Writing and Grief

My mother’s death has left me with … nothing. Maybe I should just say that it has left me. At times I feel in a fog. At times I forget. At times I remember and grief wrings at my heart the way my mother used to wring out wet clothes. It’s been three weeks. And there’s a nagging feeling that I should get back to life.

In some ways I have. I’ve been biking. I’ve been working. I’ve been going to church, going to dinner, going out with friends. In some of that, there is forgetfulness. On the bike, I can lose everything else and just focus on the sky, the trees, the sunlight, the feeling of the saddle, the peddles, the wind. At work, I can focus on the tasks that need to be done–although some of the bigger tasks feel beyond me at the moment.

Being with friends or family means grief can’t be overwhelming. I want to be with them, I want to TALK, I want to cry and scream and yell “MY MOM IS DEAD.” Instead, we talk of normal life, sometimes of inconsequentials. My words get clogged in my throat, unable to get past the tears traffic-jammed there. I want to cry out to them “help me in my unbelief.” Tell me that she still lives in the afterlife. Tell me that this isn’t the end. Tell me that I will see her again, that she right now is with my dad.

I want to be held while I cry, I want someone to say, “Shhh, everything is alright.”

In other words, I want my mom.

I should get back to life. So not just bike riding or working. I should get back to writing. Just a few words, I tell myself. She wouldn’t want me to stop writing. And yet, it feels so unimportant. Who the hell cares about a rescue operation run out of a bakery? Or a sin-eater named Moth? Or any of the other stories I’ve started and can’t finish. Words on a page don’t seem to mean anything compared to the ashes that rest beside me. They aren’t as solid as a graven headstone.

And yet words were important to her. She loved reading. Some of my earliest memories of her were in a library picking out books to read. She passed that love of reading on to me, and I was so excited when I got old enough to pick books out of the same section of the library that my mom frequented. She loved fiction, mainly mysteries, thrillers, horror, and she shaped a lot of my early reading years. To this day, I can remember the characters of those early books.

So again I ask the question of myself–who the hell cares? Are these things unimportant. No. They connect us to each other, and in some mystical, spiritual way, maybe my words will still connect me to my mom.

I should get back to life. Back to my life. Back to writing. Back to Moth. Back to the Salvatore bakery. As unimportant as they seem sometimes, they are my life.

Even as I write that, another part of me says “tomorrow.” Because right now, it just hurts too much.



Between Celebrations

crown of thornsWe just finished Palm Sunday, commemorating Jesus’ triumphal entry in Jerusalem and the beginning of Holy Week. Next Sunday, we celebrate Easter, commemorating of course Jesus’ resurrection. But between the two celebrations are days of incredible pain, heavy sorrow, nerve-wracking fear and almost unbearable grief.

They huddle in a dark room, this small band of brothers who have lost their beloved leader, teacher, Master and friend. They don’t dare light candles to chase away the shadows, and they start in fear at every footfall outside. Have they been discovered? Are the soldiers coming for them? Tension fills the air and sometimes breaks out in whispered accusations. Why didn’t you do something? Why didn’t you say something? Gazes drop in shame. Why didn’t I say something? Why did I run away?

Where is Judas? They have heard rumors that he killed himself. Good! some of them think. I’m glad he’s dead, that thieving, scheming betrayer. And yet he is missed. He had been one of them. He had been a brother. And yet because of his actions, their friend is dead, their friend who taught them to call Jehovah Daddy, who had multiplied the loaves and fishes, who had healed limbs and calmed the storm.

One of them remembers the taunts at the cross. “He saved others but he can’t save himself!” and he tries hard to push the hate-filled voice out of his head and yet like the serpent in the garden, it slithers into his soul and lodges there. “He saved others but he can’t save himself!” The words are joined by another mournful wail, “My God, my God, why have You forsaken me?” He knows he is the only one here who heard that cry, and yet he can’t tell anyone that. So in this roomful of brothers, he sits and mourns and feels more alone than he has ever felt in his life.

Where is hope? Where. Is. Hope. To him, to the other 10 in the room, it seems that hope died when Jesus did.

Shadows deepen. Life is dark. Even today, we huddle together and face the dark. “In this world you will have trials and tribulations, but take heart,” He said. “I have overcome the world.” But at times, those seem like hollow words. “I will never leave you or forsake you.” But at times, we feel alone and and we feel forsaken. We fumble in the dark for a hand to hold, to somehow believe that we are not alone, that our grief will be comforted, that our tears will be wiped away. And so we gather up the tatters of our faith again like an old woman gathers up yarn to knit a blanket.

We live in the shadow of hope, we dwell in the shadow of the cross. Today, it’s Friday. It’s filled with pain, with overwhelming grief, with fearful doubt and crushing sorrow.

Today, it’s Friday. But Sunday is on the way.

Dark Years of the Soul

light shining in the darkDo you have places of darkness in your mind, where it’s just better if you don’t go? Places that if allowed will consume?

I do. It’s all tangled up with someone I love so incredibly that I can’t imagine my life without him, and that’s my son Josh. It becomes difficult, then, to separate out the love threads from the dark ones, to push the darkness so far away that I can’t be consumed.

Every now and then, though, something happens to bring the darkness to the front again. It can be a simple thing, like seeing a blind person trying to navigate across a busy intersection, and fear and wild imaginings grip my heart, while I repeat like a mantra “just don’t think about it just don’t think about it just don’t…”

Something happened yesterday that brought it screamingly to the front of my brain.
Josh is blind and has autism, a devastating combination, since most people with autism rely most on their sense of sight. Doesn’t really matter. We manage, and there is at least one thing that Josh knows: he knows he has people who love him and will do anything to protect him.

Josh goes to an Easter Seals program twice a week and takes the Access-A-Ride bus both to and from. Normally, my husband waits for the bus to drop Josh off. Yesterday, he didn’t see the bus, the bus didn’t see him waiting, and the bus driver decided it was okay to just drop Josh off alone. We don’t know how Josh got to the third floor of our building, but he did and he was trying to find our apartment, testing various doorknobs to try and get in. One of our neighbors opened the door when he tried to get in and was taking him down to the office when Steve spotted them. (Note to self: get to know the neighbors better.)

And my mind goes crazy.

I see the news reports about children or adults with autism getting lost, wandering away, and my heart always goes out to the family and then I promptly shut down. Better not think about that, my mind whispers. You don’t want to go there. There be monsters in those woods that will rip your soul out.

I’m having trouble doing that this time. My mind thinks about how scared and confused he must have been. I try to tell myself how great this was that Josh took steps to find his way, that he initiated, that he didn’t melt down, that he did what he could to problem solve.
But the grief and sadness and fear rise up. And the anger that it shouldn’t be this way.
Those are dark places with no light — much like my son’s world — and sometimes I’m afraid that if I revisit them, I will get lost there, that the tears won’t ever stop.

I don’t open up easily to people. The main reason is because I’m trying desperately through any means possible to keep that darkness at bay. Sometimes denial is survival.

If you count yourself as one of my friends, just let me know you have a flashlight.