Thursday, September 25, 2014

For the Pain

In the last year I've witnessed more pain and heartache than the 26 years before it combined. At least, I've become much more aware of it. Much more a witness to other people's pain, including the grief in my own immediate family.

I've watched dear friends and family lose precious babies.
I've experienced sudden loss and watched my husband and his family work through their grief.
I've witnessed loneliness, sickness, mental illness, troubled children, loss of faith.

It seems like too much. Too much hurt and loss. Too much betrayal.

Last year I found myself silently berating God. "How could YOU do this? How could YOU take away this sweet child? How could YOU allow them to suffer like this?"

And then, dear friends, a voice whispered in my heart. Not my own voice, it was almost as if I could hear it. It felt so real and so outside of myself.

Maybe you're looking at it wrong.

And that's when I changed.

Don't misunderstand me. Pain still hurts. It still feels unbearable. My heart still is weighed down by the heartache of my loved ones, and those that I don't even know personally. There still are and will be tears, a feeling of emptiness, a hurt that never fully goes away.

But for me, it's not for nothing anymore. I've realized more clearly in the last year that pain and loss is universal to the human experience. Nobody gets out of this life without it. Some people seem to get more than their fair share. Others put up a picture of perfection. But it's there. Underneath it all, we will all experience loneliness, betrayal, loss, a broken heart. We will all have to say goodbye before we're ready.

And it's awful. But it connects us. I've never experienced more love than after my father-in-law passed away in May. The loss brought us all together. Our hearts were broken, but they were knit together in common grief. And when those around us hurt, don't we all instinctively reach out? Try to lift that burden? Even if all we can do is say, "I'm so sorry."

This pain can tear us apart, but it can also bring us closer together. Shared heartache, collective mourning, united healing.

Back in Omaha I visited with a frail, old woman who told me of a book she read in which a person had a near-death experience/vision. In this vision, the person was shown a homeless drunk passed out in the street and was asked, "What do you see?"

She replied, "I see a homeless drunk."

The angel told her that this person agreed to come to earth and go through this so that the people around him would have the opportunity to serve and learn compassion.

A much younger me thought it was the stupidest thing I'd ever heard.

And now...I don't know. Without suffering, how would we learn compassion? How would we know the thrill of love without the pain of loss?

I have not lost a child, but I mourn with my loved ones who have. I cry today for two beautiful baby girls gone much too soon. But through the tears, I feel my heart opening. A string, a connection to their mothers is welded. I can not take away the pain. But I can remember with them. I can hold my own children closer today and love them too much. I can let my love and grief overflow in good deeds for others.

It doesn't make it better, but at least it doesn't seem in vain.

So to my friends and family who are grieving, you all know who you are, I see you. I remember. I love you. I hurt with you. And though I wish it hadn't happened, I am trying to allow it to change me and improve me. Unite us and bind us.

We are all fellow travelers along this road.

Monday, September 22, 2014

Written By Mom

    Today I opened my mailbox and found two contributor copies of next month's Highlight's Magazine for Children. The article I put so much time and work into two years ago is finally in print. I brought it inside and told the kids what it was. Jane wanted me to read it to her. So I did. Then, of course, I took some pictures to commemorate the occasion and put them up on facebook. It's not real until then, right?

    I got lots of great responses, congratulations, I'm so proud of you, that's so cool. And my favorite from my grandma, "I am so proud to be the grandmother of a published author."

    Published Author. Those words feel really good. They sound really good. You know what? They sound impressive. Published Author. Say it with a british accent. It's even better.

   But you know what? After a few minutes of celebration, I fed my children lunch. And at the table, Jane and Max were full of questions about suns, stars, and planets. So we retreated to the computer to look at pictures of Outer Space. We talked about the Milky Way. And which stars are bigger than our sun? Can we see them at night time? When will our sun run out? Will it get big and red? Why on earth did they name a star Betelgeuse? What's a black hole? Could one suck up our sun? How do stars die? Do they kill each other?

   And in that moment, I did something even more important than getting published. I was a mother. I was a teacher. I loved someone with every fiber of my being and held them close and shared with them a passion. I took a question and replaced it with wonder and awe and understanding. I helped little human beings grow just a little closer to being adults with reverence and knowledge.

  The truth is, a lot of people will see my name by that article. Very few people will know about what I did after writing it, before writing it, inbetween revisions, on the way to the post office to mail it, during the long months of waiting.

   I was a mother. I am a mother.

   Today I felt successful. And it felt good. It always feels good to put your heart into something and have someone tell you it is good. Heck, to pay you for it!

   The world puts little real stock in motherhood and what I do day in and day out. But I want you to know that I know it's important. It's most important. I love what I do. I chose it over many other good options. I was "successful" before today because I have invested in the people around me, friends and family. I put my heart out there every day. I strive to make my home an emotional safe haven. I love my children, and worry about them, and care for them, and teach them. I work and improve and evaluate and try again. I forgive and offer grace to myself and to others.

    And that alone makes me successful.

   I don't need a tag line for that.