The only two words that come to mind and continue to echo are "Thank You." Thank you to the Staff Parish Team for offering me a few weeks to think about what happened in our families in 2021. Christmas without our Dads was different. No reason to think our celebrations will ever be the same again. Joe and I knew (in our heads) that our Dads wouldn't live forever. What we're working on is knowing (in our hearts) that life is finite. We struggled to make time to see both of our Moms in light of how Christmas fell on the calendar this year. Family plans we made were changed as we observed and celebrated with the Morehead Church family the deaths of Dee and Betty Jo. Thank you for being kind, generous, faithful and compassionate. Thank you. I am grateful. AND...I'm Back!!
I look forward to seeing you this Sunday at Morehead Church either in person or online!
Though I've walked with families in terrible grief, I am no expert at grief or grieving. I carry residual grief from a life full of oceanic transitions--back and forth across the Atlantic Ocean four times in as many years of my life; living through the anxious time of war in Rhodesia which was re-birthed into Zimbabwe; 17 moves (that I can count)-divided by my age (a glad 52), that's about one move every 3 years. The latest research about grief might call these transitions reasons for "complicated grief." There is truth in that...grief and grieving is complicated.
Thought #1: There's not a clear beginning or a clear end to grief or grieving. Though Elizabeth Kubler-Ross' understanding of grief helped us consider grief in an ordered 5 step process--denial, anger, bargaining, depression and acceptance-- she even questioned the model she created. She knew that grief wasn't so easily explained. This sculpture in the National Gallery of Art Sculpture Garden in Washington DC shows me that grief, like life, is much more like a twisted tangle than a straight line!
Thought #2: There is comfort for sadness in the natural rhythms of the earth. Grief comes and goes like waves on the ocean. Some waves knock us under- we feel as if we will drown. Those waves recede. Some waves pool around our ankles- tickling us lightly. Those waves recede. There is grace in the movement of the waves, in the daily rhythms of sunrise and sunset. When we allow ourselves grace in the knowledge that God's wonderful creation keeps time. God has everything carved in the palm of God's hand. When I received the chance to slow down, I received this wonderful gift! I was offered time at a beautiful beach house with a perfect view of the sunset. Each day after praying, journaling, walking, crying, reading, doing art, I excitedly bundled up to watch the evening show that the sun performs. As James Taylor sings, "at night the stars, they put on a show for free..." I found comfort and peace in the simple ritual of watching the sun set.
Thought #3 Experiences with art or some kind of creative expression helps. Get out of your head, out of your four walls, out of the rumination that grief creates. If only for a few minutes a day doing a creative thing--cook, write, draw, paint, make something-- the creative act helps the grief journey tremendously. I re-wrote a poem by Ursula LaGuin and illustrated it. I got lost in coloring and in re-arranging the words. I spent a day in the National Gallery of Art in Washington DC when I stayed with Olivia. This painting of death, life, light and darkness pictures Mary Magdalen, a wounded, healed person, just like all of us, in quiet contemplation on her next steps. ("Repentant Magdalen by Georges de LaTour) How will she live differently because she knows Jesus? Does knowing Jesus help me live differently in light of grief? We each decide if the hope of eternal life through Jesus actually gives us hope. If it does, well then, we live focused on life, not on death. Words can't express the awe I felt that lifted me out of the stew of myself and into the realms of religious art and wonder.
God is Good. All the time. All the time. God is Good.
Thought #4: Learn something about how others have dealt with trauma historically. The ways that other people survive trauma provides us with guidance along our way. The witness of people's resilience in the midst of adversity is miraculous and awe-inspiring. Their resilience gives us strength. I went to the National Museum of African American History and Culture...an amazing and completely absorbing experience. I only made it through one section, there are six amazing sections in the Museum. I want to go back! Visiting the NMAAHC not only put my own story in a much broader context, it helped me understand more deeply what African American people lost when they survived the Middle Passage from Africa, only to live in bondage. It also helped me understand more deeply how indebted we are to African American people who built our nation with their back-breaking labor through the cotton, tobacco and sugar industries. Turning the light of truth on, puts things to rights- the light of truth helps right our feelings, our cultural oppressions, our injustices and inequities. "Turning on the light of truth," means to me, being vulnerable enough with each other to share all the feelings of grief evil, injustice and oppression-- denial, anger, bargaining, depression and acceptance, so we might actually work through them toward a "peace that passes understanding." This is, after all, in our Baptismal vows: "we resist evil, injustice and oppression in whatever forms they present themselves."
Grace and Peace,
Learn more about Complicated Grief
Option B by Sheryl Sandberg & Adam Grant after the sudden death of her husband
National Sculpture Garden
National Museum of African American History and Culture
Ida B. Wells-Barnett's autobiography Crusade for Justice. Wells-Barnett was an African-American journalist in the 1880's who worked for justice for African-American people who were lynched.