One of my good friends told me that when she was younger her mother had a great and horrible reply for one of the more commonly used phrases employed by young people when they are asked to do something they do not want to do.
“Please take out the trash.” (mother)
“I don’t feel like it” (child)
“Feel again.” (mother)
Feel again. I have worn that idea threadbare. My feelings float out like the silk of spider web searching for something to latch on to, while trying to avoid the pain.
Pain with its grief is so firmly attached to places in my memory and heart and I would like to shake it loose. I really do have more good memories than bad concerning my family. I should be able to put my hands into the sands of memory and extract far more happy thoughts than sad. I should.
Good memories and painful ones have a similar intensity, though how that can be measured I have no idea. Good memories carry me up and the after effect is that I find myself thinking ,if only briefly ,that everyone in the memory is still here, well, alive. There is the thought that you should call them and say “I was just thinking about the time . . .” so you can laugh with the person, so they can add their memory in the mix, enhancing it. Painful memories are more visceral. There seems to be a physical reaction and after effect that is uncomfortable. Heart rate, breathing, the feeling in the pit of your stomach, the heaviness like a cold wet blanket though you may be breaking out in a fine sweat. A feeling of wanting to retreat to some small dark place to wait for it to be over.
Good memories open doors for sharing, painful memories make you contract in on yourself. I want the fulcrum to shift under the teetering plane of my memories. I want to be among those good memories more often.
Maybe I will become some demented old woman who, wandering around in that state lives among those good memories, in a place where all those I love still exist. Would that be so bad?
The other feelings that I miss come from the impact that the death of my son has had on my faith. I thought at first I was the one picking up the pieces, but I have come to recognize, in this fog, that it has been God HImself gently handing me back parts of it at times when He thinks I can best handle it. Some of the pieces I don’t recognize and some of the pieces I have refused to take. Other parts look totally different to me. I feel myself wanting to ask “are you sure that is mine.” and “what am I supposed to do with that?”
I treasured my faith. I trusted. I prayed. I thought that there really was some sort of blanket coverage of safety from the awful things in this world. There is no magic. Sorry – but when you do the hokey pokey and turn yourself around all you get is dizzy.
The amazing thing that startles me at times, at my angriest, darkest, ugliest moments is that even after this ; I still believe. I believe that God gives wisdom. I believe that He is steadfast and bigger than we can imagine. I believe that all of us, the humble and contrite, the Bible-beating, scripture quoting, hell-fire breathing “angry-because-you-are-not-like-me, and don’t deserve to be” people in this world have it wrong. We create our own strings to attach to the prison of this world. We try to wrap everyone up in them because it makes us feel powerful and “in control.”
Well one thing for certain – we are out of control. The barrel is empty. No control left. Hang on for the ride.
I grew up in a conservative church tradition. A painful and conditional church. Men were in charge regardless of their qualifications or gifts. Women became passive aggressive in response, pulling strings from behind the stage. Dishonest is perhaps the best word I can use for this. We were given permission by each other to accept teachings based on a few select passages from the Bible, and disregard that that did not suit us. The Spirit does not flourish in this type of soil, not the Spirit of God, nor the spirit of man. Freedom was only a word, never embraced because of fear.
The mother of Christ, Mary was someone in a story. When her and Elizabeth words and songs were to be read aloud for the assembly it was read by a man’s voice. She is mentioned in the accounts of Christ‘s life, and we are told she stood at the foot of the cross. She watched her son die. If the account is even half way accurate, it was a horrible way to die, but Mary stayed. She watched and she wept, her heart felt like it would burst. She felt faint and sick and wished she could be the one hanging there in his place. She remembered the first time she felt that fluttering movement as he grew inside her and she remembered when she first held him in her arms. She watched him grow and she marveled over this person, this boy, this man. She loved him and she could not understand why this was happening to her son. The sacrifice was as lost on her as it is on me. I weep her tears, and the tears of all mothers through the ages. That is the eternal bound.
She did not understand the choice He made, the decision to submit to a will of authority in His life. We, none of us, will ever understand.
Do I worship Mary? No, but I love her. I embrace her because she has been where I have been, by the side of a beloved son who has died. The pieces of my shattered faith that I have been handed reflect back my hope that this is not the end of the story. I continue to collect the proffered pieces of faith and hope. I think what I had been holding before was pretty badly damaged anyway, but it served to get me here, thus far.
I am learning to feel again. I am stretching the muscle fibers of my being and it hurts. I wish I had started earlier. I am a bit stiff with age and the weight of sorrow. I know you probably don’t want to do this either but let me encourage you to feel again.