Grief

I am Sending Him

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I am sending him, that is, my own heart, back to you….Perhaps this is why he was away from you for a while, that you might have him back forever… ~ Philemon 1: 12, 15

          There are days that begin and end much the same way, in simple breaths that do not stray too far from the gate. While this past Thursday began in the hope of being a quick and efficiently worked day, by afternoon, it was clear to me that I wasn’t going home early from work.

          Like beads being threaded together to make a necklace, came the tasks, one by one. In a madness that can only come out of my country, without warning, a week back, schools were suddenly shut and most of the country was placed under movement control order again. Overnight, state borders were sealed, and inter district travel curbed in many states except in ours. Those of us in the government service were told to work from home but our state being a green zone, there was some flexibility. So, I opted to go into work on Thursday to take care of some paper work. I figured I’d be done and out by lunch time.

          Instead, it was almost 8 at night when I finally drove home. It wasn’t just the work that forced the late hour. In my tiredness, I made  a few mistakes too. As everyone knows, it’s always easier to prevent mistakes than to mop up the mess. But the only way for me to do that was to have a clear head and I didn’t, not that Thursday. The sudden lockdown announcement the previous Sunday afternoon had dunked me head first into the barrel. I had just one day to sort out the younger kids and make strict study plans for them while rushing to re-start my personal online work platforms. It should have been happy news for me, an inveterate homebody, a respite from the work place I dislike, but after months of political roiling, I didn’t appreciate the short notice and the ambiguity of it all.

I am sending him, that is, my own heart, back to you

          By early that Thursday afternoon, I was already wondering where was the heart God had promised me. When you hide your old grief inside, and carry on as well as you can, yet all the while searching the skies for signs of a mystical return, when you read of such a promise just that morning, well, you expect the day to go really well and smooth.

          Instead, there I was, working feverishly, unsure if I could meet my own deadlines, deafened to even birdsong.

Where is my Heart, Lord, I asked, where is he?

Do not stand at my grave and weep,
I am not there, I do not sleep…
Do not stand at my grave and cry,
I am not there.

Den no die, Mama

          Where is my Heart, Lord? Where is he?

          A little slowly at first, but surely, the knots untangled. One by resolute one, things got done and buttoned close. As the day blushed into sunset, I began to sense something had changed. The air around me had stilled. Then, I sensed a presence beside me and within me, soft, gentle yet firm and strong.

Den no die, Mama

          There was still much to get through, but I was now miraculously clear-headed. I zipped across town, stop after stop, ticking things off my list. I was calm and collected. Despite the falling shadows and the deserted office, no frisson of alarm creased my spirit.

I am sending him

          When I finally pulled into my home driveway, the sun had gone to his sleep. I was too tired to arch my head towards the skies and search for the faithful diamonds that never fail to burn their gaze from velvet depths. But my little home was ablaze in warm, happy lights and my children had swarmed out to get me out of the car. There were little stories which needed telling and hearing right there on the front lawn. There were little grievances which needed only the balm of an attentive heart. I had received so much and I had even more to give. How much richer I was for that!

          However frayed and difficult that day had been, I had come to its night with a deep peace that left no space unsweetened. As Paul’s words to Philemon about Onesimus tread before me, that night I learned in a deeper way that however tragic our losses, our loving God leaves no gaping hole unfilled. 

          Yet, to get to this point of knowing and acceptance, a road must be travelled, a journey undertaken. There is a time for each step and for each fall. No amount of rushing can get us here. No amount of support can shorten the  distance. Every tear we shed, every question we send to heaven, is another step forward on this journey of seeking the return of what we have lost.

Perhaps this is why he was away from you for a while,

that you might have him back forever.

Praise You In This Storm

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I was sure by now God

You would have reached down

And wiped our tears away

Stepped in and saved the day

But once again, I say Amen

And it’s still raining

And as the thunder rolls

I barely hear Your whisper through the rain

I’m with you

And as Your mercy falls

I raise my hands and praise the God who gives

And takes away

  

And I’ll praise You in this storm

And I will lift my hands

‘Cause You are who You are

No matter where I am

And every tear I’ve cried

You hold in your hand

You never left my side

And though my heart is torn

I will praise You in this storm

 

 I remember when I stumbled in the wind

You heard my cry You raised me up again

My strength is almost gone, how can I carry on?

If I can’t find you

But as the thunder rolls

I barely hear You whisper through the rain

I’m…

  

I remember when I stumbled in the wind

You heard my cry You raised me up again

My strength is almost gone, how can I carry on?

If I can’t find You

But as the thunder rolls

I barely hear You whisper through the rain

I’m with you

And as Your mercy falls

I raise my hands and praise the God who gives

And takes away

 

And I’ll praise You in this storm

And I will lift my hands

‘Cause You are who You are

No matter where I am

And every tear I’ve cried

You hold in Your hand

You never left my side

And though my heart is torn

I will praise You in this storm oh-oh

And though my heart is torn

I will praise You in this storm

 

I lift my eyes unto the hills

Where does my help come from?

My help comes from the Lord

The maker of heaven and earth

I lift my eyes unto the hills

Where does my help come from?

My help comes from the Lord

The maker of heaven and earth

 

And I’ll praise You in this storm

And I will lift my hands

‘Cause You are who You are

No matter where I am

And every tear I’ve cried

You hold in Your hand

You never left my side

And though my heart is torn

I will praise You in this storm, yea

 

And though my heart is torn

I will praise, I will praise You in this storm

I will praise You in this storm

Praise You in this storm

I will praise You in this storm.

          There are songs we bump into and there are songs that come looking for us. Praise You In This Storm by Natalie Grant is both for me.

Soon after it fell upon my ears last week, its anguished refrain, And I’ll praise You in this storm, was a light tap against my heart to ready it for this week: for the missteps, the exhaustion, things not quite working out despite my best efforts. As I played it on loop this week, even as I stumbled and made mistakes, I got up each time, and pressed little thanksgivings into my God’s Heart. There was still so much to be grateful for even as our lives became more and more difficult.

As a new day rose from the old, a new line in the song came to life.

I raise my hands and praise the God who gives

And takes away

          I’d listen to that line as I drove, as I worked, my eyes wet, my throat hurting from tears both old and fresh. Grief lives always. It never dies.

One afternoon, I wept into my pillow. Of the many things You could have done, You chose to give and then to take away. Why, God, why? No hand did I hold up against my old anguish. I felt I had lost so very much in this life. It seemed as if every single epoch of my life has been marked by loss. Just as I discovered some happiness, it would soon be taken away. But this loss…

I raise my hands and praise the God who gives

And takes away

          When I first heard those lines, I turned away from repeating them even as I continued to listen out for them. Then yesterday, driving home from a work day that had decided to live its own plan, so very, very tired, the song playing on, I raised my heart and whispered, You gave, You took away. Thank you. And tears came from the effort of forming the words I couldn’t bear to touch.

As soon as I had placed those words into Heaven’s heart, a light shone upon a new line, only that I heard it differently,

And every tear you’ve cried

I hold in My hand.

Pray for Faith

At Prayer, Edwin Long

          A fellow blogger has been dreading the 11th of September. He’s not American but British and the 11th for him is when his partner and the mum of his only child, passed away. For some time now, through his posts, he has been sharing his apprehension of the approaching anniversary of loss, a day that straddles the ending of one season and the beginning of another. But I never guessed that it would be the 11th of September, a day of mourning that crosses American soil as many around the world break their hearts with America over the senseless loss of lives.

          When this poor man revealed the date of his mourning, a lump formed, and remains yet in my heart.

          Because I feel so helpless in the face of his anguish. Because I want to help but I don’t know how.

          Because his sorrow brings back memories of a time in the old of years.

          So, I whispered a prayer for him in my heart, Lord, be with him – because I know too well that no human effort will suffice as grief rages wild. And then, I went wearily to my day.

          Night has fallen here. Pain has not left my heart, the sultry night air in sullen repose, unwilling to render any comfort or hope. I ponder this pain for this man and his child, I wonder at this stubborn clutch of tears within me, unable to be shed. If I cry, would the pain go?

          Slowly, I sense a hand reach out to my spirit.

Pray for the gift of faith.

 

 

 

 

 

Lent 39 ~ The Greatest Love. The Greatest Grief.

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And if the love of Mary towards her Son was immense, immense also must have been her grief in losing Him by death. “Where there is the greatest love,” says Blessed Albert the Great, “there also is the greatest grief.”   ~ St. Alphonsus Maria de Liguori

 

 

 

 

 

Love. Death. Life.

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          Years and years before, on a dark night bereft of breezes and the windvoices I longed to hear, unable to sleep, and with a storm seeking release, I left my sleeping family, seeking solitude to be alone with my sorrow. But my husband heard me and soon, he was with me. We ached over the pain in each other’s heart, but we had no words. None that could brush away the tempests of grief that blew wild within our broken hearts. We sat together in that deep, dark stillness, bound close by the weave of a thousand memories and yearnings.

          In that stillness, we heard something light fall to the floor. I remained locked in my world, but my husband, wondering what it was, got up to look. It was an old prayer card that had never fallen before in our presence, but chose that very minute we were there, to leave its perch for us.

          In the dim light, my husband read the prayer softly.

Make me a channel of Your peace.
Where there is hatred let me bring Your love;
Where there is injury Your pardon, Lord;
And where there’s doubt true faith in You.

Oh, Master grant that I may never seek
So much to be consoled as to console;
To be understood as to understand;
To be loved as to love with all my soul.

Make me a channel of Your peace.
Where there’s despair in life let me bring hope;
Where there is darkness, only light;
And where there’s sadness, ever joy.

Make me a channel of Your peace.
It is in pardoning that we are pardoned;
In giving to all men that we receive;
And in dying that we’re born to eternal life.

          The final words parted the veils over our sorrow for one brief moment. My beloved wept as the silver arrow of truth pierced his heart.

          For our choice of Love years ago, God had bequeathed us grief. But from that grief – life. Because only death through love could light the flame of life in dying souls. We, like so many before us, had to suffer death – for life to bloom in us and in others.

          Short years after our choice of Love, in a gentle tenderness, He had asked of us an offering we never dreamed we’d ever be asked. In love and for love, we broke ourselves to give, never knowing how far that giving would ribbon out, streaming life into wilting souls.

          God never said the giving He calls us to would be painless, without cost. A sacrifice always exacts a toll on our earthly selves. It is in complete giving to all men that we receive the most bitter of mortal wounds.

          But as in the prayer, it is those very wounds which mark and set us apart for eternal life.       

Fell. But Not Pushed.

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          After a couple of days of doing things right – saying prayers faithfully, responding right, performing little duties well, I received a gentle warning early this morning. Being prompted to and also wanting to offer Mother Mary something on the Feast of the Annunciation, I began the Novena and Divine Mercy chaplet this morning. Obeying the voice I heard during the Rosary of the Sorrowful Mysteries last Tuesday, for the Chaplet meditation, I contemplated on the Holy Wounds of Christ.

          In the first meditation on the wounds caused by the crowning with thorns, this line stood out more than the others: We show mercy by not only forgiving but symbolically dying to the notion of getting even or telling others about our experience. 

          Dying to the notion of getting even or telling others about our experience. I read that line carefully, sure that with the inner spiritual strength I was feeling, I would stand strong.

          A few short hours later, the exact opposite happened. I fell.

          Stung by a colleague who had taken my help for granted, – help I rendered despite tiredness and too much other work – I sought release from my inner hurt and anger. I talked about her to others. I received prompt support and understanding.

          Yet, the balm of human comfort did not ease the sting for long.

          Within minutes of being comforted, I felt bereft. The little wound smarted with a deeper keenness. And there was no leaf I could find to cover the nakedness of my sin – I had NOT died to the notion of getting even. I had NOT died to telling others about my hurt. I had not even forgotten the warning speared to my heart in the slumbering sable hours of early morning. It was ever before me, like parchment messages held up by unseen angel hands.

          Yet, I had willfully turned away from the Cross. When others are suffering so, so much more, under the weight of heavier Crosses. When others are bearing pains far worse. When I myself have tasted bitterness beyond compare in times past, today, over a relatively minor difficulty, I chose the shadows over the Cross.

          I fell. But I was not pushed.

          As the sultry hours of the day seek their repose, I seek a quiet corner to cry the tears that must be shed. But for the first time in ever so long, I do not cry over my hurt.

          I cry because I chose to sin. I cry because I chose to fall when I was not pushed.