Honoring Nancy and Sheryl
While working with compassion this week, both for myself and my patients, I am struck. First, I am acutely aware of my fear of writing. This fear is based on the transparency I hold since my Mom’s death. Her leaving informs almost every movement, thought and action. Yet, I worry that I will bore my readers, perseverate on a theme that is only mine. Doubting their capacity to join with this grief, sure that I should have recovered by now, with one blog post and three weeks of mourning. And in this place of aloneness, I recognize both a lack of compassion for myself and also for them. I assume that no one out there is grieving. I own my grief in a way that isolates me and makes me feel less but not more of this community. I separate my hurt and fantasize that if I don’t write about it then I won’t be judged, misread or skipped over. Feelings of vulnerability crowd the pages and no longer make sense. To lose my blog to mourning is scary. But to lose my readers to boredom is scarier.
In backing away from reaching out, I am also condemning the compassion inherent in my audience. “They can’t understand the pain and alienation that comes with such a loss. Or if they do know this pain and suffering, then extending mine across the Internet will make theirs worse.” How silly. How ridiculous to think I have so much power to disguise or to create pain. I look at pictures of us at Easter. Her holding our dog, laughing with my daughter, questioning my husband about paying her D.A.R. dues, squeezing my good looking son’s hand and asking “Do you have a sweetheart or is it just me still?” Such windows pierce a deep well that knows no color or light because I can scarcely believe we had such sweet companionship just weeks before her death. Her friends and the staff of the retirement community are grieving too. Some have taken to a wheelchair for the first time, others are having trouble breathing or sleeping. I noticed that with this death, my entire family got a physical ailment. Each one different; some abdominal, some coughing, some back pain. I suffer from fatigue still. Grief so intense that it’s only expression comes with physical symptoms despite the fact that the rules are being followed. Rest is encouraged and taken, nutrition and exercise monitored and crying and sadness honored. Physical pain must be opened by so very many.
And yet I hide from expression of this grief, fooling myself that it belongs only to me. That my Momma was mine to mourn alone. That my readers have not suffered a loss so deep that their world turned upside down and nothing in their life made much sense. Silly me. Lack of compassion indeed for both myself and others, my Momma’s friends and care givers. I apologize to all but mostly to myself and at the same time reach for a bigger place and space for such sadness.
A friend reminded me, “Tend your grief closely and carefully during this time. All else can wait.” “Tending grief?”I wondered. “How does one tend grief?” Now knowing, grief is tended like a garden, a beautiful rose bush, one that is being nurtured to bloom; fertilized, weeded and pruned. Because it is only in the full blossoming that your release is defined.
In my devotion this morning, I read the book of James. My Momma was studying this book upon her death and recommended reading it daily. In closing we will ask James for words of wisdom for loving one another and for finding compassion not only for others but for ourselves. Now I realize that the depth of my sadness led me to doubt that it could be good for you. I worried that you would need to reject it or dismiss it or even laugh at it because to embrace it would be too painful. I trust you will be healed by this honesty, never hurt. And I hope that even if it means nothing to you, that you can find compassion for both others and yourselves if grief ever knocks on your door. James admonishes “My brother and sisters, whenever you face trials of any kind, consider it nothing but joy, because you know that the testing of your faith produces endurance; and let endurance have its full effect, so that you may be mature and complete, lacking in nothing.” Surely Momma’s life exemplified one of embracing trials and rejoicing in the strength they brought. Surely her love of life and others lacked little.
After my Momma’s death, my daughter and I talked about the day I would leave her. That departure seems unthinkable, undoable and unspeakable. Perhaps giving me a glimpse into the suffering of my Momma at the end. How sad she was to leave our love. We jokingly suggested that as this path is filled with such anguish that I would hereby put her in charge of making sure her mother never died. “Here, here, may our Mothers never die!” shouted six of her friends as we turned on the television and began a viewing of Terminator II. “Hasta la Vista Baby!” we shouted together as Arnold blasted the silver colloid monster across the screen. Hasta la Vista Baby indeed. See you in the hereafter, forever and ever amen. Love ya. You are still my sunshine.