Thursday, September 18, 2008

Sea Change

My friend Lisa writes about the ordeal of sharing in someone else's grief, and about trying to find appropriate words.

There are none.

I am not so unacquainted with grief, you know. I was seven when my mother and baby brother were killed in an automobile accident, seventeen when my first stepmother died after a fall, in my mid-twenties when my aunt got out of bed one morning and collapsed and died. (She also left behind a seven-year-old, as well as two teenagers.) It's only been a few years since I held a beloved stepmother's hand as she succumbed to cancer.

During the one day I spent on retreat at the end of August, I spent my entire time with my spiritual director talking about my summer CPE and realizing that, much as I had loved it and begun to suspect that I might have found my deepest calling in life, I had also been traumatized by a summer in which I watched people, usually at least two or three, die almost every single day, and in which I tried to create some space for an encounter with God, recognized or not, for the devastated members of their families. The deep sense of loss that I have carried with me since I was seven widenened into a vast lake, encompassing the reality that eventually washes over all of us.

I have no platitudes. No words of comfort. No certainty. My faith has always been more about doubt than conviction. I have been showered with great gifts and graces throughout my life, most of them marked by laughter and love and joy, but among them I must number a knowledge of a darkness so bright that I can barely look at it sideways.

Nothing of him that doth fade
But doth suffer a sea-change
Into something rich and strange....

The Tempest, I. ii.


Kathryn J said...

I knew that there were no words that would help. I have even felt that praying was futile - an odd feeling

I'm still here though - thinking of you.

ppolarbear said...

I am startled by the beauty of your words and observations through these weeks. It stuns me that your horrible grief is such a gift of grace to others.

Presbyterian Gal said...

"...into something rich and strange"

That resonates with me quite a bit. Thanks.

Deb said...

Received from a pastor in my area... she thought I should stick it in my CPE file for my future processing. I thought of you... the sea is part of the bathing and healing of the heart's wound...

Peace... to you... Peace...


When the heart
Is cut or cracked or broken
Do not clutch it
Let the wound lie open

Let the wind
From the good old sea blow in
To bathe the wound with salt
And let it sting.

Let a stray dog lick it
Let a bird lean in the hole and sing
A simple song like a tiny bell
And let it ring

Let it go. Let it out.
Let it all unravel.
Let it free and it can be
A path on which to travel.

from The Prayer Tree
by Michael Leunig

RevDrKate said...

No, there are remain in my thoughts and prayers.

Jennifer said...


Stratoz said...

and then there are images, the other night while thinking of you I imagined the start of a design. Those few lines are still in my head and I hope to put them down on paper soon.

Lovie said...

Still thinking about you (daily) and praying for you (daily).

Gannet Girl said...

Stratoz, I am honored.

Hot Cup Lutheran said...

prayers remain...

Diane said...


Carol said...

{{{{{{{{GG}}}}}}}}} I am still struck by the clarity with which you are able to write about the grief for which, by your own admission, there are no words. All a part of that awful thing we call the grieving process. Prayers continue.

Anonymous said...

I had never read your blog, but was prompted to go to it by the news posted of your loss. Captured by your writing, I then read each of your archived posts. I was stuck by how the theme of death was so woven through your life, including your experience this summer at the hospital. Of course, death comes to, and touches, us all. But, in your life, it does seem the leit motiv---and I wondered about that. --Andrea

Gannet Girl said...

Hmmmmm. I think there's a lot of light and life in most of my posts. Unlikely to be the case at the moment, however.

bean said...

i was away for a few days - what you said is beautiful and a peek at the truely awful.
know that so many of us are here for you...listening at the least.

Mella said...

You bare your heart...and it touches mine. I have tears in my eyes.

My dad died when I was 12 years well as an uncle and grandfather that same year. My own mother passed when I was 26 YO, then a beloved aunt a few years later. I understand your words about the deep sense of loss...that void...with the passing of those so close to you.

May God hold you tightly as you travel this journey.

Ellen (egarrard)

LawAndGospel said...

This summer in CPE, I found myself praying, "Lord, sometimes we cannot find the words to say to you, but we give you thanks you know what is in our hearts and on our minds. That you know us and hear us now."
I pray this everyday for you in the absence of better words.

Stratoz said...

I agree with the life and light assessment you make for your writing. Even now I can see light in the midst of the darkness.

Theresa Williams said...

I am thinking of you all the time.