For the past two years, I have attended All Souls’ Day mass on November 2nd. It is part of the Allhallowtide Triduum, beginning with All Hallow’s Eve, All Saints’ Day, and then All Souls’ Day. Barely two months after Nelle was born, it was the first time I had set foot in a church after we had lost her. The following year, I had lost both Nelle and Iris and still did not know what the future would hold for us. It gave me a strong sense of community to be around other people who were thinking and praying for their loved ones. In that type of situation, I always look around, trying to find the signs of grief on the faces of others. While people were gripping their candles, or sometimes holding hands with those near them, I did not always see the tracks of tears, even though, for the third year in a row, mine flowed freely. Continue reading
Anne Lamott often recounts words that a priest said to her once: “Sometimes Heaven is just a new pair of glasses.” A change in perspective.
How many words and phrases flow easily from the lips of our culture when it comes to death and dying? All of which are fairly presumptuous that those on the receiving end share the beliefs. Words so much more easily given than received. Or comforting only to the giver: a singular perspective. Continue reading
In the early weeks and months, I prayed for this pregnancy to make it. I don’t really believe in praying to God for what I want, because it seems too self-serving. If my prayers are answered, does that make me worthy? If my prayers are not answered, does that make me unworthy? I cannot reconcile it. My deity prayers only extend to asking for strength, clarity, or maybe world peace. Instead, I think I was praying to the baby. I would whisper “Please baby. Please live for me. I can’t handle losing you too. I feel like my other babies are living through you.” I would wake up during the night in a panic. Heart pounding. Unable to fathom either outcome. And whisper my prayer again.
“On this night we have recognized that life is painful and death is inevitable. We must also acknowledge that simple recognition is not enough. Acting on life’s harsh realities is our responsibility. If we are betrayed, but give not the gift of trust again… it will not be enough.” -Terry Sweetser
Good Friday. A day of solemnity and death. We know that on the third day, death is replaced with life, on Easter. But at the time, no one could see three days into the future. They only knew of death. Right now, I can’t see the future. There is only the pain and the waiting.
Days are filled with activity and bustle and I try to enjoy the time with my kids. But sometimes it is an out-of-body experience where I watch other people engage while I am going through the motions. Hearing something funny or joyful often forces only a hollow laugh, or worse, resentment. I try, but I feel withdrawn or apathetic. I can’t make myself care. I can’t pull myself out of this waiting, “in limbo” time. Seventeen weeks to go feels like an eternity.
Last night, I was driving. It was raining steadily and I was cold. My mind wandered to a very dark place, of knowing that my two previous losses both had medical issues: growth restriction and a chromosome abnormality. I have thought so many times how I miss them, and my heart holds them close with every tightness. I have a framed quote that says “I will always wonder who you would have been.” But when I allow my mind to wander to that place of “who were they?” I realized that it is a place of perfect health; free from whatever medical malfunction caused us to lose them. I felt so unbearably guilty, in a way that I hadn’t previously: for wanting something other than what they were.
I drove all the way to church for an 8:00 service. The Unitarians call it “Tenebrae” – the Service of Shadows. I sat down, still shivering, still guilt-ridden. I glanced through the pamphlet that outlined the readings: all dark and somber. My heart dropped. Perhaps if my mind had not wandered on the drive to a very dark and uncomfortable place, I would have been fine to sit and listen. But as it stood, the idea of listening to hours of readings and music about sin, persecution, and death was overwhelming. Perhaps if I had attended a traditional Catholic Good Friday service – at least I would know what to expect and could go through the motions. But faced with the unknown, I couldn’t handle it. I stood up and walked out before it began, no fear of judgment.
And I went resumed my waiting.
“My face carries all my memories. Why would I erase them?” Diane Von Furstenberg
We went to church today and the service included a baby Naming and Dedication Ceremony, the first I’ve seen in the Unitarian church. The family was seated in front, with their 5-year-old, 3-year-old, and baby to be dedicated. Three kids. In the church’s tradition, a family member went up and did a reading of the family’s choosing. The reading was a piece “Written to My Three Kids.” Continue reading