Silent Joy and Hidden Treasure

Dietrich Bonhoeffer was a German pastor, theologian and author who actively opposed the Nazi regime. 

He was imprisoned for a year and a half and executed just two weeks before American soldiers liberated the prison where he had been held. 

Bonhoeffer was no stranger to loss. 

Here is an excerpt from a letter he wrote while in prison (emphasis added):

“There is nothing that can replace the absence of someone dear to us, and one should not even attempt to do so.

One must simply hold out and endure it.

At first that sounds very hard, but at the same time it is also a great comfort. For to the extent the emptiness truly remains unfilled one remains connected to the other person through it.

It is wrong to say that God fills the emptiness. God in no way fills it but much more leaves it precisely unfilled and thus helps us preserve — even in pain — the authentic relationship.

Furthermore, the more beautiful and full the remembrances, the more difficult the separation.

But gratitude transforms the torment of memory into silent joy.

One bears what was lovely in the past not as a thorn but as a precious gift deep within, a hidden treasure of which one can always be certain. “

[Bonhoeffer wrote this from his prison cell to Renate and Eberhard Bethge on Christmas Eve, 1943, fifteen months before his own death by execution. ]

memories are a way of holding onto the ones we love

Repost: No Mirrors, Please!

I hate mirrors.  Not because I’m ashamed of my wrinkles or my fat hips.  But because the face staring back at me now is not one I recognize.

I see someone who’s supposed to be me and can’t quite place her.

There’s a vague resemblance to the person that used to look me in the eye while I was brushing my teeth or fixing my hair.

But now, she is “other”unfamiliar, strange in a “slightly off” kind of way.

Read the rest here:  No Mirrors, Please!

Why We Have to Tell Our Stories & Why We Need Someone to Listen

We’ve all been at the family dinner table when an elder launches into THAT story-the one that gets dragged out every holiday and several times in between.

Often our eyes roll and we exchange knowing glances with the younger set as if to say, “Here we go again!”

But we point our faces toward the speaker, lean in and lap it up.  

Because we know this story is important to her or else she wouldn’t be sharing it again.

You learn a lot about your parents and grandparents, older aunts and uncles by listening carefully to the stories that have stuck around in a head that finds it hard to remember what the body had for breakfast.

Some of the stories are wonderful.  Sweet, sweet memories of special times and special friends; of younger years and youthful dreams. 

Some of the stories are tragic.  The baby brother or sister who only lived a few days or months.  The mother that died too soon because there were no drugs to treat a common condition.  The friend that never came home from the war.

The stories are windows into souls.

our lives are stories take time to listen

Some of us have stories that need telling NOW.  We can’t wait until our age guarantees us a captive audience.

Because telling the stories helps our hearts.  

A fellow bereaved mom who has a gift for finding exquisite quotes found this one:

Sometimes I think that if it were possible to tell a story often enough to make the hurt ease up, to make the words slide down my arms and away from me like water, I would tell that story a thousand times.

~Anita Shreve, The Weight of Water

Every time I tell the story of Dominic, it helps to keep him real. 

It reminds my heart that he lived, that he mattered, that he matters still.

And in the telling, I am giving away a little bit of him for another heart to carry.  His light is passed to another soul that can pass it to another and another.

It doesn’t really take away the hurt and sorrow, but it does help me bear it.

So if I launch into the same old rendition of my favorite memories of my missing son, bear with me.

Be a witness.

Help me carry the burden.  

we all need people who will listen to our stories

 

Obliterated

You think because you have “imagined” it, you have an inkling.

But you don’t.  

You can’t.  

Grief turns out to be a place none of us know until we reach it. We anticipate (we know) that someone close to us could die, but we do not look beyond the few days or weeks that immediately follow such an imagined death. We misconstrue the nature of even those few days or weeks. We might expect if the death is sudden to feel shock. We do not expect this shock to be obliterative, dislocating to both body and mind.
~Joan Didion, The Year of Magical Thinking

This was one of the most surprising things to me-that in spite of all the books I’d read, movies I’d seen, people I’d known (who had grieved a loss in my company)- I knew absolutely nothing of grief.

I did not know it would totally destroy who I was-leaving bits so small that I had no idea how to put them back together.

I did not know it would so completely block the light of the sun that I wouldn’t be able to tell day from night.

I didn’t know that it would change the taste of food, the smell of flowers, the sound of the wind so that everything I tasted, smelled and heard was death.  

Thankfully, slowly, the bits have come back together and formed a semblance of the me that was before.  

Before grief.

But not really the same.  A hollowed out husk of who I was.  Familiar shape without the substance.  

I’m learning to live with the me that’s left.  

Holding on to hope.

Leaning into love.  

empty statue

Original artist : Albert György
Bronze Statue located at Lake Geneva, Switzerland

Waking Up Is Hard To Do

Just after I got my driver’s license I was using the family station wagon to run some errands.  

I remember thinking, “Should I pull into that space between two parked cars or should I just go a bit further and make it easy on myself?”  I channeled my dad’s voice which was always pushing me past my comfort zone, threw off my fear and started into the smaller space.

Bad choice.

I kept trying to convince myself it was a dream.  I was not going to have to go home and tell my father what I had done.  It would disappear if only I wished hard enough.

But that was silly and untrue.

Denting the family wagon is small potatoes next to many other, bigger things I’ve faced in life.

And it is absolutely a zero on a scale of one to ten when considering the death of my son.  

You can fix a dent.  Even if it costs money and time.  

You can’t fix child loss.

Because of that FACT-I wake every morning to the same awful reality:  My child is dead.  He’s not coming back.  My life is forever changed.  My family forever altered.  My heart will carry this burden to the grave.

That makes waking up hard to do.  

Each morning I must force myself to push through an invisible wall and set my feet on ground I’m not sure I want to walk upon.

I must open my eyes and abandon the sweet release of dreamless sleep.

I have to face the light and embrace reality.

Four years and it is still a shock.  

Every

Single. 

Morning.

sometimes cant believe you are gone

Only Love is Eternal

I’ve read I Corinthians chapter 13 dozens of times. 

It was one of the Scriptures read at my wedding.  

And while I thought I understood what Paul meant when he wrote, “Love never fails” and “the greatest of these is love” I was oh, so wrong.

1 cor 13 love is

It took the death of my son for my heart to fully embrace the eternal power of love.  

I have lost many things since Dominic ran ahead to heaven:  my sense of control, any certainty that tomorrow will necessarily be better than today, the life I thought I would have here on earth, and foolish confidence in my own ability to discern how God works in this world.

But I have gained this:  Absolute unshakable rock-solid assurance that LOVE lives forever.  

the answer is still and again love

Only love can help a heart hold onto hope when all evidence screams, “Let go!”

Only love can overcome despair when darkness clouds my vision and obscures the light.

Only love can weave a golden cord that keeps me connected to my child in heaven.  

Only love is strong enough to drive the God of creation to send HIS Son to pay for MY sins.

john 3_16

Love is the strongest force in the universe.

Ask any bereaved parent.

When all else dies,

love lives.

child-and-mama-heart-together

 

Father’s Day for Bereaved Fathers-They Hurt Too

I wrote this a couple of years ago when I realized that in many ways bereaved dads are forgotten mourners.

I think it’s partly due to the fact that many (not all!) men tend to hide their feelings and are less likely to burst into tears when grief waves overtake them.

So most people (who really don’t understand child loss at all-thankfully) assume Dad is doing OK.

I can promise you that Dad is NOT doing OK.  His heart is in just as many pieces as Mom’s.  And Father’s Day is just as hard for him as Mother’s Day is for her.

I can’t pretend to understand exactly what it feels like to be a father who buries a child. I’ve only been able to watch from the outside as my husband absorbed the impact of that great wound.

But I can tell you this:  for dads, like moms, each holiday is another mile marker on the road of grief.

It is another poignant reminder that things are not as they were-they are not as they should be.  

Read the rest here:  Father’s Day for Bereaved Fathers