Friday, February 14, 2014

A Blessing for the Brokenhearted

A Blessing for the Brokenhearted

There is no remedy for love but to love more.
– Henry David Thoreau

Let us agree
for now
that we will not say
the breaking
makes us stronger
or that it is better
to have this pain
than to have done
without this love.

Let us promise
we will not
tell ourselves
time will heal
the wound
when every day
our waking
opens it anew.

Perhaps for now
it can be enough
to simply marvel
at the mystery
of how a heart
so broken
can go on beating,
as if it were made
for precisely this—

as if it knows
the only cure for love
is more of it

as if it sees
the heart’s sole remedy
for breaking
is to love still

as if it trusts
that its own stubborn
and persistent pulse
is the rhythm
of a blessing
we cannot
begin to fathom
but will save us

© Jan L. Richardson.

My mom died 6 years ago this week. I am constantly awed by the reverberations of that event in my life. In recent years I have focused less on her death and more on her life and its meaning for my present and future, but this year something is drawing me back here - to that moment when everything changed. It might be because I organized, with a fellow motherless mother, a group of motherless mothers who have now been meeting for half a year - to talk about our mothering, our loss, and how those interact. So these issues are on my brain. And I am still sorting through mom's belongings that I stashed in my basement after I cleaned out her house. In her things I am finding reminders of the few weeks after her death, of the kindnesses that were bestowed upon us in such great measure from her friends, our friends, family, church family, etc. Of the intense busyness after someone dies - all the million of tasks that have to happen. But mostly I am being reminded of the way that my grief intensified in the months after her death - not lessened.

And I am becoming more and more firm in my belief that our mainstream culture does grief all wrong. There ought to be a way to recognize that grief doesn't end, that we don't get over major losses, we just learn to live with them. It's as if you get the funeral and maybe a few weeks afterwards but then you are expected to keep your grief to yourself. How freeing it could be for there to be space for people to grieve each year anew? On the day their loved one died, or their birthday, or another holiday? Or all of them? There are people here in the U.S., and all over the world, who DO have these rituals (Day of the Dead, for example) - and they are community oriented. I hope that through my own personal ritual making within my family and with the help of my motherless mothers group I can make some space for these rituals in my personal yearly calendar.

I have also been thinking a lot about how we die, after reading a few articles lately about the "aid in dying" movement. I am so grateful that Mom had access to hospice and that she had access to pain medication/control. And I was incredibly grateful to have her best friend with us, who knew much more about the dying process than we did. When we are bringing someone into the world, most people I know are very intentional and careful about choosing a midwife or doctor to assist them in bringing this life into the world. Why would we not have a midwife for dying, when we have a midwife for birthing? I certainly feel that the hospice workers partially filled this role, and Mom's best friend, but I didn't plan for this or get Mom's input. We make a birth plan, but we don't make a death plan. We will sometimes fill out a legal document that says what we DON'T want, but I haven't ever seen one that says what we DO want. In my birth plan I said I did NOT want to be left alone - that I wanted someone in the room at all times. This is an example of something that could be in that death plan. Of course we don't know ahead of time how we will die, or what choices we will have, if any - but birth can also be very unpredictable. And if our birth plan doesn't play out exactly as written, at least we have stated our values and ideals to help guide our loved ones and medical professionals.

I wish everyone who is celebrating a lovely St. Valentine's Day and wish for all of us a community that recognizes and holds all of our emotions - love, grief, anger, longing..all of them!

Sunday, October 13, 2013

LGBTQ History Month...and church?

 I am proud to be part of a faith community that celebrates LGBTQ History Month (October!), whose website is - and we really mean it, who sings songs with these lyrics, "Our God is not a woman, our God is not a man; Our God is both and neither", with a pastor who preaches that our freedom and liberation comes from saying a holy YES to who we are- whatever gender identity, sexual orientation, race, etc. we are., who not only lift up in prayer but ACT on the issues that affect us as Philadelphians - the school funding crisis, the minimum wage, etc.  I never thought I would be able to go back to church. But I can - and I don't have to check my values, or my critical thinking, at the door. Instead, I receive a great deal of inspiration, insight, nurturing, and love. And THAT is a blessing.

Tuesday, June 18, 2013

the red X

"No one longs for what he or she already has, and yet the accumulated insight of those wise about the spiritual life suggests that the reason so many of us cannot see the red X that marks the spot is because we are standing on it.  The treasure we seek requires no lengthy expedition, no expensive equipment, no superior aptitude or special company.  All we lack is the willingness to imagine that we already have everything we need.  The only thing missing is our consent to be where we are." - Barbara Brown Taylor

Wednesday, June 5, 2013

it's been a year...

Friday was the one year anniversary of the day I left my full time job to embark on this journey of less paid work and more parenting time.  

What I learned/rediscovered over the past year:

1.)  It's really hard to slow down.  I realized that I'm a lot like this guy.  

2.)  I love, love, love teaching on the college level.

3.)  I'm a bit of an extrovert and adjunct work is lonely and isolating. And underpaid.

4.)  My kid is a really fun and inspired co-conspirator for: art projects, building forts, dance parties, and anything involving nature/outdoors (sand castles, check. collecting/drawing/observing plants, bugs and animals, check. hiking and camping, check.). 

5.) It really does keep getting better.

6.) The names of all the Disney princesses. The names of all the anti-princess princess books.

7.) That brave doesn't mean pushing your fear so far away you can't feel it anymore.  Brave is one 4 year old girl so determined to get to the top of the climbing toy that she does what needs to be done while weeping the whole way (she made it).

8.) That happiness doesn't mean ease. That sacrifice can be rewarding. That hard work doesn't just happen when we're getting paid for it.

9.) When my kid asks, "Is tomorrow a home day or a school day?" and I reply, "home day" and she squeals, and jumps up and down, my heart melts a little.

10.) Brave is also living the questions.

Tuesday, May 21, 2013

the basement files

as most of you know, my mom died in february of 2008.
i cleared out her house, and then sold it.  in the meantime, i bought my first home.
which meant i had an empty basement to fill: with all of my mom's belongings.

it's been a busy five years since mom died - i bought a house, moved in with M and A, was pregnant, had a baby, and now have been a mom for 4 years.

so i'm still sorting through mom's belongings. actually, mom's papers. the belongings are mostly sorted. i am finding all kinds of interesting/upsetting/inspiring/intriguing/disturbing things in the mix. my mom saved all of the cards and letters friends and family sent her over the years. i found a birthday card with this saying that i really liked:

I do not wish
you joy without
a sorrow
nor endless day
without the healing dark
nor brilliant
sun without
the restful shadow,
nor tides that never turn
your back.
I wish you
and strength,
and faith,
and wisdom,
gold enough
to help some
needy one,
I wish you
but also
and god's
sweet peace
every day
is done.
Dorothy Nell McDonald

things i notice when i put my phone down, no. 2

  • the amazing 34 trolley driver who does spoken word about what's next to us, above us, around us, etc. and makes an entire trolley full of hardened SEPTA riders start talking to each other and laughing

Thursday, April 11, 2013

things i noticed when i put my phone down, no.1

so i decided to take a little hiatus from checking facebook and gmail while on SEPTA.
day one, here's what i noticed:

  • this woman wearing a brilliant head scarf that i can only describe as like a stained glass window
  • how men typically take up space on SEPTA by sitting with their legs wide open. women, on the other hand, sit in the outside seat with an open seat near the window for a little more personal space
  • the other people who were NOT reading, sleeping, checking their phones, or talking with a friend. i feel like we're in a secret society or something...
  • how hard it is to just be
  • how beautiful ray lamontagne songs are 
i'll keep you posted on this experiment...