Tuesday, June 29, 2010


When I read many of the posts written by other mothers who have lost children, I am often blown away: by their energy, their generosity, their ability to "get out there" and be with family and friends and colleagues. Usually these readings and reactions occur when I am sitting in bed, either wrapped in a quilt or (more likely, these days) sprawled in front of a fan, and contemplating tasks which have suddenly become overwhelming, like making a sandwich for lunch or putting in a load of laundry.

Then one of those amazing women writes a note or leaves a comment to the effect that "life is very hard today," and I am reminded that they, too, have their moments ~ or days, or weeks. Or life.

A couple of months ago I raised the "I can't imagine" issue with my two pastors. (You all know how much I hate that phrase. ) "You know," responded one of them, "I can imagine; I don't have that much trouble imagining something happening to one of my children, because it's a genuine nightmare of mine. What I can't imagine is this: how are you doing this, sitting fully dressed and having a conversation in a coffee shop? How are you going onward day by day, doing ordinary things?"

I've been thinking about that question, and I realize that I am split in two, most of the time. There's the public me, the me that looks and walks and talks pretty normally, the me that can go to school and meetings and events and about whom people probably say, "She's doing well." That me is getting stronger and more capable each day, and will probably be able to do some good things in ministry.

Then there's the private me, the me that feels as if I am walking across a vast terrain of broken glass all the time, any piece of which may suddenly pierce the calloused bottom of my foot and cause a silent yelp of pain and an unseen limp. Sometimes those jagged pieces protrude into my feet and life five or six times a day; sometimes, pretty much every minute, all day long.

I am so grateful to have made and now recovered this fairly private blog space, where I can say all of that. I do feel that I have sisters and brothers who walk with me, most especially sisters who have lost children and sisters in ministry, among whom I can say, when I need to, that regardless of what you see on the surface, at the moment I'm crunching broken glass under my bare feet.

I think that maybe the suffering God whom I've been wondering about, the Silent One, is in the space between the two of me, making a tenuous whole possible. I'm not sure, but maybe.


Magdalene6127 said...

I now check myself each and every time the impulse to say "I can't imagine" hits me. Which, truth to say, is less and less often.

Love to you, in the reasonably ok moments and the broken glass ones.

Mompriest said...

I understand exactly how it feels to live like one is two. I feel it all the time, but most prfoundly now as I try to prepare and preach sermons to congregations that aren't "mine" - true I am grateful to supply and preach - but at the same time it reminds me of my wounds and losses while at the same time requiring me to not show those wounds.

I don't sit in my bed, but I get stuck in a chair with my laptop.

But right now I'm going to get off the chair, do some yoga and then sit in silent prayer for an hour. Among others I'll hold you in those prayers. And if I'm "lucky" I'll have some idea of where to go with the sermon for this Sunday, too....

Sarah S-D said...

thank you for this reminder and for the evocative suggestion at the end of this post. bless you.

Kathryn J said...

There are so many words that you have taught me not to use. Sometimes I feel that there are none left. I'm sorry for the times that I may have inadvertently been the broken glass.

Karen said...

Once again, you've expressed my heart perfectly. I'm sorry that it reflects yours too. It hurts so relentlessly. I feel like a zombie--alive, but not.
Hugs for you my insightful, expressive friend.

Nancy said...

Thank you for your generosity in being open. Your words and the pictures you paint are a blessing.

I will think for some time about God being in the in-between space.

Holding you in prayer.

Gaye said...

A long time ago I was abused. Often. By my father.I split. With the help of two gifted therapists I have come to hear each heartbreaking story. I recognize your description of having a you that walks and talks and works and raises children and connects with the world and whom apparently functions reasonably well.

But I also wonder if the God Who Watches is in the spaces between that person and the secret others.

I have not ever lost a child, only a childhood and that is not the same thing at all. To you and all those who have I can offer nothing but my small prayers.

Anonymous said...

I have often wondered when someone has said to me "I can't imagine...." whether in fact they won't imagine or don't want to imagine. Which is another thing altogether and so whether this phrase is a way of making distance between them and my sometimes all to obvious hurt ... a

karen gerstenberger said...

That makes a lot of sense, to me. And I know what you mean about the two of you. I would love to have a real dialogue with you about this - perhaps we could get a panel together. I have been wrestling with certain aspects of the increasingly capable "me," and the humility that I love in the "I" who am vulnerable. Of course, they are both aspects of me.
Am reading a fascinating book called "Explorers of the Infinite" by Maria Coffey which examines the deeper aspects of living that explorers and extreme athletes seek, and find, and to which some become addicted. I sense that there is a correlation between them, and what we have found in our griefquakes.

christine said...

Just finally read this. I was talking with someone just 2 days ago and she asked me how I was really doing. I just looked at her for a long time and then began to cry. It took a minute to realize that I don't think anyone outside of my circle of people I talk with --not too many---who also still are grieving...have asked that question. I knew she was serious and was willing to hear the words I would share...it so touched me that all I could say was "thank you for asking". Broken glass, misbuttoned shirts, drawers with the clothes all scattered...just great ways to describe this journey.
I feel like a glass that is clear and light on the top part of the liquid and then dense and cloudy on the bottom of the glass--and if you stir me up, there is more than even I know. thank you for your words dear Robin. miss you....thinking of you as the anniversary nears again.

Robin said...

Chris, I just saw this comment.Your image is so right on - the cloudy under the clear, just waiting to mix it up.