In Finite Sadness

If I ever had a post go viral, it was this one. I still get traffic and comments on it, because people hate clichés, they hurt. No one wants their deepest pain to be dismissed, over generalized, or completely misunderstood.

Death is unbearable and it deserves all the, confused, hurt, angry expletives you want to throw at it. Go ahead, I won’t judge.

My Aunt Sue passed away in her sleep earlier this week. A month or so ago she fell down the stairs, broke many bones, fought her way through surgery and rehab and a lot of pain.

We were so thankful to have her back. She was home for five days before dying in her sleep and we have no idea what happened. We are in shock,

It doesn’t make any sense, I have a few expletives.

Her sister, my other aunt, said this in a recent email: “How much sadness can there be in the world?”

I was thinking over that question this morning while cleaning up the breakfast dishes. Dishes, in my house feel infinite.

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Then I ran downstairs and rotated laundry. If ever there was infinity on earth it is laundry with kids.

With laundry going, I ran upstairs to wipe down the highchair. Highchair-cleaning to me seems infinite, there is banana goo everywhere …no matter what I do.

Clara toddled around after me as I made my way through my “after the kids are off to school” routine.

As I caught her toothy, wild-haired grin behind me I realized… her toddling is not infinite. In that moment it felt ever so temporary.

And for that highchair won’t be here for long either, soon she will be on the farmhouse bench next to her brother and sister, joining the chorus of nitpicking any dinner that isn’t pizza or tacos.

And the dishes, they are numbered as well, they aren’t really infinite. There is a set number of dishes I will wash before I die, I don’t want to know what that number is as it would surely cause weeping and gnashing of teeth, but dishes too… finite.

And the sadness? The seemingly infinite sadness? That too will not last forever… will it? Continue reading

Hiding

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Yesterday I got an email from our Insurance office, that looked a little like spam but also kind of authentic. So I called the number and it was a real person on the other end of the line. Our office needed our new contact info and we had neglected to update them on addresses and phone numbers. So she googled me, and found my blog, and read my story, and asked… “Do you still write on there?”

Ummm… sometimes…

At first it felt like a coincidence… and then a kick in the pants.

I have been hiding. I have, it’s just time to admit it.

This is not one of those posts that I am doing drafts of guys, this is just happening really quickly before someone wakes up for school… for which we need to leave in less than an hour.

Last week my dear grandma passed away due to heart troubles.
This past Monday my Dad would have been 60
This past Tuesday marked the five year anniversary of my Mom’s passing.

I’ve been busy, I’ve been sick with Mastitis … I’ve been hiding and using a lot of really valid excuses not to think about any of it at all.

I can’t write about it because the timing isn’t just right… I’m not at the right coffee shop, the baby is probably going to wake up soon or I’m just too tired.

I haven’t been praying about it because I’m not sure where I stand with God…

I haven’t been talking with friends about it because I am pretty sure they are sick of hearing me whine or talk about what’s wrong in my life.

I haven’t been processing any of it, I’ve been watching TV and hiding.

And here is the thing, the hiding doesn’t feel good, in fact just the opposite. The more I hide, the worse I feel, the more TV I binge on… the less I feel like myself.

funny, true, a little pinchy...

funny, true, a little pinchy…

The depression, the loneliness, the guilt, the grief, they’re all sitting on the couch with me, watching Hulu and waiting for their moment.

When I think about the person that my Dad, Mom and Grandma raised me to be, I’m pretty sure that TV binging and obsessing over laundry didn’t make their short list.

They saw in me the seeds God planted when he formed me. The prayed for me daily, and they meant it.

They didn’t pray… Lord may she watch a lot of Netflix and always have all the socks folded.

It’s okay to hide for a while, until you start to loathe yourself. Then it’s time to put the remote in the drawer and do the hard work of sorting through your life for better … or for worse.

While I was surfing Facebook on my nightly social media loop (which indicates a downward spiral signifying I should GO TO BED ALREADY) I saw this on my former Pastor’s Facebook page.

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Some of my suffering has made me better, more open minded and tuned in… but lately?

Nope. Bitter, closed, and completely unaware and ungrateful for the gifts in my life.

Ignoring those gifts quite completely in fact.

So with this cup of coffee and this messy blog post, I seek to change that, to put all my fears and pain and worries on the table and figure out what to do with them. Pray, journal, read a book about it…. talk to an expert… talk to a friend… live this life I have been given with all it’s smooth lines and sharp corners.

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Body, Soul and Ice Cream

525,600 minutes…. 525,000 moments so dear… 525,000 journeys to plan… 
How do you measure a year in the life?

maybe I measure mine in Ice Cream and Wine…

photo courtesy of Flickr user fka sunny

photo courtesy of Flickr user fka sunny

Last week, after accepting an offer on our house (pending inspection…) we took the kids out for ice cream at Too Tall’s Tasty Treats to celebrate. This is the local ice cream shop down the road from our house.

I’ll admit that it’s a ridiculous name for an oddly located, roadside ice cream shop, but now it’s MY ice cream shop. It’s the place Kel’s been running for flurries to soothe the pain of a bad day as we binged on Netflix and cared for Clara, both in and out of utero.

As I finished my chocolate Reeses flurry on the sticky picnic table, I thought about our year on the Northeast side of Grand Rapids, the routines we fell into, the restaurants we frequented, the walks we took, the discoveries we made.

The ways in which we nestled into this neighborhood, spread out and called it our own.

How we always got takeout burgers from Charlies or Pasta from Fred’s on date night.
How we spent almost the entire year with paint in our fingernails and on our forearms.
How our kids rode their bikes back and forth in front of the house.
How we cursed the cottonwood tree for covering our lives in a second winter of obnoxious white fluff.

For a season this was ours. And now it isn’t anymore, pending a few weeks and a few hundred signatures on a few thousand pieces of paper it will be the locale for completely new life.

When I handed over our home in Oklahoma to a sweet newlywed couple I wrote this essay entitled “Letter to a new Homeowner.”  And I still hold it as one of my personal favorite pieces, seriously click the link… it is worth your time.

This home is a place for staying but it’s also a place to for going somewhere.  Every season will give way to a new one and lessons learned add up to progress and depth.  As you stay within these walls, you’ll move and change as a family in ways that you never imagined.  No home leaves you the same, who knows where this home may take you?” Continue reading

Giving Up on Why

Today I am guest posting for my dear friend across the pond, Tanya Marlow to kick off her fall series on God and Suffering. Hope you’ll start here and click over and as always thank you for your presence and readership.

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This past spring, my husband graduated from Seminary after a seven-year, marathon journey of taking classes when we could afford it, both time-wise and financially. He started on campus, and finished up with intensive courses and online.

To celebrate, we made the seven-hour trip down to Kentucky for the commencement ceremonies. As I took my seat after checking our two children into child-care a single, paralyzing thought occurred to me.

I am here alone.

I was surrounded by a gymnasium of people, clustered together to celebrate their graduates. Some had signs and balloons, most chatted happily as they waited for the ceremony to begin and there I was, literally alone in a crowd.

I started to cry, and masked it by flipping through the program, hoping no one would notice the lonely woman bawling.

Let me fill you in on a little of the backstory as to why I found myself alone that afternoon.

Shortly before I met him, my husband’s father died from two, rare types of brain cancer. The beginning of our relationship was steeped in his grief. His birth mother died a week earlier and, although he hadn’t had contact with her for fifteen years, her death was a hard blow as, with it, all hopes of reconciliation were shattered.

A year and a half later, I received a phone call from my Mother: my father had passed away overnight in his office chair after a sudden heart attack at the age of 49.

 

Five years after that, another phone call: my mother had taken her own life on the train tracks of our hometown.

So that afternoon I sat at seminary graduation alone, feeling the weight of our collective losses. It wasn’t the first time I felt the holes left behind by our parents, but this time it was particularly sharp.

So many people who should have been there beside me…

As the graduates received their diplomas the people who had gathered to honor them stood to cheer. A few names in, a paralyzing thought occurred to me: “I will be the only one who stands and cheers for him; he deserves so much more than just my lonely voice.”

God why did you have to take them all?

Click here to head on over to Tanya’s blog to finish up. 

Love Showed Up: Hugging Strangers in Public Bathrooms

I hope you’ve been enjoying these Monday posts on Love Showing Up in life, at times when we need it desperately. 

I’ve been noticing this common thread in each post, in each moment we find to breathe thankful prayers for grace in the midst of pain, it’s this: when love shows up we feel less alone.

Our darkest burdens are easier to bear, our worst roads a bit shorter when love shows up. 

Today I want to tell you about one of the most unlikely moments in my life, a moment when love showed up to remind me that grief and pain are universal burdens, that even though grief is rightly referred to as the loneliest journey of life, it doesn’t have to be, not always. We can find each other and divide the pain with our presence.

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It was only two days after my Mother had taken her life, and I was 28 weeks pregnant with our son. We were back in Michigan after a miserable 22 hour road trip, to plan and attend her funeral alongside hundreds of other confused people she left behind.

My dear friend Lisa had called when we were making the drive up and didn’t ask so much as told me: “Hey, when you get here, I think you need steak.”

This is important when joining grieving friends on their journey, sometimes you tell them you’re helping rather than asking them, we are a stubborn people who prefer to deny our needs. 

I replied with a small laugh, because I wasn’t a steak lover per say, but I managed something like: “Sure, why not. Let’s go eat steak.

Turns out that part of the reason for the steak was Groupon related, but who says you can’t be a good friend while still being frugal? 

After I’d arrived home at my Aunt and Uncle’s house, managed a full but fitful night’s sleep, helped plan a funeral and gone to the mall for funeral appropriate maternity clothes, my friend Lisa picked me up for dinner.

We had a long drive to the steakhouse in Rockford and we picked up another friend, Becky on the way. Alyssa met us there and together we sat down in the golden light of the restaurant to order drinks and listen to the waitress explain the specials in mouth watering detail.

Nothing distracts my weary soul like great food, so as she went on about searing, herbed butter and the chef’s lifelong passion for steak I fell slightly in love with her. Having been a server for a number of years, I have a deep appreciation for menu knowledge and attentive interaction.

The meal progressed and Lisa and I order the London Broil with Bordelaise Sauce, Asparagus Spears and Yukon Mashed Potatoes. She talked me into adding caramelized onions, no regrets there.

It all melted in my mouth, danced on my pallet, sustained me, gave bits of joy.

I found myself gazing at my friend’s glasses of wine, thinking if ever there was an evening where I could use the comfort of wine, it was tonight. Why did I have to go through this pregnant?

At some point, or likely several points, in the evening I got up to use the bathroom. Too many delicious glasses of water I suppose. On one of these trips I ran into our waitress coming out of the restroom and I stopped her to thank her for her excellent service.

…Telling her that after moving to a small town in Oklahoma, I missed and deeply appreciated fancy food and vast menu knowledge.

She asked why we were back in town and I tried to vaguely reveal the details of our trip, of my mother’s funeral, without divulging too much.

Unexpected tears started to well up in the corners of her eyes, which was briefly awkward for me because I’m not always good at comforting other people to feel better about my grief.

Then she let it out: “My mom is in the end stages of cancer, in Hospice care and I’m living at her house. I’m the oldest and everyone looks to me to handle things, I have no idea what I’m doing and I’m terrified to lose her.”

“Oh, I’m so sorry, it does suck, but you’ll get through it, I lost my Dad about five years ago and it’s not going to be okay any time soon but your life will keep going, you’ll find joy even. I promise. Just don’t carry everyone else’s burdens without taking care of your own, without processing your own grief, don’t be pushed around by everyone’s expectations of you.”

Then we hugged. Right there in front of the bathroom sink.

I peed and returned to our table, awkwardly trying to explain my interaction with the our server which probably sounded something like: “Our waitress’ mom is dying too! I’m not the only one. That feels better somehow, not that I’m happy about it. Anyway… how’s your food?”

Even though that interaction was three and a half years ago, I still think about it, still give heart space to that server, wondering how she weathered her storm.

Our embrace in the bathroom impacted me, I felt less alone in losing my mother young because of our three minute exchange.

It’s true that grief is one of the loneliest journeys we walk in life, that no two losses are alike, even when they center around the death of the same person.

Yes, grief is lonely, there are times when we will feel naked and alone in our pain. Yet sometimes, we are given companions on the journey, for a minute, for an hour, for longer.

My friends around that evening table divided my grief, not just during that dinner but throughout the journey with their presence at the funeral and their words over the phone.

My time with our server divided both our griefs for three minutes, perhaps even longer.

Yes grief is lonely, but we are not alone, millions have walked this path and millions are waking up to walk it today.

It’s normal to feel alone, but if you can look for it, to be open your pain, love will show up in a thousand surprising ways and each time, if only for a moment or two, your grief load will lighten.

May we be a people who divide the sting of death with authentic, loving presence and sometimes, with steak.

Has love showed up to divide your grief?
How have you divided the grief of a friend?

This post is part of a series called Love Showed Up, check out the other submissions and if you are interested in submitting please send me an email at leannerae (at) gmail (dot) com. We’d love to hear about how love showed up in your life. 

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Love Showed Up- When Grief Unites

 

Today’s Love Showed Up post comes from the lovely Rachel Haas and it’s a topic that I hope you identify, that of grief binding together in love and memory rather than tearing apart. 

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http://asharedlens.smugmug.com/Free-Stock-Photography-/Architecture/Buildings/i-X6ShJ86/A

Two days before I turned 23, my grandmother passed away. The circumstances surrounding her death were a whirlwind. It wasn’t expected, it all happened so fast.

 

I stood in our brand-new kitchen and clung to my husband while I sobbed. We had just talked on the phone the week before, Grandma and I. She had asked about my daughter and we had laughed over an inside joke. There was no goodbye, there never was one when our phone calls ended. Only a “see you soon, love you much.”  

 

I texted my sister that night and we shared memories while tears dripped onto the screen. Everything ached. Grandpa had died when I was a teenager, and now Grandma was gone too. It was the end of an era. Nothing felt the same without her. I wanted to call her and tell her how sad I was. The missing was agonizing.

 

She wanted to be cremated. It had always been her wish. Grandpa had stayed on the top of the curio cabinet, among all the other pictures of loved ones. But now he and Grandma’s urns were placed side-by-side in the ground. Just their dust. Their souls were walking the beach with Jesus.

 

And so we gathered, all of us. All five of her children, all ten of their children, and their fifteen children too. Only six of us were missing. I wrapped my arms around my cousin’s wife for the first time and chased their toddler around the lobby. My one year old daughter met all her little cousins, who could not get enough of the littlest family member. My poor husband was dizzy with all the names and faces.

 

We were all there to remember Grandma.

 

At the end of the service, the family all stood together to sing the first verse of How Great Thou Art. It had become tradition at the funerals in our family. We’re a musical family, somehow, and it always seems to fit. We celebrate with song. We mourn with melody. It was just the voices, no piano in the background.

 

The love was tangible as it filled that auditorium. It was Holy Hands reaching down from Heaven to wrap us all up and hold us close. It was the most beautiful, the most heartbreaking, the most sacred celebration of life I have ever experienced.

 

Love showed up in the fingers of my family as we looped them together around the graveside, the air cool enough for coats. We stood around the plot and laughed. We must have been such an odd sight, the humor echoing off the stones. Love showed up for us that cold October day with tears streaming down our cheeks but smiling so big it hurt.

 

Love showed up in a cemetery filled with laughing mourners. Love showed up in a family gathered for the first time in years. Love showed up in connections and family love growing in bigger circles, like ripples in a lake from the stone Grandma and Grandpa dropped. Their legacy is still spiraling out.

 

Love showed up because there was no goodbye. There never was any goodbye.

 

See you soon, Grandma
Love you much. 

10264512_10152757894163642_1349287236_nRachel Haas is a Story-writing, caffeine-consuming, paint-flinging, wild-at-heart Jesus craver. She is married to Jonathon, as she has been for the past four years, momma to Marian, and wrangler of an oversized Great Dane and two cats who are relatively bonkers. She dwells in between Midwestern cornfields where she pours her heart out in lowercase abandon. You can connect with her on twitter, Instagram and her blog 

Soup and Pie (On Observing The Anniversary of a Loss)

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Today marks the 9th anniversary of the day we lost my Dad (for more on this click here). I can’t wrap my head around this number, some days it feels like I’ve spent my entire life without him and then other days I still go to call him.

Thoughts of the March we buried him still haunt me, many of my memories are of staring down at my black ballet flats, on the funeral home carpet, on the painted concrete of the church, on the freezing grass at the cemetery.

Head bowed, soul overcome

In the end it all happened, it’s not a phantom or a figment of my imagination. He is gone and I am here, with a family and a life he isn’t a part of and cannot touch or enter into except in memory and remembered wisdom.

Softly in spirit sometimes, although usually painfully absent

The first anniversary of his death was hard, we all gathered at the cemetery as a family and words were spoken over the shiny, black marble headstone. We shivered and felt lost, still unable to believe that he was gone and not quite sure what to do about it. A year, a year without David, without Dad.

Gathering those who remember, this is one thing to do about an anniversary of loss.

The second anniversary of his death was possibly harder, we were newly married and I was in my last year of college. I called a few friends and asked them if they would join me in my grief, if we could eat my two favorite comfort foods together (soup and pie) and laugh or cry as needed, as the evening led.

They came into our apartment slowly and I tried to smile and reassure them that this wasn’t going to be weird. But was it? Would it be weird?

Some brought cards and flowers. There were 8 of us all together, or so, my memory is hazy on certain details. We shared soup from the restaurant down the street and store-bought pie.

We sat on couches, plaid hidden under slipcovers, and in a semi circle on the floor. With our warm bowls gathered in front of us I looked into the eyes of each face and thanked them from the depths of me for their willingness to come, to remember and to weather whatever this was.

I think I mentioned my Dad a few times but it was no formal service of prompts or intentional remembering. It was simply a gathering of friends who loved so well that they were willing to enter into the awkward unknown of my grief.

Willing to say “On this Day where darkness feels eminent, I will bring light into your apartment. I will share a bowl of soup over something hard.”

When it comes to remembering a grief, marking a day that has permanently marked your life all I can tell you is this: Remember and Invite.

Don’t pretend it’s not the day that it is, be open with your friends and coworkers that this date on the calendar (which may seem ordinary to many) is a dark square on yours. A day marked with loss.

If they know you, they’ll know the weight that the day carries but in the telling you will create an openness, a vulnerability, an invitation that gives others the knowledge they need to love well, to offer grace.

You point to this day and say this? This is going to be a tough one to weather and I wanted you to know. 

You can even take a step farther and say “this is what I need.” … if you know… and you won’t always know.

This is when the brave ones will enter in and do their best to love well, bring your favorite latte, cover you at a meeting, take you out to lunch, send you a text, a prayer, a hug, a grace.

Be open, do something, do what feels like the right thing to do to abide .

Honesty, Openness, Invitation, this is my best advice for observing loss anniversaries well.

Thank you for reading, I honor and deeply appreciate your heart and your eyes. To have each new post from this blog delivered to your inbox, enter your address in the box below. 

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Love Showed Up: Breathe in, breathe out

Elora Ramirez has been a friend, role model and lovely presence in my life for a while now. She’s the founder of Story Sessions, a community of women (of which I am a part) who support and encourage each other in their lives and writing journeys. Her leadership is changing lives friends, in the most tangible ways.

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She texted me one morning in June.

“I don’t know exactly what you need, but I’m praying for you and am here. Whether that’s bringing you lunch or picking you up to escape—let me know?” 

It was two days after receiving the call that the birth mother would be keeping her son. This was the second broken placement and in so many ways, hurt far more than the first one. We’d seen the picture, held the hope, created the space and laid open our hearts. And now, ashes. That’s all that remained.

I remember getting the notification of my friend’s text and then staring at the baby clothes hanging in the closet in front of me, the numbness overtaking every limb like a heavy liquid.

“I guess lunch sounds good. I should probably eat something.” I replied, burying myself deeper into the covers on my bed and closing my eyes. Closing my eyes, I didn’t have to remember. Closing my eyes, all I saw is what I felt: darkness.

Within an hour, she was at my door with cheeseburgers and milkshakes. She put the bags and the cups on the counter and then pulled me close for a hug. I couldn’t say anything, hadn’t been able to articulate any phrases or sentences or words for days, and so I just stood there. She didn’t let go, she just kept breathing.

Almost like she was trying to remind me how to move forward: breathe in, breathe out. Breathe in, breathe out.

I ate lunch and made small talk, but soon I just needed the quiet darkness of my room. I told her I was going to take a nap, and she just smiled. I whispered on my way out of the room, “thank you—for bringing lunch. I don’t know if you’ll be here when I come out or not, but it was good seeing you.” 

She didn’t leave until almost midnight.

She stayed and read on my couch while I tried to rest, and held my hand when I gave up on the silence and walked back into the living room with tears in my eyes. We painted our nails, I asked about the book she was reading, and by the time my husband came home I felt more like myself than I had in days.

And then, as if sitting me in the midst of sackcloth and ashes wasn’t enough to remind me of hope, she went home and penned a blog post that still brings immediate tears to my eyes.

I know most people don’t know how to respond in the midst of heavy grief, but in this moment, love came down and showed up in the form of someone who is now one of my best friends and people. It’s more than acknowledging the heavy days are heavy—it’s coming over and offering to carry the load for a bit, even when the person doesn’t even know how to move out from under the weight of grief. And in this moment—I felt seen. Loved. Held.

2014-03-06 09.03.37What if your story could change the world? Elora believes it can. The one you’ve been hiding under your heart’s bed, afraid that a little air will make it a monster you can’t escape? That’s the story she wants to hear. That’s the story you’ve got to tell before it sucks the air right out of your lungs. It was this belief that prompted Elora to launch Story Unfolding, a respite for tired artists aching to be heard. She also runs Story Sessions, a community for women who create. She’s written a novel and writes out her thoughts and the holy & broken on her blog

Don’t miss a post in the Love Showed Up Series, there is so much goodness here Use this handy box below to subscribe over email, or click the bloglovin icon on the top left to sign up that way.

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Interested in contributing to this series? I’d love to hear your story. Shoot me an email at leannerae (at) gmail (dot) com and we’ll have a cup of virtual coffee over it.

Love Showed Up: Best Friends Know Better

Leigh Kramer is a longtime blog-friend. Her writing, compassion and zest for life never cease to astound me any time we cross (digital) paths. I hope you enjoy and resonate with her story today, that it ignites gratitude and bittersweet memories in your heart as it did mine. 7023751359

I don’t remember if she picked me up or if we met at the restaurant. I do remember putting up a fuss at first. I wanted to stay in my cave. It was cozy, didn’t require energy, and my tears could arrive as they pleased.

But best friends often know better than we do. Erin told me we were going out for dinner, which is how I found myself sitting on the patio of one of my favorite Mexican restaurants a couple of weeks after my grandmother died.

I see us there perfectly but I have no idea what we talked about or whether I had a margarita that night. Grief’s blur covers almost all my memories from that time. I know we went to dinner. I know it was good for me. I know I never would have realized that apart from Erin’s insistence.

I had lost other loved ones, throughout my life really. Losing Grandma the summer of 2007 rocked me to my core. We were close and I was involved in her care during her last weeks. Our family changed dramatically in the course of four months. Or a little less than a year, depending on where we start the story. My great-aunt was on hospice for about 10 months. Grandma was a valiant caregiver but family had to step up more and more as her own health troubles began. In the week after my great-aunt died, Grandma received her own terminal diagnosis. She started on hospice and died almost two months later to the day.

I worked for that same hospice as a social worker. I picked the team for these two women I held dear. I walked alongside and pitched in as much as I could, ever mindful I was a great-niece, a granddaughter. After they died, I tried to resume the old routines but found I couldn’t.

There was no escaping my grief at work. I would do my best to make it through each day, stuffing down tears as families walked down the same path I’d just traveled. When the work day ended, I’d collapse on to the couch in my living room and crack open a book. Book after book after book. Not even good books. I turned to Christian fiction. While I insist good Christian fiction exists (it does!), it is not always easy to find and the series I turned toward in those days would not qualify as “good.” Now it wasn’t Amish fiction or the drivel I had regularly sold while working at The Christian Bookstore- I still had some standards- but it was sure to have easily solvable crises and happy endings. I needed predictability in the midst of my fallen world.

Before this loss, I was the quintessential social butterfly. Afterward, I stopped planning parties and turned down invitations. The energy that had powered me through the last few months deflated suddenly and quickly. I had nothing left to give and I didn’t know how to receive. Books required little of me. I could lose myself in the pages.

Erin let me be. At first. But when Erin decides something, it’s going to happen. We were going to dinner. She ignored my excuses. She told me to decide when and where.

It was a bright moment of normalcy. I’m sure the conversation meandered through all manner of topics because that’s how our conversations go. I’m sure she asked how I was doing- how I was really doing- because Erin is compassionate and caring. I’m sure she also let me decide how much I wanted to talk about the loss, for the same reasons.

I needed to stow the books away for one night. I could return to my grief cave the next day. The dinner was a line in the sand, not forcing me to change but opening my eyes to life again. In the weeks and months that followed, I’d start picking better books and re-engaging with my closest friends. The loss changed me more than I realized possible and set down a map for how I would navigate future loss.

Erin showed up in ways big and small during that time, as did other friends and colleagues. I didn’t need listening ears per se but I needed people to draw near when I didn’t have the strength to reach out. When I didn’t have words for what I needed.

Thank God they showed up.

Bio picture Bio: Leigh Kramer is on a quest; she’s living life on purpose. Her to-do list might look something like this: leave life in the Midwest for Nashville, Tennessee with only fried pickles for comfort, quit steady job as a social worker to chase that dream of writing at last, suck the marrow out of life’s in-between places and revel in the now at every turn. She is a contributor at A Deeper Story. Leigh shares this journey through words of transparency, heart, and just a dash of pluck at LeighKramer.com and on Twitter at @hopefulleigh.

 

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Love Showed Up: Leave Room for Yes

Amanda Williams and I have been connecting online for what seems like forever. We actually got to have a date a few weeks ago after which I fell asleep with a full heart because the gift of deep connection and an evening of “me too” doesn’t happen every ol’ day. Today she is sharing some of that lovely heart with you and I hope you’ll walk away with that very same deep, full, “me too” feeling. 

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“We’re coming up. We leave tomorrow.”

I tried to object but ended up crying and didn’t bother trying again. The truth was I was relieved. So. Very. Relieved. The truth was I needed exactly what they were offering. Not a task to be done, not a meal in the crockpot, not another sincere I’m Sorry. I needed all of it at once. I needed them.

They were two of my very best life-friends and they still lived in the town where we went to college. They would leave their families the next morning to drive six hours north on a day’s notice to do nothing other than carry my burdens. They were coming there to be me. 

The 18 months prior had been tremendously hard, and I’d never before been more aware of the separate and distinct life roles we each hold, the way they overlap and bump into each other in the course of everyday life. But the day before this phone call – the day my daddy’s struggle ended and he went Home for good – on that day the roles collided hard, loud and jarring like an interstate pileup. He was gone, really gone, and all four of me – the daughter, the sister, the wife, the mother – we all needed our room to grieve.

And so they arrived just as they said they would. They appeared at our door when the kids needed watching and disappeared when it was time to sleep. They’d made arrangements to stay with a friend in town so we wouldn’t have to entertain, and they brought sandwiches to my mom’s house on that awkward day in the middle, when the myriad of planning is done and all that’s left is to say goodbye. They thought of everything and did it so quietly, so effortlessly that it hardly allowed me any space for guilt, one of my go-to feelings in helpless situations.

There was a magic about this, come to think of it. They gracefully toed the line between asking and doing, not waiting for my permission yet allowing room my yeses.

My two friends gave so much in those four days it still fills my eyes with tears. They fed my little people and changed my twin boys’ diapers. They swept my dusty floors and did my piled up laundry. I’d not prepared for them at all, of course – cleaning house was not on the priority list in those last months – but they entered our mess as if they didn’t notice, picking up where I left off and doing whatever needed to be done. They bought me feminine products, for crying out loud. They did it all just so I wouldn’t have to.

It was love in action, love with no hope of payback.

When we decided it best not to take the littlest two to the burial – an overnight trip to East Tennessee – they made phone calls. They called their own husbands and checked in on their own small children – 4 between the 2 of them – and they stayed another night so we could go without worry.

For four days they filled in for me as Mom so I could be fully present as Daughter. It was an invaluable, unspeakable gift, and I will never forget.

People always ask what you need when you’re grieving, but it’s such an impossible question to answer. You need nothing and everything, you need companionship and space, you need room to feel all the joy and the anger and the sorrow and the stillness all at once. It is an impossible question to answer.

Sometimes, in the worst times, you just need someone to be you so you can just be. 

In the weeks that followed we sent out the thank you notes the funeral home gave us, the ones with Dad’s name embossed on the front. I procrastinated sending theirs because, well, procrastination is what I do. But also, how do you say thank you for a blessing flung that wide? I finally found some “Up a creek… That’s where I’d be without you” cards – because inserting humor into tense situations is also what I do – and I sent them with a movie gift card tucked inside. It was lame, but it was something. And I had to do something.

They entered the rawness of my grief and tackled the enormity of my need, and I sent them to the movies. It was a Lloyd Dobler moment (“I gave her my heart, she gave me a pen.”), but I knew they’d understand.

Friends like those always understand.

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Amanda Williams lives in Nashville, Tennessee, with her husband and three busy children — twin 4 year old boys and spunky 6 year old girl. She is a writer, a procrastinator (just ask Leanne) and a lover of coffee, grace and wine. Amanda shares stories of imperfect motherhood, faith and writing on her blog, Life. Edited., and is Editorial Director of the online devotional community She Reads Truth.

 

Interested in contributing to this series? I’d love to hear your story. Shoot me an email at leannerae (at) gmail (dot) com and we’ll have a cup of virtual coffee over it. 

Don’t miss a post in the Love Showed Up Series! Use this helpful box below to subscribe over email, or click the bloglovin icon on the top left to sign up that way.

Enter your email address:Delivered by FeedBurner

You can also find me on twitter and Facebook as well. Join the conversation on all fronts! That’s my recommendation…