Tag Archives: loss

When Broken Things Heal

Last year, on this very day, I was at our daughter’s home, awaiting the birth of our grandson, when I paused to take a picture of a beautiful sunset. I took one tiny step off their back porch and fell in an ever so slight hole with one foot and broke my ankle on the other foot.

It was about the worst possible time for such a thing to happen. I was there to assist. I was there to be on two feet doing things. I was going to be a whirlwind of helpfulness taking care of people I love.

When I called my daughter from the ER sobbing that it was indeed broken, she said, “Mom, this will be funny some day.” It is still, to me, one of the least funny things that ever happened. When my family tries to bring up my week-long stint with a walker before I received my walking boot, I make them stop because I can’t take remembering that horror.

The doctor told me it would take A YEAR to feel normal again. It still doesn’t. As I write, after walking 3 miles this morning, it is aching. I find it fascinating that it is still bruised in two places. How can it be still bruised?

But every day, I am grateful that broken things can heal.

Breaking my ankle taught me things that I seem to keep having to re-learn:

  1. I am breakable, vulnerable and human. To this day, my husband shows me curbs and holes. I keep saying “Just because I fell doesn’t mean I will fall again.” But, it actually does. I, like you, am capable of falling. I am breakable.
  2. Healing comes on a slow timetable. I have to keep being reminded by pain and aches that I am not yet healed. Healing is slow. One must be patient…more patient than you ever dreamed you’d have to be.
  3. Broken things don’t heal just as they were. My ankle is forever changed. So are people who lose loved ones, receive a diagnosis, endure a broken relationship or a devastating job loss. The good news is, you can heal. The harder news is that your brokenness will still be there even after you heal.
  4. God specializes in brokenness. So many times we believe our God is all about only a pristine perfection….turns out, not so much. Rather, God is perfect at healing real life brokenness. It’s not a clean and sterile kind of healing either. It is a messy, achy, wiser, kind of mending that God does.

Colossians 1:20-21b, The Message: …all of the broken and dislocated pieces of the universe-people and things, animals and atoms-get properly fixed and fit together in vibrant harmonies….You yourselves are a case study of what God does.

Imagine this truth: what is broken in you, on you and around you, can be a real life case study in how God can heal.

I have an achy, bruised, forever-changed, mostly healed right ankle and soul. I am so grateful.

  

The Grace of Holy Tears

When I was just six years old, my grandfather, my beloved Paw Paw, took his life and so my journey with grief began. I didn’t know how to grieve and as you can imagine, my family was upside down. I held it in and made sure I was well-behaved and responsible.

Meanwhile, I looked for my Paw Paw everywhere, in grocery stores, malls, in every passing car and at church. I didn’t understand the mystery of death, how a person can be here and then just not. I still don’t understand it. His death led me to ministry. I didn’t know much at age six but I knew if I could help anyone not take that path, I would.

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Six years ago today, I began another, more grown up grief journey when I lost a friend, co-worker, treasured ministry colleague with no warning. One day we were happily engaged in ministry and planning Sunday worship services, the next he was gone, leaving an entire congregation reeling, and me, devastated and suddenly in charge of a whole church. Once again, I held in my grief and was a well-behaved, responsible pastor. It was all I knew to do.

Holding it in was not that good for me. Six months later to the day, I learned I had breast cancer at age 49. Later, I melted in even more spectacular ways. It was all grief.

Doesn’t it seem like we should all be better at dealing with loss?  Everyone dies. Our lives are inexplicably interwoven with people we love. We have all lost loved ones. Why is grief so hard?

Grief is hard because it rubs up against sad, angry, guilty, mixed up, real life feelings. Sometimes we are not so good with feelings. Grief is also messy. It really has no time-table and it pops up at the strangest of times. For a while, I was a grief counselor and I remember a woman sharing that after her husband died, she misplaced a shoe in her own home. She found herself sobbing as she searched for a simple shoe. Later she realized she, like the shoe, had lost her sole/soul mate. A lost shoe triggered her sobs. Grief is also hard because we all grieve on different timetables from one another and we are all grieving the unique relationship we had with the person. No one else lost what you lost.

Listening to all those grieving people taught me that the most important thing about loss is to just go ahead and feel it. If you keep it in, it will circle back around to hurt you. We are not meant to keep grief in.

Go ahead and express what you’ve lost. Let the messy feelings come as they will. Don’t judge yourself because it is weeks, months, years or decades later. Cry. One of my supervisors once told me he believed our tears actually baptize our feelings. Baptize: to bless or sanctify, to make holy, to infuse with grace and God’s spirit.

This morning, six years after losing my friend, I cried as I’ve done lots of times now. I cried because so much shifted on that day. I cried because I still don’t understand the mystery of death. I cried for his family and for the church that lost him. I cried for the way my life changed that day and the challenges I’ve had since then. Each tear, baptized a messy feeling. Each tear felt like it cleansed a wound. Each tear not just a tear but a bit of Holy water, embedded with grace, forgiveness and a peace that passes understanding. Thanks be to God for the healing power of Holy tears for little girls, and big ones.

 

It’s Springtime, But…

Anne Lamott is one of my favorite writers.  She just posted a new blog. It came to me as a lovely Monday morning gift, echoing what I was already feeling today.  Her words, “So life. It’s the whole deal. Mixed grille all the way, gorgeous and sad things all mixed up.  Us, at our best and worst, in it together; life death, rebirth, and life again.”

Isn’t that the truth?  Just like today here in Texas, the sun is shining brightly. The sky is this amazing blue color. It rained all weekend so spring is just bursting forth before our eyes.  And, yet in our world, from politics to terror; from lack of food and water to other injustices, so much is not right.  I can’t hold lovely springtime and my newsfeed in my heart and spirit at the same time. It’s just reality. Bitter plus sweet equals life.

How do we manage the sad and real weaving its way through the beautiful and tender parts of life? We hold it all lightly. We lift it all up to God’s healing light.  We offer up our mixed feelings, relationships and irritations to God’s tender care; not to mention of deepest angers, hurts, resentments, pains and losses.  We make it by praying, crying, laughing and letting go; by holding onto each other and being kind.

Oh yes, and by washing all of it, regularly, with buckets and buckets of God’s grace. I’m pretty sure that’s the only way forward, just dripping in grace and tracking it everywhere.

Yes, Ashes

Today is Ash Wednesday.  In the Christian tradition it marks the beginning of Lent, the 40 days leading us to Easter. In our best seasons, Christians use this time for a spiritual spring cleaning; a time of added devotions, prayer and scripture reading.  Sometimes we give things up to remind us of what Christ gave up for us.  Sometimes we take things on as a way of embodying his life and ministry in our lives.

Some Christians do something very strange on Ash Wednesday; something we rarely allow ourselves to do otherwise.  We let ourselves come face to face with death.  We admit together, for just a moment, that we know we will all die.  We allow ourselves to be literally marked with ashes to symbolize the reality that we will all become ashes some day. Isn’t that the strangest thing, especially in our world of heavy denial, perpetual youth and surface living?

Four years ago this week, I lost a friend and a colleague suddenly.  Actually, a lot of us lost him together.  He was fine one day; working, happy, joking, laughing, planning, dreaming and serving God and, in the blink of an eye, gone.  He was Senior Pastor of our large congregation, a significant leader in the larger Methodist church, a truly good guy, father, husband, friend.  The loss was huge.  The grief ripples ran wide and deep.  They still do.

The days and weeks after his death are a blur to me: the prayer vigil we had that Saturday night; our Sunday morning worship services the day after his death where we knew worship needed to somehow go on without him; his large funeral the following Friday with thousands attending; his birthday shortly after that.  And then, Ash Wednesday, just a week or so later.

I don’t recall exactly what we said during that Ash Wednesday service. I know we let the familiar Christian rituals carry us through. We marked one another with ashes. We faced death only this time, it was painfully, excruciatingly staring back at us.  Yes, you will all die, of course.  But then, this, through the ritual, through the ashes, this Word, “So live, live for Me.”

Somehow, some way, through God’s grace and mercy and resurrecting love, we have.  We will.

I miss my friend. But what I know is this, he was well acquainted with the truth of Ash Wednesday.  He knew about the ashes. He trusted God fully in life and in death. I just know what he would say to us today if he could.  “Yes, ashes. Of course you will all die, that’s the point.  So, live.”