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.

 

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.

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…

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.