Monthly Archives: October 2016

When hello means goodbye

Holding space tonight for the babies gone too soon. Sometimes hello means goodbye.

Sometimes the baby is taken before it’s life is even known. Sometimes others make choices for wee ones. Sometimes we don’t even get to say hello. Sometimes there is no space or time for goodbye. Sometimes we are asked to love a baby not knowing for how long what the end of the story will be. Sometimes there are no tears left to come. 

This concludes pregnancy and infant loss month. I have entered spaces of grief often this month, my own and others. My heart aches for my baby gone before I could know her. And for a mother who buried hers today. I hold space for a family who has been mourning for a long while. And for another whose baby changed us all. For a family daring to love without guarantees, just to bathe a baby in love. 

In the middle of Halloween and elections, may there be space for quiet remembering and loud grief.

Death screams. 

And we will never be the same. 

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Word crafting 

My daughter wrote in her journal tonight. The idea she was chasing is that when I write I express the image of God.

It made me think. What does it mean when “Word” is used to express a name for God. Is writing part of that expression of the very reality of being made in His image?

When I began  to write, I would sometimes say that I was writing because it was the only thing on my list of “things I will never do” that I had not done. Here is the list: foster care, adoption, homebirth, women’s groups, writing.  (If you know me at all, you are probably laughing about now). 🙄

So on the light of that list, and the humor of God, sometimes I joked that I started to write because it was inevitable. But I think that this reflection calls to me in a tender  way;  in simplicity and truth.

There are  words inside of me that long for expression. Perhaps that is part of how I am made, to express an Image.  When I write, I am  reflecting something bigger.

And so, I write.

Precious Lord

I woke up with these lyrics woven vividly into a dream acompanied by the music itself:

Precious Lord, take my handLead me on, let me stand

I’m tired, I’m weak, I’m worn. 

Through the storm, through the night

Lead me on to the light

Take my hand precious Lord, lead me home. 

When my way grows drear precious Lord linger near

When my light is almost gone

Hear my cry, hear my call

Hold my hand lest I fall

Take my hand precious Lord, lead me home. (Thomas A Dorsey)

I did some reading about the origin of this song today. The author was leading music when he received a telegram saying that his wife had died in childbirth. A week later, the baby died as well. Somewhere in the journey of his despair he sat at a piano and this heart cry poured out.

I also learned,  curiously, that Elvis made this song famous and also Mahalia Jackson. This was not something I knew as those singers were banned in my Baptist upbringing. When I hear this song I hear it in my grandmothers voice. 

My grandma was the song leader at Aurelius Road Church, in the Lansing/Holt area. She had a deep voice, unusual for a woman. As the story grows, or goes, she wore a peacock feather in her hat.  She was single in a day that was rare. She owned her own gift and Bible bookstore, and had a dry cleaning business. She had her secrets, which died with her.

I know that for me, as a child, my grandmother provided moments of safety. I had named her Meemie, early on. Supposedly, this was my childhood attempt to say pennies, and she always brought me plenty of those. So I would look at her purse In her photograph and say Meemie’s. (I will let you draw from that what you want to; it is not the point of the story). 

Meemie would come to see us on a big airplane, her floral suitcase bulging and held together with packing tape. When we opened it, it would be full of crackerjack prizes. No one ever pointed out where all those boxes of crackerjacks must’ve gone.

 I would lean my head against her fur collar as we came home from the airport,  trying to avoid the scratchy wool coat. It was cold, and it smelled like mothballs. I remember going to sleep with her sitting by my bed and singing the old songs, one after the other.

I felt safe those nights, and I think they were held safe by her presence. She represented moments of respite in a very confusing world.  

In later years, the tables turned. She had followed us to Arizona. I stayed to graduate with my class when my family moved to Canada. I was left with the car, weeks away from my 16th birthday. The agreement was that I would visit my grandmother once a week, and put $.10 a mile in a jar. I started out doing it out of compulsion. Very quickly, a deep friendship grew.

I would surprise her with Kentucky fried chicken and Mountain Dew. She would make waffles for dinner, and fill them with every mix in imaginable. I would bring my textbooks and study. And somewhere in the evening I would take out her old hymnal and sing. All the verses, one song after another. She would join in, her voice quivering.

There were many years where it was hard to sing those old songs as I wrestled with the reality of my childhood contradictions and violence. They are being redeemed one by one. The truth contained in the ancient words still calls to my spirit.

I walked the dark street tonight with my pug, singing this song. If the neighbors could hear, they might have wondered. They don’t know that a story continues to be written, co-authored by God. 

It is the story of an old woman and a little girl, a story of music in the night.

Coming home

A daughter came home today. I watched for her face in a crowd of strangers. I strained to see her, the anticipation rising in my soul. I felt the sheer delight burst through my spirit as I saw her, and hugged her tight.

I saw a friend once, so precious to my heart, moments after she passed into the Mystery. Her face held that same longing, that delight, like she had just seen someone for whom she had been longing all her life.

I just finished re-reading Frederick Beuchner’s A Sacred Journey:  “we must learn to listen to the cock crows and hammering and tick-tock of our lives for the holy and elusive word that is spoken to us out of their depths.” 

There was a moment when we were all sitting and braiding hair this weekend, a mother and two of her daughters. And for an elusive breath of time I saw the holy. 

 

Jeans shopping 

I went Jeans shopping with my middle schooler. Long legs poking out of last year’s pants, and fall temperatures dipping into the 90s, combined with an Old Navy sale to lure us out. 
We both found jeans that fit perfectly; an amazing feat. She doesn’t know that women of all ages can dread jeans shopping and swimsuit shopping. To her it’s just fun. As it should be, right, before evil moves in to steal the goodness.
My “littles” are feeling the need to educate me about middle school. They put words to the contradictions and expectations that swirl through the halls; with the plaid skirts and polo shirts.

Tonight I heard more: “middle school girls want to fit in or stand out”. “They want to be beautiful so they can feel complete.” Ah, twelve.

Memories of twelve flit through my mind as we drive past the Highschool I attended. It is near enough to our house that I could hear the fight song while I was in labor with my second.

I remember the watching, the listening, the trying to figure it all out. It often seemed that there were rules that everyone else knew. To fit in was how you stood out, somehow. To stand out was to destroy the possibility of fitting in.

My middle school son wonders why it is so much harder for middle school girls. Is it? I have never been a guy, so I can only guess.

There are no shortcuts; you can’t fast forward from elementary to college like one kid wished today.

Maybe the way through it starts with a pair of jeans and listening in the car.