Letters to my Mother {Day 5} Life in the Losing

 Dear Mom,

You haunt me in the fall, you know.  When I encounter the trees on the verge of explosive color, I feel you there.

You’re with me when I crave apple crisp, and when I break down and make it.

I caught you in the curve of Caedmon’s nose a few days back as the kids crunched leaves underfoot and threatened to tumble into the creek that runs through the park.

I feel you so often on the corners of my minds eye, your spirit calling me to remember and reevaluate.

You’re gregarious now, joyous, often laughing and calling my attention to the fullness of life, rarely the darkness of death.

I ache for you, this free woman I rarely saw on earth.

Mom, can we make a dream date, somewhere on a grassy hill surrounded in fall vividness?  Could you scoop me up like you used to do and rub my hair?

Just another chance to be someone’s baby, your baby.

I want to hear you gasp, almost orgasmically over the color of the oak trees along Baldwin street.  Something about fall spoke to you and struck a spirit chord.

It rubbed off because my soul comes alive in this season, one of apples and golden hues and death.

So much life in death, so much beauty to behold in the loosing, the falling, the closing up shop as we mark another year in the books.

I love you, I miss you.

LeaRae

Pain Credentials- There is no passport needed to love well

 It was eight years ago but I can still easily go back to that room in my mind, all of us crammed on the couches, chairs and floors.  The air heavier than any I had every experienced in my life.  My Father had recently been taken out of the basement where he had died the night before and we all sat together in shock and love.

Family, friend, neighbors, all of us breathless, speechless.

I could write a thousand words about the people beside me that day and how their face to face love changed my life.  Yet the one person that will always come into focus for me is my sweet friend and college roommate Becky.

We had met at a pizza place and our lives were totally the same and completely different.  I was casual and went to class in hoodies and funky hair.  Becky was (and still is) the modern day Audrey Hepburn and always dressed in flawless jeans and heels with carefully coiffed hair and makeup.

So it said something when she skipped her makeup and shower to rush over to my parents house when she heard the news.  Neither of us had ever lost a parent, so I know that she was completely unsure of what to do, or say.  Yet I remember with tender thankfulness how firmly she stayed by my side, offering even to come with me when I went to the bathroom, in case I was reluctant to be alone.

She was my maid of honor and threw a thoughtful shower and bachelorette party.

She bought a last minute plane ticket when our firstborn Noelle arrived, because she couldn’t bear to miss out on those first days of excitement.

At my Mother’s funeral she and her husband Adam, stayed with Kel and I for much of the visitation and she was by my side through all the confused and dark details.

She never flinched, never waivered, never let things get awkward.  She had no credentials that gave her permission to speak into my life other than the simple fact that she was my best friend, and belonged there.

So often when we don’t know what to say we make one of two mistakes:

  1. We say something trite that makes us sound like we know more than we do and we inflict pain.
  1. Or we say nothing and keep our distance because we feel ill equipped to speak to something we don’t understand.

Surprisingly #2 is far worse than #1.  The last thing a wounded friend needs is to wonder if their pain is too awkward for you.  To question if you were only there for the good times.

Don’t buy into the lie that you need credentials to enter into the world of the broken.

I have loved people through loss and pain that I have no understanding of: miscarriage, chronic pain, divorce, abuse.

A Friend loves at ALL TIMES isn’t a phrase that should only be sweetly needlepointed on a pillow, but actively lived out with late night phone calls, tears over coffee, surprise meals, flowers, books, pop-in visits and oceans of love.

Real hands and feet love will speak louder than your nervousness, every time.

Go there, love them.  Say something like: “I have no idea what this is like, but I am so sorry, and I’m all in, what can I do?

You aren’t going to understand everything, yet you are called to love your people well and doing so will and should make you uncomfortable at times.  This is how we grow stronger and closer and more beautiful to Our Father.

How to speak the language of grief

One of the things I love about the culture of blogging is that you get the chance to connect with similarly passionate people in relational way, sharing hearts and ideas across the world.  For me, Caleb Wilde is one of those people I am thankful to have come across.  He is passionate about his job as a funeral director and he lives it out as a uniquely needed mission.  Caleb’s mission has given him a perspective on death and the language of grief that we can greatly benefit from.  I can personally attest to the difference a good and compassionate funeral director can make in a terrible season.  I really hope that you are challenged by his evocative and honest post on the power of presence and authenticity as we seek to speak the language of grief well.

I highly suggest you check out his blog, follow him on twitter, or like his Facebook page to begin to connect yourself to his honest and helpful perspective on grief which he blends perfectly with a bit of dark humor

HOW TO SPEAK THE LANGUAGE OF GRIEF

By Caleb Wilde 

You walk into a house full of fresh grief.  It’s fresh because the death just occurred.  Your best friend’s husband went out to the bar last night, drowned his hard day in hard drink and he never made it back home.  Fresh.  Because both you and your friend have never experienced death this close.

You open the door like you have so many times before, but this time the familiarity of the house is unexpected different, dark and lonely.  What once housed parties, life and love now houses something you’ve never known before.  Like a river, everything is in the same place it was when you last saw it, but this home has changed.

You see your friend’s children sitting on the sofa, staring into space.

You ask them, “Where’s your mom?”

And as you reach to hug them, they snap back to reality and whisper, “Upstairs.”

Each step brings you closer to what you know is only an apparition of your friend.  The nerves build.  Fear begins to build.  You repress it as you ready yourself to meet your closest friend who has all of a sudden become someone you may no longer know.

“Can I come in?” you ask.  No response.

You push open the cracked bedroom door and see the body of your friend collapsed on her bed, with used tissues surrounding her like a moat.

You tip-toe into the room, slowly sit down on the bed, and not sure if she’s awake or asleep, you reach for your friends shoulder and begin rubbing her back.  Her blood shot eyes open, look at you and then, they slowly look through you.

You fill the weird silence with an “It’s going to be alright”.

“It’s not”, she whispers.  “I’m alone with two kids and no job.”  Her voice suddenly raises as anger courses through her body, “Why the f*** would he do this to me?”

The curse word chides you into recognizing that you’ve not only misspoken, but you’ve spoken too soon, so you decide to wait in silence.  She starts to cry.  You respond to her tears with your own.  Even though you want to respond with words, you know this isn’t the time for words.  There’s no perfection words here.  There’s no perfect anything here.  And so you wait.

You stay.  Listen.  Silence.  You take her pain into your soul.  Hours pass.  She rises out of bed and makes the children dinner.

You’ve spoken, not with words or advice; not by trying to solve the problem; nor by placing a limit on your time.  You’ve taken the uncomfortable silence, allow the grace for tears, for brokenness; you’ve allowed yourself to sit in the unrest without trying to fix it.

With your presence.  With your love.  In your honest acknowledgement of real loss, you’ve spoken the language of grief.

Although the language of grief is usually spoken in love, presence and time, sometimes it’s spoken in words.  And when it is, here are five practical “do”s and “don’ts”

The “DON’T”S:

1.       At least she lived a long life, many people die young

2.       He is in a better place

3.       She brought this on herself

4.       There is a reason for everything

5.       Aren’t you over him yet, he has been dead for awhile now

The “DO”S:

1.       I am so sorry for your loss.

2.       I wish I had the right words, just know I care.

3.       I don’t know how you feel, but I am here to help in anyway I can.

4.       You and your loved one will be in my thoughts and prayers.

5.       My favorite memory of your loved one is…