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Braking Points

Exploring the Adventure of Aging

Month

October 2019

No Maps for Grief

“I thought I could describe a state; make a map of sorrow. Sorrow, hoever, turns out to be not a state but a process.” ~ C. S. Lewis

For 25 years we were parents [in-law, in-heart, in-love] to a beautiful woman with a quick wit, a kind, loving heart and the capacity for drawing us into a circle of love. I want so much to write about her, but collapse in tears every time I try. My son is writing, but I cannot share that yet.

When she died this summer, we each plunged into land of shadows, which it turns out exists right in the smack dab center of every day life. The path loops and circles like a maze. Out there somewhere we will individually emerge into the sunlight, if we just keep putting one foot in front of the other and getting on with life. The shadows, however, shift and change our perceptions, still we climb out of bed in the morning or we don’t. We find diversions. We grapple with our grief which feels like anger at times or fear or like we have been filled with rocks. We are people of faith. That should make it easier, right? And it does in some ways, but my Lord, Jesus broke down in tears over the death of Lazarus and the grief of Mary and Martha. He knew within the hour Lazarus would walk out of the grave. I know our Martha laughs, leaps, dances and sings in heaven. Knowing, Believing fails to take the pain away.

And so we walk, sometimes Terry and I walk hand in hand. And we talk to each other, with our son, with others. We pray. In spite of the love and support of each other and others, we are on this journey through the valley of the shadow of death on separate winding paths. There are intersections where we meet, but the greater part of our time we are traveling solo, sometimes on roads that parallel but are so different .

Over the span of my 70 plus years I have experienced grief, but no two journeys through the valley of shadows has been the same. Over this past summer death has stolen from not only our family but from the families of people we know and love. I have felt a diminishing of myself with each loss.

I know I am not alone. Sometimes the shadows comfort me, pull me close, let me rage and I feel God’s presence. I know I am protected. I know I am under the wings of the Almighty, my refuge. Sometimes, however, I find myself stymied by the simplest choices, I walk into walls, I drop things and I break down and cry. Jesus said, he had overcome death, I know that in my head, but here and now on this journey, I want a MAP. I don’t wander well. Just saying…

THE WEIGHT OF GRIEF BY CELESTE ROBERGE

Her Hands Were Clean; She Drove a Mercedes; God was too Goody-Goody: The Snob Within Me

Not her pretty dresses or styled hair, not her Momma’s Cadillac or her richness, I envied her perfectly clean hands. Her hands with not a hint of dirt, no ragged, chewed nails encrusted with grime like mine, I envied her hands. She was kind. She was sweet but I stood away, because her hands made me feel unclean. I hope you who read this hear me. She did nothing to push me away. Why! She even came to my house one time to play. The whole time she was there, all I could see was our poverty. She was like a princess and I was a mere peasant with dirty hands. I knew no matter how hard I worked to get my hands as clean and well groomed as hers, it wasn’t going to happen. So, I backed away.

Hear me if you will. I AM THE REASON, SHE AND I WERE NOT CLOSE FRIENDS.

Years later, when I was doing my Clinical Fellowship Year in Audiology at the University of Tulsa, a beautiful young woman joined the academic teaching staff in Deaf Education. She was tall, slender and she drove a Mercedes convertible. At the time I was doing well in my fledgling career, still poor, but things were looking up. With no provocation on her part I erected a wall of professionalism to protect myself lest she find out how insecure, how poor, how much lesser I was than she. I even parked my ten year old car on another parking lot so she would not know how poor I really was. One day when my guard fell after we finished working with a child together, we began to laugh together.

She looked at me with tears in her eyes, “I am so glad we had this moment. I thought you were the worst snob I had ever met.”

Hear me if you will. I AM THE REASON SHE AND I WERE NOT CLOSE FRIENDS SOONER.

When I am really honest with myself and God, I know I stayed away too long because I didn’t really believe I was worthy. I was too much of a sinner. I had nothing to offer. God was all goody two shoes and I, well, take my word for it, was not. All those years of Sunday School and Church had failed to grab me until I was face down in the dirt of my own making and God saved me.

Hear me if you will. GOD NEVER REJECTED ME, I REJECTED GOD.

I don’t know if a single person will have any similar experiences but if you have and would share with me, I would love to hear your stories. Even if you have not had an encounter with God, but relate to the human story I would love to hear from you.

My Mantra for Today from Bob Goff: ‘Love like you were made of it’

Sunset by Doris Faircloth King, 2019

Sunset Fascination–A Season of Good-byes

Lately, I have been collecting pictures of sunsets as I juggle a tub full of conflicting thoughts and emotions. After completing my last small book of poems, remembrances, and thoughts, Storytellers and Dreamers, I flew into hyperdrive to complete and mail two small quilts to my grandson Joshua and granddaughter Gabby as well as pack and move us to our Florida abode. I also piddled around writing the sequel to Braking Points, as yet unnamed. But collecting photos, some I have taken, others pulled from others’ posts, trying to tag them so I remember who to give the credit to, a new book undulates in my head like a swirling flock of birds, a book about those last whispers of light in the evening sky of life.

Hard as it is to write it, this past several months has been a summer/autumn of good-byes. Many of these are still too raw to put the words on paper, so that will come later. Each one, even the more distant ones, challenged me yet again to face with courage, but not rush toward the last sparkles of flaming light on the horizon. So the swirling flock of thoughts in my head carries me forward even as it baffles me. Every sunrise should fill me with hope and thanksgiving in anticipation of a new day—the day the Lord has made—and most days it does. There are things to do, people to see, daily challenges, and the anticipation of the unexpected, of adventure. Most days I want to cram as much as I can into every hour. Some days I want to fade into the background and hibernate. With each day’s passing, after the sunset, late at night before I fall asleep, I pray like I did as a child. “Now I lay me down to sleep. I pray the Lord my soul to keep. If I should die before I wake, I pray the Lord my soul to take.”

For each time I close my eyes to sleep brings me closer to that reality. No twenty one year old or even fifty year old in good health thinks like that. There are dreams I have yet to complete. I have so much more love I want to give. Adventures I never would have considered in my youth capture my attention. I told Terry recently after friends of ours here in Florida went parachuting that I wanted to do that. He looked at me and said, “Where is my wife and what have you done with her?” If I cannot go out with bang not a whimper, I at least want to make some noise and accomplish some goals before I go.

But it really isn’t up to me nor should it be.

Sunsets fascinate me. The western sky broadcasts each day’s good-bye. For every glorious ending there are hundreds of days that end in lackluster gloom. Dark comes quickly without any fanfare. Who takes pictures of dreary sundowns? I am thinking maybe there should be a few in my collection. Certainly my life like most others consists of flares of wonder, uneventful seasons, flashes of terror, and dark tunnels so it is reasonable to expect the ends of the days to follow the pattern.

Did I mention, there have been way too many good-byes this past summer? I am grieving and what is worse, my child and his children are grieving, my friends are grieving loss of soulmates, and even the more distant losses add to my grief. God has me and those I love, but still I see the writing in the sky with every sunset and don’t want to waste a moment.

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