Sunday, March 15, 2009


I'm beginning to understand at a new level why we find hospital chaplains, spiritual directors, therapists -- anyone with the skill to ask open-ended questions and the capacity to listen to the answers without feeling compelled to comment, fix, teach, change, or make better -- so valuable in our lives. Anyone with the ability to name names and to hear feelings and experiences for what they are.

My father has been widowed three times, divorced once, lost a child. You might think that he would be one of those people.

He hasn't said my son's name aloud to me in months.

He called last night and peppered questions at me in a booming, jovial voice. How's school? Your exams are finished? Everything go well? New classes? How's your other school? What exactly are you studying there? How's the young lady in Oregon? When is her graduation again? The young man at home? The husband?

My answers: Fine. Yes. Fine. Yes. Fine. Spiritual direction. Fine. May 17. Fine. Fine.

The real answers: Very difficult. Two weeks ago. I did well and and what difference does it make? What difference does anything make? Yes, and I am appreciative of the chance to study Matthew with one of the world's great experts, terrified of attempting Homiletics at this juncture in life but possessed of enough of a sense of self-preservation to want to go forward, perplexed as I finally begin to look at Calvin in depth and address the endless series of paradoxes and dichotomies that mark my faith. It's wonderful and I am incredibly grateful to the people who urged me to go ahead with the spiritual direction program, telling me that I might find healing there. Would you like to know sometime what spiritual direction is and why I am investing two years of my life in formal training as a director? She's doing well and busy and productive and her heart is broken. He's confused and struggling to get a handle on life. He's sad and angry.

My father and my former spiritual director are almost exactly the same age. One of them could tell you quite a bit about me, before and after; sends me things that help sometimes; can absorb it all. The other can't even go there.


Lisa :-] said...

Family is probably the last place one can find...what one needs when a hole has been blasted into that very thing--family.

The other day, I had planned to tell my sister how very lonely I am, living and working so hard so far away from the only support network I'd ever known (which, as it happens, disappeared long before I left it behind; but that's an old, tired tale...)

But...I couldn't say the words. Just couldn't.

Kathryn J said...

I'm sorry that your father is no help at this juncture. For many of his generation, denial is the emotion of choice.

I look forward to reading as you wrestle with Calvin. I'm sorry that it is all so difficult right now.

Jodie said...

"My father has been widowed three times, divorced once, lost a child. You might think that he would be one of those people.

He hasn't said my son's name aloud to me in months."

Wow. Does he ever mention the name of his dead wives, ex-wife, and lost child? Is the loss of a grandson less of a loss than that of a son or daughter? As a father I know that I suffer the grief of my children as if it were my own, in addition to my own.

It seems to me, maybe, that his own room called "grief" has no doors or windows. That maybe if the door that leads to the next room over only leads to more grief and loss, then maybe he feels trapped.

What does he hang on to? What if all the grief in the world is not up to the loss?

I don't know what I would look or sound like if I had to survive so much loss. But I have noticed that those who do seem at times more cold and distant than the rest.

Like somebody has drained their sympathy tank bone dry.

sunflowerkat321 said...

Reading about you and your dad in the aftermath of your loss has my thoughts and emotions bouncing all over the place. I don't think I can put what I'm feeling into a coherent sentence. But, I wanted you to know that I was here and I'm thinking of you all with love.


Michelle said...

I'm facing my most senior grad student on Tuesday - seeing him for the first time since his younger sister died (she was 24) two weeks ago. I was away and could not go to the funeral, though I've written to him.

This just reinforces my sense that I need to be sure to say something more than, "thanks for the latest draft of your thesis, I've got 4 pages of changes for you".

Gannet Girl said...

Jodie, I would not characterize my father as you have -- with a sympathy tank bone dry. I do think that the Oprah let's expose everything generation was preceded by a let's not generation. That's all.

And actually, most of the people I know who have sustained multiple losses -- mostly Holocaust survivors -- are remarkably gracious and generous individuals.

Anonymous said...

I did get the feeling that your dad belonged to the same generation as my folks; emotional stuff is not dealt with in the same way, as you confirmed in your last comment. From what I understand about that generation, the advice they generally got was: "Move on and stiff upper-lip." To top it off, I can imagine that your dad would not want to make it harder on you by bringing it up and risking hurting you again and again.

I came to understand my mom a little more after she told me about her own mother's death. She was only 4 yrs old when her mom died and her father only allowed her to go to the funeral if she promised not to cry. To this day, it is physically painful for her to cry.

We just don't really know all that our folks have been through.


LesleyJoy said...

Within the past 24 hours you have twice been mentioned to me by people who frequent a bulletin board on which you are known by another name. I just wanted you to know that you are remembered, loved, and prayed for. Please come back to the bulletin board when you are ready. Perhaps you would even consider posting to the thread I began not long ago which is entitled, Coping with Grief:

Understanding a bit and cheering you onward,


LesleyJoy said...

The URL I provided does not work. Perhaps this one will: . Go to The Porch, then click on Coping with Grief. We miss you.


Mary Beth said...

I am taking deep breaths for you.

MikeF said...

Praying for you, as always these days... Know that I do think of you very often, especially in this seabird-haunted place.

Jodie said...


Your blog is so powerful and sacred that I wade into it with fear and trembling.

As I reread my post and your reply, I fear I may have offended. If I did, please accept my humblest apology. It was not my intent. I was just musing out loud, if you will, about topics I know nothing about, nor have any right to comment.