Tuesday, April 10, 2012

The Grit Without the Glue

Why would the missing be less when the person has been gone longer?  The only truth I find to that is that you aren't as used to the person being there anymore so their physical absence might not be as acutely felt as the first of everything.  But still- felt.  The missing itself- is more.

I think about how strange the grief process is - how you have these two opposing things going on from the beginning- how you know so definitively of the death and how you only catch glimpses of it and it unfolds over many, many months.  They say the brain protects you, but I've been apt to think it's the mind that knows and the soul that doesn't.  Even now, when I am just waking from sleep and the line of consciousness is blurred, it sometimes hits me and it's as if I'm waking back up from reality-- into a dream...the dream that is now my life.

Tonight while bathing Audrey I quickly hide my tears and pretend to eat my piece of "fish pie" while my mind meanders back to the second day for some reason.  It was the first time I truly broke down.  How could I break down when I received the news and my 20 month old was there.  I didn't.  I called people.  I did things.  I was up all night starting to plan the funeral, chatting with people, sending emails, trying not to close my eyes and envision the horrific truth.  (This was before I got Tylenol PM)  But the next day at some point, while someone was watching Audrey that morning, I closed my bedroom door and sat in your chair at your desk.  I started to listen to the music you had on your computer- loudly.  I put on your baseball hat that was sitting on top of one of your speakers.  The people in the next room, Audrey's wooden puzzles with the transportation sounds, faded away.  I cried out, "Please, please don't leave me.."and more quietly..."Come back...come back..." looking into your eyes in a photo for what might have been a few hours.  Removed from time, I sobbed and cried out alone, for the first time.

In my mind I was prepared to write a riveting post on here about Easter.  After all, this is the one day a lot more people are supposed to be joining me sitting around meditating on the meaning of life, life after death, resurrection, hope...in the end, I didn't feel like being topical and none of my thoughts made it into anything coherent.  Strangely on Good Friday I felt the empowerment.  On Saturday, depression set in, and by Sunday it really hadn't improved.

A while ago, an acquaintance shared a quote from a Madeline L'Engle book with me: "Someone tells me of a story of a bishop who lost his wife and child in a tragic accident.  And he said to his people, 'I have been all the way to the bottom.  And it is solid.'  I had been hoping to find this same truth.  But perhaps I'm not at the bottom yet.  I can relate more to the words of the older, genteel orthopedist I saw who, after looking at my MRI, said, "I've got nothing to hang my hat on."

I did, however, come up with a new analogy for what it's like- since that's really all you can do for most of life- give an example of what it's like.  It's like suddenly losing all of the cushioning pads or discs in between your vertebrae and being left with just the brittle bone.   Or maybe more like brittle bone disease- a Christian surgeon, Dr. Paul Brand, describes that disease this way, " When this occurs, the victim's bone consists of deposits of calcium without the organic material welding them together- the grit without the glue."  The grit without the glue.

I will say this about the Christian faith and the hope that it offers.  It is the only philosophy that offers this hope - of resurrection- of real, raised bodies living on a completely new earth one day- not spirits floating in the sky playing harps, etc.  And whether much of it makes sense to me or not these days, I have never been so appreciate that it is there.  Just that it exists.  And that I live in a country where I can freely hear it.  Because it really is good news.  The gist of it anyway.  Buechner writes, "It can be a very powerful and beautiful occasion proclaiming that even in a mad and murderous world like ours, which no longer believes in much of anything, there are still people who believe that this miracle of all miracles actually took place, or who at least long to believe it, at least believe that it is of all miracles the one that would be most wonderful to be able to believe if only they could. "  This is perhaps where I am- this last part, the most wonderful to be able to believe if only they could.

Earlier in the Holy Week before the sadness again overtook me, I was feeling quite strong.  I was surprised myself by my determination to be joyful.  I wondered to myself what material my heart could be made of- I am resisting as best I can letting it become hardened like a bone.  But at the same time, it's impossible for it to be soft.  After the kind of heavy saturation it's endured, I envision it like a dried out sea sponge or pumice.  But then a very different image appears in my mind: leather.  It's like leather.  Distressed, soft, strong.

And then I remember a story a friend I used to speak to weekly the first year shared with me on the phone one night.  How a pastor at her conservative Episcopal church had gone to visit a couple in the hospital who'd just had a baby and that baby had died shortly after birth.  He wasn't a charismatic pastor or priest by any means, but quietly described that when he'd gone into that hospital room, he saw angels.  My friend began to cry..."and he said, 'These were working angels...their wings were like leather...like leather.' "

  "For if the dead are not raised, then Christ has not been raised either.  And if Christ has not been raised, your faith is futile; you are still in your sins.  Then those also who have fallen asleep in Christ are lost.  If only for this life we have hope in Christ, we are of all people most to be pitied." 1 Cor 15

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