Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Treasure


He spends his waking hours running from one thing to another, scaling up chairs just to find the sure footing for a swan dive deep into cushions.  He tears through the pages of a book and the blocks of a tower with both speed and zeal.  As my knees and palms pound the hardwood floor, he straddles my waist while he roars like a lion and growls like a bear, washing his face in delight. 

Though he passes the time during the day with his foot always on the petal, this boy-child receives the sweet, thick gift of sleep like a spoonful of honey.  When the clock strikes seven o’clock, as if on cue, his deep roars become soft moans as he slowly crawls onto cushions only to gently rest his head. 

But Sunday night he awoke from his honey sleep with such a jolt that his cry snapped me right off the couch.  His bedroom door creaked as I opened it, pouring light into the dark, causing his water-filled eyes to squint.  I scooped him up, quick as a spank, and landed him softly on my chest.  His small arms tucked inside my wrap while he found his exhale.  My steady heartbeat anchored his that raced, and his little body relaxed to the whispering of ancient hymns.  Soon, wails turned to whimpers that folded into silence.

This child, who constantly knocks on the door of boyhood in the daytime rays of the sun, is all settled into infancy in the nighttime light of the moon.  He moves with such force in the waking hours, that to have a moment of still with him in the night is rare treasure, reminding me that my most precious gifts are wrapped in the paper of ordinary.  These days, most of the time, I feel far from heaven.  But on this night, in this dark room, with the curls of the wild child resting on my shoulder, I watch his chest rise and fall in step with his breath and I swear, I hear the angels sigh.    


Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Grief as a Six-Month-Old

It is strange to me now the thoughts that crawled into my mind during the first twenty -four hours after Webb died.  One thought that confuses me most was my focus on and fear of the day that would mark six months since he died.  When my friend came to hold me in those early hours of grief, I begged her to remember me, to remember Webb on April 22, a day six months and a lifetime away

Perhaps in those first, raw hours I did not believe that I could live another minute without my son and the thought of six months was more than I could bear.  It could be that I was scared that life would move on without Webb and I wanted a witness to testify that she would never forget.  Or maybe the pain that stood in front of my face was too deep a valley and too steep a mountain, so I shifted my gaze to the future.  While staring at that future, perhaps panic arose that hours might turn to days that would roll into months.  Months would pile on top of each other until they accumulated to form one half of a year. 

Now I am days away from April 22, six months since my son leapt into God’s arms. Mysteriously, I am still here and miraculously, there is still life.  This life now carries with it the grief that was born the day that Webb died.  For when Webb quietly slid from earth to eternity, so began the labor pains from birthing this mighty Grief

For the first weeks and months after Grief’s birth, caring for this infant was all I could do.  Grief and I held each other tightly while tears pattered down, keeping time with longing’s sad lullaby.  Grief called out in the night, and though I was totally depleted from carrying her all day, I could not ignore her cries in the dark.  I would get up to rock her back to sleep, eventually finding the peace that leads to rest.  When I took the first, brave steps out of the house with Grief strapped to my chest, it seemed that everywhere I went people commented on her presence.  Such a short time ago, I was just myself, comfortable, easy and secure.  But with Grief’s arrival, I became the “One who carries Grief” and it seemed that everywhere I went strangers knew me only by my new name. 

This child was unpredictable.  She would not be tamed by a schedule or pinned down to a routine, though I tried with might to enforce them.  Just when I thought I had her under control, she would rear up and roar with a force that knocked me to my knees.  I would fling open my Bible in desperation, looking for answers and instructions on how to mother this unruly child.  Time and time again, I found that the Word offered me no instructions for control, but rather steps for surrender.  And ultimately, prayer was the only cure to calm the colic

Now this Grief is a six-month-old.  She sits up all by herself, and though she never leaves my sight, she does not cling to me constantly.  While I carry her with me as I take bigger, braver steps out of the house, she has shifted from being strapped to my chest to resting on my hip.  I am now more accustomed to her cues and triggers and I know the places, the sounds, and the smells that will awake her.  I don’t avoid these triggers, but shift Grief around a bit, finding the way to carry her most comfortably through them.  She is still unpredictable, refusing to submit to any schedule or routine that I try to implement.  But I am learning that this is simply her nature.  No mothering will nurture it out of her. Though some days I do not think that I have the strength to care for all that this child asks of me, I am slowly learning that my weakness is the only true response to her demands.

It has been six months since Webb died.  It has been six months since I first stared into Grief’s dark eyes.  Six months ago I did not know how I would survive a minute, much less a half of a year without my beloved son.  And even today, I am not sure that I know the answer.  But what I do know is that resting deep in the cushions of a holy chair, I cradle the joy of Webb’s life with one arm while holding the pain of his death in the other.  It is in the refining midst of this rocking that I begin to conceive of the possibility of a new child.  Oh, if I am honest, I will admit that I do not yet know her face, but the smallest hope of her arrival is enough for today.  For somehow, mysteriously and miraculously, pain and joy will come together to give birth to the most precious babe of Peace.  And when I do finally hold Peace deep between my joy and my pain, I will know for sure that this indeed is a child of God.   



Thursday, April 12, 2012

The Whisper of the Waves


I stood in awe on the shore of the Atlantic Ocean two weeks ago, the first time without Webb. It was neither the beauty of the beach nor the magic of the scene that spurred my awe, but it was the fact that the ocean was still there at all. The sea was still moving, still stirring as if nothing had changed. I knew returning would be hard, and I was prepared for a myriad of emotions ranging from disappointment to despair. I was not prepared to feel surprised by the routine of the ocean’s movement. Surveying the vast canvas, this grey sheet slicing through blue sky, I did not drop my head to weep as I thought I would, but instead I tilted it in complete bewilderment. 

I suppose I had assumed the ocean would wait for me to return, to ask my permission to continue to spit out waves and suck in surf.  I thought I would meet a silent and still sea and then slowly raise my arms, with palms facing up in the way that a priest summons his congregation to rise. This wordless motion would be my command to the water that it was to return to its movement and work. And when my arms would rise above my shoulders, the dam would break and the seas would roar again, simply because I was ready.

But it wasn’t as I thought it would be. It turns out that the ocean did not wait for me to allow its release. In fact, Webb’s death had not stopped the waves from crashing or the current from pulling. The thought occurred to me for the first time that even on the morning that he died, these salty seas continued to spread across the beach, then slip back into the expanse, always at work, always in motion.

I watched as the ocean moved with predictability and rhythm to the silent metronome of the tides, as it has done since God first spoke it into place. I surveyed the beach, freckled with thousands of shells, miniature gravestones of the sea animals they once housed and protected. My toes dug deep into the millions of tiny grains piled on top of and beside each other, weaving a blanket of sand. It was all just as I had left it when Webb was alive. In the way that I balked at the sun that rose the morning after he died, I sighed deep realizing that the beach, too, had continued moving to life’s rhythm. His death had not silenced the seas just as it had not squelched the morning sun. Though the foundation of my earth was shaken with a force strong enough to shift the continents, the sea did not feel even the echo of a tremor. And I stood on the shore in awe of it all.

In the presence of this ocean that churns life with such power that even death cannot slow its movement, I felt quite sure that one of the grains of sand beneath my feet could easily swallow me whole. And yet while I marveled at the water as it rolled over my toes and slid back off, constant rhythm, constant life, I suddenly awoke to the truth that these waves whisper. Though the events of my life are indeed small enough to tuck into one tiny grain of sand, they are part of an infinitely bigger work of art. For the Maker of these seas hems in waters and releases waves as He raises and lowers His brush dipped in eternity’s paint. Though the hues of His strokes seem dark and bleak, the waves promise me that He is indeed, still painting. And when this canvas is one day viewed in Heaven’s light, it will shine with such beauty and bright that my knees will bow down and my tongue will praise the Creator of a perfect masterpiece. No, Webb’s death did not silence the seas, and it did not squelch the morning sun. For the one true Artist never once dropped His brush that is always at work, constant life, constant rhythm.  


Sunday, April 8, 2012

Drip, Drip, Drip

See this post

“This earthly life, even for church-goers, is a mere shadow land, but soon we will live resurrected in the bright glory of reality.  The Last Battle, the final volume of C.S. Lewis’s Narnia chronicles, pictures the end of time. Aslan-the lion who represents Jesus-has returned, folding all of culture and humanity into his kingdom. In the novel’s last pages, he tells Lucy, a child from London, that everyone she knew back in Blighty is dead and raised to new life. 

And as Aslan spoke, writes Lewis, ‘the things that began to happen…were so great and beautiful that I cannot write them.  And for us this is the end of all the stories, and we can most truly say that they all lived happily ever after. But for them it was only the beginning of the real story. All their life in this world and all of their adventure in Narnia had only been the cover and the title page: now at last they were beginning Chapter One of the Great Story, which no one on earth has read: which goes on forever: in which every chapter is better than the one before.’ 

On Easter, we glimpse the beginning of Chapter One.”

Lauren F. Winner, Girl Meets God p. 193-194




Thursday, April 5, 2012

Good Friday


She didn’t have to say a word. I took one quick dip in her eyes, and they told me the whole, sad story. She knew my name and I learned hers and in an instant we knew each other deeply. We have both buried our young sons, and these tragedies are the ties that bind. As we held each other during this divinely orchestrated meeting last weekend, I muttered the simple words, the only words that mean much at all in such a sacred moment, “Me too. Yes, me too.” 

On this Good Friday, the weight of the day presses heavily on my chest. I feel a puddle of tears mounting behind my eyes. Yes, these eyes are fixed on the Cross and to the Christ. My thoughts attempt to wrap themselves around the love that drove this King to death and the passion that led Him to pour out blood. But on this Good Friday, while my eyes and thoughts center on Jesus, my heart is drawn to his mother, Mary. 

I know so little about this woman, this saint. I know not her sense of humor or preferences in food. I don’t know her personality type. Was she loud or reserved? Did she walk into a room and fill it with such glory that all heads and hearts were instantly drawn to her? Or did she quietly slip in, settle into her place in the periphery and draw heads and hearts subtly one at a time? Was she an anxious mother, always worried about dangers and “what-ifs”? Or perhaps she was more laid back, confident and trusting, selective about her stressors. I can hold the facts that I have about her life in the palm of my small hand. Yet I know that this woman, this saint, was also just a mother who buried her young son. And on this Good Friday, this is all I need to know to understand her deeply. As my eyes are fixed on that Cross and my heart drifts to this mother, in this most sacred moment, I whisper to her the only simple words that I know to say, “Me too. Yes, me too.”

For centuries, theologians and scholars have studied the events of the crucifixion and the significance of Jesus’ death. Poets and artists have portrayed the depths of His passion poured out on the cross through words and paints. Priests and pastors have proclaimed the power of His sacrifice citing Old Testament promises made and New Testament promises kept. Hymns have been written, and praises have been sung. But on this Good Friday, my first one since burying my son, I am sure of one thing. When Jesus cried out in pain and despair, “My God, My God, why have you forsaken me?” He stepped into the darkest and deepest pain that history will ever know. And He chose this pain so that as He hears my own cries of despair, He will know me deeply and be able to whisper these simple words, “Me too. Yes, me too.”