Grant us Peace
Tonight I sat in the round in a room full of mostly strangers on padded stack-able chairs with blue vinyl cushions. It was the first Sunday of Advent and before the service we were kept outside in the church courtyard waiting in the cold, huddled in small circles with fingers wrapped around Styrofoam cups holding hot cocoa that tasted like summer camp and hot apple cider. Inside we sang the liturgy, made music together, called upon God’s grace with our voices in unison. During the prayers of the people I felt a little bit bad that I hadn’t lit a candle or written a prayer down for you on this day your mother died but I had been too busy clasping my eyelids closed as tight as they could grasp onto each other, listening to the piano in the background and trying to remember exactly what I experienced on the day my own mother died so that I might feel closer to and able to be more supportive of you. That day was a cold, dark one like this one. On the phone, one person called, a friend from high school, and left a voice mail saying of which I remember nothing other than them saying they loved me. They’d never said this before and never would again. A friend’s mom stopped by my dad’s house and brought me chocolate rather than flowers which was apt but little did she know I wouldn’t be able to eat for months. It’s the only time in my life I’ve never been hungry. Grief has a way of doing that to you. A few days later, having traveled north to my mom’s house to start sorting through her belongings, a friend drove for hours in the dark to bring us baked chicken and rice for dinner but I couldn’t manage to get any of the small grains and breast meat down my throat. Somehow nourishing myself seemed impossible and unimportant without her in the world. I imagine perhaps you’ll feel the same. Perhaps instead of nothing, you’ll medicate your shattered heart with all of the things as I learned to do in later years. Perhaps unlike me, you’ll actually sometimes answer the phone when it rings and let people love and take care of you. Do these things. Ask for help. Fall to your knees. Crumple to the ground and into the arms of others under the weight of your grief. When you feel the wave coming lay down and let it wash over you in all of it’s momentary torture. Eventually the waves will calm a bit. Being strong and stoic is overrated. Have a funeral. Speak with honesty about who your mother was and what her living and her dying has taught you. Be brave enough to choke over your own words, propel them off of your tongue and out of your insides no matter how much they form a lump in your throat and feel impossible to speak. There’s freedom in the words. You will heal faster and be stronger for them.
I’d like to tell you that eventually the pain will dissipate completely but that would be a lie. But it will lessen more and more and more over time. This afternoon I went to buy a Christmas tree, the decorations for which I’ve been making for a few weeks now, and suddenly, with it tied atop my car, I began to weep uncontrollably, missing my mom so deeply in that moment that I didn’t know what to do. It felt wrong that I was undergoing this favorite tradition without my favorite person by my side. The emptiness of the space she used to feel will never get plugged up by other people. You will experiences this too. The loss of a mother is a tilting of the Earth’s axis that no words can explain until one has experienced it themselves. There will always be an empty space in the world, in your life, where she was. The good news is that eventually your thoughts will begin to escape for a minute or two every few hours to other things like having something to eat or needing to go back to work, a small glimpse of life outside of your own cave of sorrow, and the knowledge of your newly black and white existence will recede long enough to make you not crave drugs you so desperately want to knock you out and numb you from all the pain. Eventually your brain will learn to escape it’s sorrow here and there so you can keep your sanity. The good news is that eventually you will get to a place where what you’re going to eat for dinner and if you should take a shower at night or in the morning, is what you’re thinking about and the moments when you are swallowed up by your grief like I was in a Christmas tree lot this morning, will be few and far between. While you won’t be able to predict grief’s surprising oncoming, as it’s washing over you you’ll be able to feel like you’ll be able to see the sunlight in the distances still and you know the pain won’t last forever. The pain won’t last forever. I know it doesn’t feel like that now, but eventually it will.
I wonder what the world looks like where you are. In my neck of the woods today felt like the first day of winter. When I opened the door to walk the dog this morning the skies were grey and all of the trees suddenly bare. Gone were beautiful piles of rainbow confetti at their trunk’s feet, instead shriveled up piles of brown flakes, remnants of the place beauty once was. Tonight as we closed out the Eucharist singing Dona Nobis Pacem I thought of you, sang as loudly as my voice could muster, closed my eyes, and asked God to look over you and yours. You mother was beautiful, stunning in fact. And, she was lucky to call you Daughter. What a blessing the wisdom young women like you and I have been given through our loss. In time you will see that your pain and sorrow, your suffering and grief, affords the understanding of things you never before knew and you will be grateful for them. For now, eat pie, take baths, call friend, sob into your pillow, stare into the distance, make angels in the snow, sing at the top of your lungs to God and never forget saying thank you to your mom. You are her wishes incarnate, the Universe now has even bigger things in store for you. What a blessing that must be.