I screamed at Chef, I smacked my friend’s hands away as she tried to comfort me. I didn’t offer coffee to visitors, I am confident I neglected to say thank you for kindnesses. I asked dear friends to do unthinkable tasks, I haven’t responded to the emails and texts I received immediately after or each day since. Grief has altered my ability to reach out, to show my own compassion. The boxes of thank you notes sit untouched. Plans are made and I break them at the last minute, unable to face anyone or the day. As ugly as my face becomes as I sob, so my soul seems to be. Still, friends refuse to forsake me, my husband has accepted my outbursts and anger and continues to love me. I am surrounded by people who are walking out the directive from Romans 12:15, “ Rejoice with those who rejoice; mourn with those who mourn.” More than ever, with any other loss, I know that supporting those who have shattered hearts is holy work, those who are able to cast aside their own needs and thicken their skin is surely the best example of Jesus I can find.
As memories of that morning when I learned my son was gone come seeping back in, I am appalled by the swirling tornado of anger that consumed me. Unable to accept the news meant I also was unable to allow others to hold me up as doing so meant it was true. Each day, each hour brings a message from someone who hasn’t forsaken me, who understands that I am not myself. My fear though is that I never again will be me. As someone who rarely experiences anger, who disregards the needs of others, I have become self-absorbed and only take take take, anger is my closest ally these days. How long will this behavior be accepted, allowed before friends slink away? I suspect I will be given the time needed. I hear my friend Janet’s words every day, “Be gentle with yourself,” yet I want to be better, to be closer to whole again. I can’t see that day coming, seems so far away.
I awake each morning with the news slamming into me before I have even opened my eyes. Horrible dreams haunt me, I can’t find escape. Then a text arrives, I rarely even acknowledge it, but someone tells me they are thinking of me right at that moment, they are praying for me. So I get up and make coffee, I tend to the beasts in our home. What folks may or may not realize, they are giving me enough air that I can breathe again. I should tell them how grateful I am, what they re truly giving to me. Yet the energy it takes to rise, to focus on washing dishes or listening for the beasts at the door means I have nothing else left. I give back nothing even as I know these friends are completely sustaining me. Being a support person to the grieving, accepting little bits of their pain to carry as your own, my God, who would want that job? My friends from all over apparently do.
My college friend drove us to see our son, a trip 70 miles away, my friend Janet came to my empty house just so I could take a shower. Meals keep arriving, Cathi accepted me into her home to not celebrate my birthday and she listened to me tell her things I surely had over and over. People stop me to offer a hug and then walk away, without asking that I share my story. Others like my pastor ask me how I really am and then fully listen without judgement to my angry words. Another friend is taking me to the grocery today, she says she doesn’t plan to cheer me up. Another friend told me that I am accepting life, that each day when I get up and come into church, that I am making a choice that is counter to what I want. She told me also that she is too is angry, she is with me in this pain. Another friend who also has suffered the loss of her son sat with me for almost 3 hours and let me probe into her life, to ask completely inappropriate questions and she took my grief on as well. Who does this stuff? Grace filled people who are showing me God because I cannot look to Him. Someday I may follow their example, to be worthy of their care, just not now.
I wish I could relay all the generosity and delicate lifting I have experienced, the stories may come, but right now all I can do is praise those who come close, who haven’t backed away from my pain. I see each of you as the gold that is filling in the cracks of my soul, putting me back together, as in the practice of Kinsugi in Japan where cracked pottery is repaired with gold lacquer. If I am to survive this, it is only because others have gently, one by one, chosen to share their golden souls. I forget to say thanks but whisper it to the One who sent you. I tell Him that I am blessed, a momentary lapse of my resentment and rage. And I take another breath.