Experiencing the unthinkable

Recently Stephen sent me an insightful quote from the book Stitches, A Handbook on Meaning, Hope and Repair by Ann Lamott. It reminded me of how difficult loss is, not just for the ones who have lost the deepest part of themselves, but for those on the periphery who feel the loss too.

But what if the great secret insider-trading truth is that you don’t ever get over the biggest losses in your life? Is that good news, bad news, or both?

The good news is that if you don’t seal up your heart with caulking compound, and instead stay permeable, people stay alive inside you, and maybe outside you, too, forever.

This is also the bad news, not because your heart will continue to hurt forever, but because grief is so frowned upon, so hard for even intimate bystanders to witness, that you will think you must be crazy for not getting over it. You think it’s best to keep this a secret, even if it cuts you off from certain aspects of life, like, say, the truth of your heart, and all that is real.

The pain does grow less acute, but the insidious palace lie that we will get over crushing losses means that our emotional GPS can never find true north, as it is based on maps that no longer mention the most important places we have been to.

Pretending that things are nicely boxed up and put away robs us of great riches.

And because all lives are hard and difficult to understand, you acknowledge the slipperiness of those who died – they got out. You hold on to them because it can be so appalling here, until you can’t hold on anymore, because you’re not holding on to anything after a while. You can’t tether them to earth anymore, because the thread has grown too fine.All you can do is say, “I get it. You are somewhere else now. But little flecks of you remain, like mica in rock, which glint and say: It was all true.”

In a week when loss of many kinds has affected so many I pray that we never lose the ability to stand side by side with those who have experienced the unthinkable. Not to try and fix what cannot be fixed, but simply to offer the solidarity of being human. I believe it is what the cross of Jesus is all about.

with love.
Rev. Michael

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