into the quiet and

let it speak hope to your heart.

A shared experience

Twenty years ago, I was the director of a lay mission program, and I had gone to New York City on September 10 for dinner with two missioners who were heading to Swaziland.

The afternoon of the 10th, they had gone to our mission in Chinatown and climbed to the rooftop to take pictures—with the World Trade Center in the background.

Their families had come in from out of state, and after dinner, we had all gone to JFK to see them off.

I stayed in New York overnight, and the next morning, September 11, I was going to walk from Gramercy Park to Chinatown. I remember leaving the building that morning and looking up at the sky—it was clear blue, a perfect day for a walk.

And then the first plane hit, and then the second plane, and then there was chaos. Sirens blared and police cars and ambulances headed south—while cars, buses and pedestrians, covered in white dust, headed north.

I joined co-workers watching television coverage. One woman paced. Another prepared food. We all deal with shock in our own ways.  

I remember taking a walk in the afternoon and seeing a line of people waiting to use a pay phone (cell phones were not working). “I’m okay,” each person said into the phone and then quickly hung up so the next person could make a call.

I remember thinking that we were not okay. All around us, people were dazed, crying. We were frightened and wondered if there would be another attack.

Nothing made sense.

By evening, the streets were deserted. No taxis, cars or buses. Very few pedestrians. Just a very large security presence on every corner.

All trains had been halted, so I had no way of getting back to Philadelphia that night. Instead, I watched the burning rubble of the Twin Towers from my bedroom window—and called Amtrak every hour to see when trains would run again. I just wanted to get home.

I left for Penn Station around 4:00 a.m., walked up 19th Street to Broadway and turned right. As far as I could see, Broadway was deserted—no people, cars, buses—just total emptiness. The terrorists had succeeded in terrifying us.

Penn Station was filling up by the time I arrived, but it was unlike the Penn Station I had known just two days earlier. We had all experienced something unimaginable, and that experience created a bond stronger than any differences we may have had on September 10. Courtesy, kindness and sympathy shaped our interactions. Tears flowed freely. We were grieving.

I remember standing in line at a bakery in Penn Station the morning of September 12, exhausted and somewhat anxious about getting on a train. I ordered a bagel and coffee, and the man in front of me said, “Let me get that for you.”

I cried at his kindness.

It saddens me to see how divided our country has become over the past twenty years.

Unfinished

After my dad retired, my parents spent winters in Florida. Without her home and family to occupy her time, my mother took up a variety of hobbies, including painting. Lessons were offered at the community center in their RV park, and my mother became a prolific painter.

After she stopped going to Florida, my mom set up her easel in an upstairs bedroom at home and painted through her Michigan winters.

When we were clearing out her house last month, we found a painting she had not finished.  

hope-vulnerability-mindfulness

I took it home.

Something in this painting speaks to me—perhaps just because it is unfinished. It reminds me that we all leave things unfinished.

And I am not talking just about death.

When I left my job in July, I left plenty of things unfinished, projects for someone else to complete—or not. Once we are gone, someone else will pick up our works-in-progress and determine their fate.

I think that every time we make a change something goes undone.

With my work, I had to walk away without knowing the outcome of unfinished projects. I also walked away from work relationships—some old and some just beginning—leaving them without knowing where they might have gone, how they might have developed.

Every letting go is practice for the final letting go.

While looking for something in a closet a few months ago, I came across a white box I did not recognize. Inside was a knitting project I had started maybe fifteen years ago and had set aside when I switched jobs. The new job zapped all my energy, and I stopped knitting for a few years. Once I started knitting again, I hadn’t remembered this sweater, and it has sat unfinished all these years.

I was delighted to find it, and it brought back memories of a trip to Seattle and my visit to a well-known yarn shop where I bought this yarn.

Like my mother’s unfinished painting, this sweater reminds me of my own unfinishedness, of being a work-in-progress.

I am comfortable with being in process, comfortable living in the in-between spaces. Someone recently suggested I am standing on a precipice, and I agreed. My mother has died, and I have left my work—two cornerstones of my life, gone. What comes next is not entirely clear, and I want to stay open to the possibilities.

For now, though, I am trying to stay in that in-between space, where grief intersects with hope.

Weaving

Keep moving forward, the sage advises,

but what if I missed something as I sped by?

Some bit of wisdom or insight that

blurred at the edges and

seemed inconsequential as

I careened through my days

like a meteor on a collision course,

zigzagging to avoid encounters that could blind or maim.

Slow down,

look up,

pause for a minute,

turn around,

pick up the threads that dangle along the border and

weave them into the tapestry.

Making room

My tears flowed freely, and this time

I did not stop them.

Loud wails rose from deep within,

and I did not stop them.

Each sob seemed to come from some deeper place,

breaking apart layers of scar tissue,

unblocking paths I hadn’t known were there.

Could I risk plunging in,

free-falling into the abyss,

letting myself go under, and

be completely submerged?

Could I risk feeling that kind of deep sorrow,

immersing myself in it and

letting it take me down

until I feel like I am drowning,

until I cannot catch my breath.

Is that the way through the pain?

Is that the way to move beyond

the grief I carry inside,

to empty myself and

make room to live and love again?

Holding on or letting go

A friend once reminded me to “hold on loosely.” At the time, I was facing a great loss and was conflicted about holding on to what I was losing or letting it go.

I wanted to be finished with the pain and sadness of the impending loss. At the same time, I wanted to hold onto what had once been.

My friend used his hands to demonstrate how to hold on loosely—palms facing up and open, fingers spread just a bit apart. A colander came to mind—something that can both hold on and let go.

That image of his open hands (and the colander) has come back to me at other times of loss, and it occurred to me the other day as I thought of the death of my mother and the end of my work career.

Every day, I am reminded of both losses, and I try to be present to my grief when those reminders pop up.

My usual way of dealing with difficult emotions, though, is to stuff down my feelings and deny or delay the pain and sadness, even though I know it is healthier to allow the feelings of sadness and desolation to surface in their own time and to process them as they appear. Old habits are difficult to change, though, and this one is an ongoing challenge for me.

With every loss, we choose what we want to hold on to and what we want to let go. I am reminded of one of the gates of grief: Everything we love we will lose. Remembering this truth helps me hold onto the gift of what has been and let go of what falls through my open fingers.

loss-grief-vulnerability

Blue

I woke up this morning feeling the color blue.

Not a dark, foreboding shade like a stormy sky

nor a light, powdery color like the baby blue blanket

I am knitting for my niece,

but a lovely medium hue,

like the cornflower blue on the bedroom walls.

The color suffused me, filling me with

a sense of calm and optimism.

This was a new sensation, this feeling filled with a color, and

I wonder if it was a reaction to a dream that I do not remember or

if it is an indication of something to come.

Or could it be that now free from the responsibilities that once filled my life,

I have tapped into some new way of seeing, a different way of knowing.

Grief-hope-God

Rest

Getting away to the lake,

watching the sun rise and set

over calm water,

walking along the shore,

collecting stones.

Three ducklings entertain us as they stray and

then return at their mother’s call.

Dark clouds gather along the horizon and

the winds pick up.

We watch as the rain approaches.

There is nothing to be done but watch and

wait for the sun to return.

It is good to be here, resting.