Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Of Grief, Grace and Gratitude


Grief sucks.
Volumes have been written,
poems have been penned,
songs have been sung
and journals have been filled
by human beings grappling
with the unavoidable reality
that the deep pain of loss
is a part of the deep joy life.

You can read the books,
memorize the "stages,"
counsel other people as they walk their journey
and nothing really prepares you
when the loss is yours.
When the grief is raw.
When the emptiness overwhelms.

You know to plan around the "big things."
The first birthday to get through.
The first holidays to manage.
Stuff like that.
You can't predict the "other things" --
the things that slap you upside the head
when you haven't planned for them.
The telemarketer call, for example.
Or losing it in the produce aisle
because you're suddenly NOT buying bananas
because you don't like bananas
but she liked bananas so you always bought bananas
and now you're NOT buying bananas.

And that's when grace happens.
In a million small ways
grace seeps into the space where grief dwells.
It is the light that comes in through the cracks.
It is the hug from a colleague or the email from afar.
It is the text message or the Facebook post.
It is the invitation to Monday Night Football
and the offer to pick up what you need at the grocery store.
It is the latte in the coffee house
with the friend who has walked where you are walking
and so "gets it" that you don't even need words.
It is the hymn that you've sung dozens of times
suddenly hitting you with new and deep meaning
as you're carrying the Gospel book back up the chancel steps:

Can it be that from our endings, new beginnings you create?
Life from death, and from our rendings, realms of wholeness generate?
Take our fears, then, Lord and turn them into hopes for life anew:
Fading light and dying season sing their Glorias to you.

And then comes the gratitude.
Not for the loss
which is still an inexplicably cruel, painful and gaping hole in your life.
But for the heightened sense of how precious life is.
How powerful love is.
And how amazing is the grace
that turns what we in our finiteness
cannot help but experience as endings
into new beginnings
grounded in the infinite love of God.

15 comments:

Ann said...

Yes. Or setting the table for 5 when only 4 will sit there.
Prayers surrounding you to accompany you each day.

Philip Lowe, Jr. p/OSB said...

While I was reading this, I was brought back to Natalie Sleeth's "Hymn of Promise".

In the bulb there is a flower;
in the seed an apple tree;
in cocoons, a hidden promise:
butterflies will soon be free!
In the cold and snow of winter
there's a spring that waits to be,
Unrevealed until it's season,
something God alone can see.

There's a song in every silence,
seeking word and melody;
there's a dawn in every darkness,
bringing hope to you and me.
From the past will come the future;
what it holds a mystery,
unrevealed until it's season,
something God alone can see.

In our end is our beginning;
in our time, infinity;
in our doubt there is believing;
in our life, eternity.
In our death, a resurrection;
at the last, a victory,
unrevealed until it's season,
something God alone can see.

Rosa Lee said...

Absolutely beautiful, Susan ... Love you.

Anne said...

Right on target, alas.

Elizabeth Kaeton said...

Thank you for the painfully honest sharing of your suffering, Susan. Grief sucks. No doubt about it. Especially when it catches you off guard because you think you "should" be "better" "by now".

Know that you are held in love and prayer every day.

Cameron Partridge said...

stunningly beautiful. your ability to share these pieces of your process is such a gift. thank you for this

JCF said...

Bananas. Yeah, that's it.

The dog I take care of was barking, and I (joked!) to her about being turned into "Vietnamese Roast Dog": I suddenly remembered that saying, which was my mom's. And then I missed my mom (and also Sasha, the dog she said that to!).

It's the little things, which hit us.

{{{Susan}}}

Pat Klemme said...

It takes a long time for a new kind of 'normal' to come into focus. In the meantime please know that so many of us are with you in prayer, in spirit, in memories of similar times in our lives. God's peace, Miss Susan.

sincolita said...

Love and prayers to you, Rev. Russell. Thank you for your courage and grace.

-Kim Bravo in Philly

Eliza Buchakjian-Tweedy said...

So glad your words can spread so far, and touch so many hearts... and that so many hearts can hold you during this time. You are in my prayers.

egtrigg said...

Memories are not enough surely; but they have to suffice. Embedded within the memories is the wonder and the mystery as well as the inevitable pain. You loved. You are loved.

dianedp said...

You have been in my thoughts.
Nov. is my month to remember those that I have loved, my grandmother, father and my son. He would have been 30 this year.

I found your post wonderful. Thank you.

SUSAN RUSSELL said...

Thanks, everybody. Seriously -- it is such a privilege to have such a great cloud if witnesses to share this journey.

whiteycat said...

Susan, thank you for this excellent post. It touches many hearts!

Prayers and blessings to you.

David said...

Susan, you are upheld in prayer with love and gratitude daily here in Montreal.
And yes, thanks given for dear Louise.
Even at this remove it is so very obvious how the two of you have helped the Church grow- living blessings both of you