Grief

“That time
I thought I could not
go any closer to grief
without dying

I went closer,
and I did not die.
Surely God
had his hand in this,

as well as friends.
Still, I was bent,
and my laughter,
as the poet said,

was nowhere to be found.
Then said my friend Daniel,
(brave even among lions),
“It’s not the weight you carry

but how you carry it –
books, bricks, grief –
it’s all in the way
you embrace it, balance it, carry it

when you cannot, and would not,
put it down.”
So I went practicing.
Have you noticed?

Have you heard
the laughter
that comes, now and again,
out of my startled mouth?

How I linger
to admire, admire, admire
the things of this world
that are kind, and maybe

also troubled –
roses in the wind,
the sea geese on the steep waves,
a love
to which there is no reply?”
Mary Oliver

 

Ever since Kara’s funeral I find myself reading Mary Oliver’s poems. I must admit I never really read poetry before. I remember so well in grade school, poetry being confusing. Being hard to read. But Mary Oliver seems to write the very words I have trouble to say.

I love this poem. Because so much of what she is saying is how I feel.

Grief. Not the absence of it. Not the giving of it away. Not ignoring it. But rather moving into the grief. Allowing it to take presence in you. Allowing it to be alive and well in you. Maybe even so giving grief a bit of power to bring you to newness. To teach you something.

Ultimately allowing grief to bring you to joy.

What grief have you ignored? What would opening up yourself to your grief give you?

I pride myself often for my independence and thus I lend myself to being particularly stubborn.

Cancer does not allow me to carefully carry my grief in such a way that it is hidden. My grief pours over into every aspect of my life, making things messy, making this complicated and thus making me vulnerable.

My grief spilled into the church pew while sitting next to a couple with newborn twins. Holding them in their hands and singing songs into their ears as the acoustic guitar played Amazing Grace. As though God had a sense of humor and I was not in on the joke. I found my seat in the pew first. And in a large church with many open seats, this family chose the seats at the end of my row. My eyes could not look away. My eyes could not hide tears. Grieving. Fearing. All right there at the end of my row. My tears fell to my lap as my fears began their narrative in my head and I began to ask the dreaded questions. Do I get to one day have that? Will I hold my own in my hands? Will I know the intimacy that is found in another when I do not have feeling in a large part of my chest? Will someone love me with my scars?

Forgive my candidness but this is simply how I feel and far often these things are not spoken of.

But as Mary Oliver so eloquently says, it not the weight you carry but how you carry. So allowing my fears and grief to be recognized. Naming my fears. Allowing myself to grieve.

The days when I can’t seem to turn on the tv without a commercial that bring me to tears. Or when someone asked me if I dated. I politely laughed. Dating? I don’t have hair, I said. It is like showing up at work in sweat pants I explained, you wouldn’t do that. Besides have a lot of other things that are taking priority, there are two problems with “dating” right now. One is that maybe someone I would date knows me, knows the story but that is often the topic of conversation, cancer. So the alternative would then be to date someone that does not know, but the problem then is, they do not know. Again the grief, the fear. Will I date again? Will someone find my fuzzy bald head beautiful still? How would they even begin to handle or understand? There are many days I seem to be caught in the “what I do not have anymore” rather than what I received in return.

It is often spoken of in the cancer world, that cancer cannot take from me. I could not agree more. Cancer does not take but it gives.

While I continue to grieve the loss and the heartache of the past seven months I am moving to a place of honoring the gifts. The way my heart is softer. The way my heart moves to celebrate the littles. The simplicity that meets me even right now this Sunday morning. I find myself drinking a green smoothie and a cup of coffee, still in my pajamas in my bed. I just spent a few minutes evaluating my finger nail that seems to be hanging on by merely a thread (sorry if that is gross). My body still ravaged by chemo side effects and some effects that are just now revealing themselves. (eyebrows are still shrinking and thinning).

 

The beauty in the carrying of the grief and the hard is that one is then able to appreciate the gifts.

While I am confident my fears and my grief will continue to move to a place of joy, it will take time. That is perhaps why my fears no longer get to hold the power that they once had. In those moments I recognize them. I see them. I even go so far as to name them. But I then, move forward. Honoring who I am. Honoring the heart that cares and desires so much for things. Honoring that just like my story of cancer was unpredictable and unexpected so is my future. I realize that more gifts, more grief and more fear will come but with that comes more joy. More life. More living and I am sure very soon, dating too.

But for today there is the great pleasure of being grateful for grief. That I would even care so much that I would cry… what I blessing that is.

Have a wonderful Sunday morning everyone.

 

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