Wednesday, December 31, 2014

The Agonizing Presence Of Pain.



*Photo by the amazing Erica Bartel

It rarely comes when we expect.  It is the stark reality of living and yet we pray with bated breath that we will survive this life without the aching grips of agony.  That we will sleep tucked safely beside the one we love, that we will watch our children grow, unharmed.  That what we hunger for will endure in peaceful security.  Yet to live is to accept the breaking, shaking, and harsh reality of change.  Those we love will die, those we desire may leave, we may get sick before our time, we may lose limbs, we may lose children, and if we are guaranteed anything it is that we will weather the storms of pain.

I cannot tell you that there is a perfect course through the grips of trauma.  I can tell you, that you will make it through.  One day, the pain will not crush you.  There will be a time that for a moment you'll forget, and that may be worse.

As we grow, most of us make it unscathed through this life.  We may hear the stories of so and so, their loss, the cautionary tales of what not to do, because we all know that person who lost everything.  Yet, most make it, keeping the terrors of life at arms length.  It's not until we're fully grown, or even more grown, that we realize the horrors of life are not so far away.  They are not respecters of people, things, or circumstance.  They come at the worst of times and they strip us and leave us fully bare in a room of people averting eyes and telling us to cover up.

Grief, hurt, these are not pleasant emotions.  They're not the topics of our girls lunches or our retreats.  They are for the moments when life has crushed and even then we wonder how quickly we can flee the uncomfortable stench of pain.

How do you move when you have lost everything, when what was once your security is taken from you.  How do you breathe when the joy of your life is robbed.  How do you move forward when you're given days to live.  How do we accept what at it's core is unacceptable.

The brutal reality of grief is that there is no easy way through it.  There are not detours or shortcuts.  It is ruthless and demanding.  The only truth is that we will make it through.  Head down, eyes closed, breath shallow, hurting in every way imaginable, there is nothing more physically draining than the endurance of heartbreak.

Don't cover up or try to hide.  Let it come in its waves.  There will be moments of laughter and you'll wonder how anything can be funny or if you'll ever laugh and feel the joyous course of mirth again.  You will.  You'll wonder if you'll come through like Frodo after delivering the ring to the fiery abyss. Shattered, a shell of the person you once were, given only to harken the eastern shores.

Grief transforms us, turns us inside out, changes the world from what was once an invincible life to the fragile glimmer it truly is.  No one is guaranteed their eighty years.  In fact, if one thing is true, it is that we will have to say goodbye to those we love.  And it will ache like nothing else can hurt.  It will alter us and we will be people acquainted with pain.

There was a day more than a year ago that my family said goodbye to one of their own.  We covered a white, infant size casket with red kisses.  Like a hallmark card, heralding everlasting love, we placed her gently in the ground and we wept.  We broke and I can say that there is a stark difference between bidding goodbye to one at the beginning of their life than one at the end.  Still, the hated pain lingers.  It burns like the icy cold and it breaks the spirit and freezes the bones.  It robs one of joy and holds for too long a moment, it's ache.

Time marches through our grief, through our long held breaths, and moments of pause.  It gives ease to our ache, and in it's hated reality takes us further from the pain than we necessarily want to go.  It separates and spares us the lingering in so great a moment.  It gives freedom to hearts trapped in torment and it kisses the burnt lips of brokenness.

We will endure.  We will weather these storms.  We will live, even in this life that has become a hollow echo of a long abandoned hall.  We will pick flowers from the burnt mountainside once more and what we thought could never be again, will be.  Our lives on this earth are not eternal - we harken to an ever distant shore and when we have born up under the weight of life and death and grief and joy - we will find ourselves sailing toward a sunrise of hope.

If you know one in this place.  In the grips of life's darkest moments - sit still with them, let them weep.  Don't try to feel what they're enduring, simply be, hand held, quiet.  Listen to them, pray, love, be gentle, and feed them.  Bring coffee and comfort, but not questions, advice, or explanations.  Just let your presence fill the chasm of emptiness - when you're in the midst, this is all you need.

In a few short moments we will bid goodbye to this last year and for some it will be one they couldn't bear to see again.  Already time is marching on and despite the desperate wish to hold it still, there will be the ease and freedom that comes with its passing.  For now, just breathe.  It's okay to sit in the agonizing grip of pain and weep for what you've lost.  Look forward, if you're feeling the sting of too much grief, there is a dawning and while it may not ease on these western shores - look east and watch the rising of an ever present sun.

3 comments:

charis said...

this is a very good description of what one can only really know once one walks through it. i can say that grief has made me a lot more compassionate and makes my soul walk with a limp.

Anonymous said...


Mmmm, good word Sweet One, from Mom

Kate said...

I love you sister! Well said.