I always say, “I could do this life if we could take it one crisis at a time.” I have lots of pithy wisdom like that,it is hard won but oversimplified cliché until you really mean it, really know it to be true. Some of us brace ourselves, walk on tip toes, live afraid the sky is surely falling. Others know what Anne Lamott credits a friend for teaching her: the sky fell a long time ago, so now we just need to figure out how to take care of each other.
When life explodes, when situations, relationships, understandings erupt like a mine field, when ground you thought settled, planted and sewn blows up under your feet it is hard to stand. Balance is a distant memory and rest is a dream, a paradise you once knew. You live among the barren trees, the vineyards of your heart picked clean by the locusts, you cry, you hurt, you eat, you read the stars for answers beyond your grasp. You ask God to speak, to show you the way, you watch and you pray.
The landmines of life have driven me to the brink more than a few times. I am learning though when the ground shakes, I must hold on to those bracing themselves around me. Sunday morning, sitting in a church in our community filled with beautiful dark skinned brothers and sisters. The air conditioning not working so the fans from the funeral home down the street wave, move the air, testify to the goodness of God. I stand with them and clap and sing, “you won’t let me go, no you won’t let me go, you hold my world in your hands and you won’t let me go.” I sing it over and over, a hundred times or more, until tears fill my eyes and I believe it again.
I take a nap on the couch in the sunshine, me, my husband and our two cats and thank God for this band knit together with love, for richer or poorer, in sickness and health, in good times and bad; we have seen them all and we are grateful.
The candlelight twinkles on the faces of people I love and I hear those words again, in good times and bad and I know the stories that fill the space where we all stand. We are all gathered here, swallowed up by love, the bride all lace and wildflowers. We know the struggles and losses that decorate the walls painted with faces of angels and little girls. We take in the testimonies to the goodness of God even in the valley we smile and laugh long from our bellies at the triumph of glasses raised filled with champagne and berry lemonade. We watch as father and daughter dance, glide across the floor aware of the beauty and grace of the moment making proclamation with every step, “look what God has done.” They sway and swirl and we are captivated by the song, “Let it be, let it be, let it be, let it be, there will come an answer, let it be.”
I take stock of these days, when tulips bloom and peonies pop though death and loss still loom; a friend gone far too early, a cousin lost without warning, a loved one’s mother even as I recount the hours and recall where I stood one year ago today. Do we fight, do we force her body to live even as it is clear her spirit is departing; do we hold on or do we let go?
It is a year later now and I grieve and I laugh, I dance and I mourn. I pray for love and more love, I wrap myself in it like a baby’s first blanket, I insulate my fragile self with sisters of the Christ kind who pour love on me, a sweet salve to my wounded heart.
It is a year later.
It had been a fast weekend at the end of a very long week at the end of a hard fought season. I was on a long flight home with Downton Abbey season 2 relishing the heavenly gift of a window seat and no passenger beside me. I stretched out long and wandered into the world of British aristocracy, the Earl of Grantham and his three renegade daughters.
Enveloped in the disagreement between House Manager Carson and Lady Mary, I missed the warning from our pilot that the ride was about to become rough. In an instance, drink carts were rolled away and a routine flight from Atlanta to Indy became the Wabash Cannonball.
Climbing high and dropping low, the plane itself felt like a rickety old roller-coaster that should have long sense been shut down. Drinks flew, women screamed and I--I breathed a prayer and rode the waves, the ups and the downs lost in the world of Cora and Sybil and Jesus’ care. Miraculous, I thought later, as not so many years ago I had to take a small orange pill to steady my nerves before boarding any flight.
I prayed and smiled as I remembered the girl who used to be undone with anxiety at the sound of every squeak at the jerk of every bump; the one who could not relinquish control enough to find peace 30,000 feet in the air let alone below, now held her drink with bended arm, bouncing flexible with the turbulent air and continued to find pleasure in the moment she had been given—hard as it was.
I realized, I am not that tranquilizer girl anymore. Life has come at me hard, there have been many highs and blowing lows and I am still here.
It is a year later.
The grey cloud is lifting and I am finding joy, I am laughing long and loud. Slowly some energy has returned to my frail muscles and my endurance has increased. The sleepless nights are less frequent and the veil of sadness has begun to dissipate, though the dull aching throb at every exhale remains. The long fought battle with God has eased and I have embraced now the truth that sorrow is a part of life and God can be in it just as God is in joy.
I have come to know that my suffering does not make me unique, rather it knits me together with all the universe and this deep longing, this good knowing is now woven into the fiber of my being and runs in the current of by blood. I am no longer on the island of pain alone but I realize I am connected to all of God’s children who hurt, who are lost and who hope to find their way home and in them I find sweet company.
I have heard it said that the path to healing is forged in love and time and that is surely true, I would add the PBS series Downton Abbey doesn’t hurt.