Category Archives: silence

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. 

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.

After the rain 

You don’t treasure rain until you have lived in the desert. The heat rises so intensely that it is palpable. You know the feeling you get when you open the door of the oven to check the cookies? That’s Arizona, every time you open the car door. “Why oh why do we live in an oven?”  One daughter’s query when returning from South Anerica left us all laughing. Why indeed?!

And then the monsoons come. The humidity rises (not like the Midwest) and temperature drops. 108′ and a little sticky; better then 118′, maybe. Whispers of wind tease us, clouds build up every afternoon. Up north, it rains every day, til the pine trees glisten. Here, heat lightning clears the city pools, teasing us from afar. 

Pink from city lights, the clouds glow every few minutes with the lightning. Thunder rumbles in the distance, not quite close enough. 
And then it comes, smell first. Then the wind, stirring the leaves of the eucalyptus. Rain begins to fall, softly sometimes, pounding the sidewalk and flooding the streets at others. In Arizona, we run outside in the rain. “Puddle-stomping” barefoot kids march up and down the edge of streets. Windows open, porch rockers sway in rhythm as neighbor’s emerge. 

Maybe this is what hope looks like. Maybe it smells like the desert after the rain. 

Maybe it smells like Jesus. 

For tonight. 

So many nights right now hold more questions than answers. Sleep beckons, then eluded capture. Thoughts and feelings tumble over each other for center stage. 

So what is true?  What is true for tonight is the Presence. It is both not enough and more than enough. 


I remember early in my recovery process in 1998 night times were terrifying. Memories often came back at night, and there was no way to know what new truth might come into full knowing. The brain works that way, processing trauma as it heals. I often would fall asleep to Fernando Ortega: Jesus King of Angels. The words washed over me, allowing me to surrender and sleep. 

So for tonight a bedtime prayer:

🌛the peace of God be over me to shelter me, 🌜under me to uphold me, 🌙about me to protect me, ⭐️behind me to direct me, 🌟ever with me to save me. 💫The peace of all peace be mine this night. In the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit. Amen. 

The gift of silence

The house echoes with silence. The kids have gone down to the pool with my husband. Summer has begun. The houseechoes with the noise of children. Arguing and mediation are the order of the day. Tomorrow, Swim team starts. Neighborhood kids club is just around the corner. 

A normal summer! The temperature has just jumped in a week from 97 to 117. But it is not normal. I have been in silence for five months of healing of bones and brains. Sometimes my brain echoes, even after the sound of voices has died down.

The silence may come in captured moments now that summer is here. A late night walk with the pug, an afternoon nap, a phone call on the front porch. I wonder how you recharge in the summer?

This summer, we are all in transition as we listen for the voice of spirit regarding work and vocation. I am waiting for a couple of babies, grateful that my hand is learning to turn palm up. My husband waits too, for the birth of vision and hope. 

Perhaps that is the posture  this summer; Palm up. Open hands. Ready to receive, fists unclenched. The posture of surrender.

 

 

The art of patience. 

Just for the record, I don’t have this. I was raised to figure it out, get things done, think it through, try harder. All of those well honed skills of my Baptist childhood are not serving me right now.

Healing  takes time. There are lovely supportive modalities, acupuncture and craniosacral, oils and chiropractic and reiki.  I do them, gratitude brimming for gifted practitioners. They help to support the body’s natural healing process; but nothing can rush it.

Today was a day of trying to figure it out. And after all my best efforts, it didn’t do it. If I could have the ability to do something by the sheer force of my will, I would be doing many things. It doesn’t work. 

Tonight it was a concert for the children. My brain was glitching, as my middle schooler says. More descriptive than “post concussive syndrome”. A little loss perhaps, in the grand scheme of things; but a little loss in a long string of losses.

And so, for tonight, I’m giving my brain permission to rest. Healing brains like rest; not the sleeping kind, but the kind that pulls down the stimulation and external noise and light. 

The problem is, much of the noise comes from inside me.  So for tonight, I ask for quiet to seep into my very cells. 

  Psalm 130

I pray to God… My life a prayer… And wait for what he’ll say and do. My life’s on the line before God, my Lord. Waiting and watching til morning. Waiting and watching til morning.  


 

I am a woman

What does it mean to be a woman?

How was your womanhood welcomed? Was it blessed?

One of the questions in the “medical” history of a first time midwifery visit is, “what age was your first menses?”  It is followed by data questions about how often and how long. Good to know when making a guess about when baby might make an appearance!

As a midwife, I love to step into those waters:  “what was it like for you when you first got your period? Did you feel protected? Who walked with you?”

The stories come, slowly at first  and then with a rush of words. They often leave me wanting to weep. The idea of even being honored is as foreign as can be. Most often, a girl was left alone to figure it out. Perhaps she filled in the blank with fearful images in a culture where blood is “dirty” and a woman’s “monthly” is called a curse. At best, a book or supplies had been provided ahead of time. More often than not, the girls in the school bathroom filled in for mothers.

I was alone, on a trip with my dad. I went to the bathroom every hour, becoming skilled at fashioning makeshift pads out of toilet paper. When I told my mom a week later, she immediately told my dad. I felt ashamed and betrayed. He immediately came and clapped a hand on my shoulder: “that’s my pal!”  He was proud I had kept it a secret; in a family where secrets were the rule and the threat of violence ever present. And the message I got, once again, was: “don’t tell” and “you are on your own”.

Let your mind drift back gently to remember your woman-girl of 10 or 12 or 14. How did this rite of passage unfold for you? What messages were spoken or unspoken? What did you carry from those words? Was there anyone, sister friend or mother, who offered eyes of kindness? Have you offered that to yourself, or sought it out from your grown up sisters now?  What about to your daughters?

We must begin to bless our womanhood. We cannot offer  it first  to our daughters. We must first begin to bless ourselves. Welcoming the moon cycle, reveling in its flow, is a beginning. Embracing the rhythms of rest and nurture that your body asks for. Recognizing that there are weeks of the month when creativity and energy will peak, and others where you will want to pull in and be in a cave. Gather in Red Tent circles, eat soup, knit, create, collage, sing. Find your people, your tribe, your sisterhood. Then, and only then, can you and I offer these gifts with open hands to our own daughters.

Embrace all that it means to say:    I am a woman. 
(Playing off the title of the “I am a midwife” series from MANA. )

In sickness and in…

We have been testing out the sickness piece lately. It seems like if it’s almost ready to be 100° that all the viruses should die off. But apparently not.

First one kid then another, then another. Gratefully, I am still above water. I am hitting the immune enhancers hard. My immune system is suppressed from treatment, and I ask for an extra measure of grace.

And so I sit on the porch, listening. And in the stillness of the night, I hear the quiet. The Spirit of God moves over the face of the water. Perhaps this still small voice whispers. As my mind drifts through the day, I notice the soft movement of the wind. There were moments of goodness today. 

Hugs from my youngest, not to be taken for granted. I remember twice a week in attachment therapy, spooning pudding and playing games with M&Ms. We didn’t know if bonding was even possible.  My man cub child came out tonight with a sore ligament after basketball. I rub some essential oils in, marveling that touch is possible for this one, for whom trauma has left a mark of vigilance. He lingers; I notice. Spelling words reviewed on the front porch with a daughter by candlelight bring the pre teen anxiety down. A wee note from a daughter in Nazareth, ironically; reassurance to a mama’s heart. Food was served tonight, fish in a masala sauce. An every day occurrence perhaps for some, but I do not take for granted the making  of meals, as my body does the work of healing. I took little jars of water to the garden seedlings today. There is grace in the noticing. I have had the reputation of killing plants for too long. Recently I decided I am tired of that label. I’m asking for eyes to see when plants are thirsty. I had my hands on a mama belly today, the baby stretching little feet to push back. it reminded me again that the story of the work of my hands is not yet done being written. 

And so, among my every day moments; today, there shimmers glimpses of the Eternal.

And for this moment, in the midst of sickness and healing, it is enough.

 

Good girls grow up

Good girls don’t…

How did the gender roles of your childhood fill in that blank?

In the circles of my childhood, girls were to be sweet and nice and silent.  

  

There was a little girl, who had a little curl, right in the middle of her forehead.  And when she was good she was very, very good. And when she was bad she was horrid. 

My dad would trace an imaginary curl on my forehead as he quoted that. It always have me chills. 

The good girl of those years was not safe to speak up. But good girls grow up. Some stay sweet and nice and silent. They fill church pews and PTA groups. 

But some girls find their voice. 

There is a time to be silent and a time  to speak. (Ecclesiastes 3:7)

A woman who has found her voice is beautiful and strong. She knows how to speak for those who have no voice. She calls out injustice. She cries out on behalf of the poor, the disenfranchised, the child without a home. 

This week, truth has asked me to stand up against embezzlement. It has asked me to name sexual harassment for what it is. It has caused me to fight for midwives being treated with respect by hospital colleagues. 

Wisdom cries out in the streets, she raises her voice in the public squares. (Proverbs 1:20)

No poem can silence that voice. 

…a time to speak. 


Lenten writings:  breathing

My house breathes children.

In and out, in and out.

The shouts echo, against the backdrop of an Arizona spring. They echo inside my head too, magnified by post concussion syndrome.

The sounds of life; of friends. Breathing in.

Leprechaun houses built with hours of creativity. The boys follow and strategize how to poison the leprechauns when they come.

A daughter here from far away, drawn by love. Here to help things run smoothly. To drive and cook and infuse joy and life to the muted tones of our house post accident.

A daughter gone; close in heart but living on the other side of the globe. I read the news first thing these days.

Suddenly, there is silence.  Breathing out.

Everyone gone.

The waves of pulsing begin to still in my brain. I welcome the silence, yet I miss the sounds.

I wonder if that is what it is like when the children leave? That day still far away for our family, stitched together in a long quilt by threads of birth and adoption.

For today, my house breathes children.

Like breath work, in and out.