Monday, January 14, 2013

Lost in Possibility

What was lost?
What remains?
What is possible?

A colleague offered these words after my dad's death this summer. With several more deaths since then and many more losses of hopes and plans, I keep coming back to these questions.

2012 was another hard year with more losses right up through the end of the year and into 2013.

Christmas Eve was very quiet with a surprise snow that kept folks home. This was supposed to be our big family gathering bringing together both sides of the family.  But, not this year. We'd cooked and cleaned and decorated with a new boyfriend and my mother showing up. Somehow, this was what was needed.

Christmas was a day with tender time knowing that there were several endings including my father-in-law's pending death and my grandson's last Christmas for the foreseeable future at our home, not to mention the experience of Christmas without those who had died this past year.

Father-in-law died on December 28. Family spent the last 20 or so hours with him to witness and pray him into the next realm. The funeral was on New Year's Eve at a church where the theology was not the loving God  - saved-by-grace - theology of my Lutheran father-in-law. Instead, the service got hijacked by a pulpit-pounding pastor who kept talking about a Soveign God without a shred of love in his voice.

During this time, Partner had a tooth that was dying. Partner's birthday is on Jan. 1, so no dental services were available since it coincided with a holiday. A root canal became a tooth extraction that went wrong. His root was "adhered" to his jaw bone resulting in oral surgery. These things took place over days. Somehow, his pain was my pain, too.

My grandmother's brother Sonny was hospitalized the day of my father-in-law's funeral. A friend of the family alerted me at the funeral of Sonny's decline.

His situation was complicated by an aging brain that wasn't so demented that he didn't have legal capacity. He'd been struggling for almost two years with hallucinations. So this time when he insisted a woman was in the house and pointed in the air with his bruised arms and hands to the sheriff, and kept calling the police back that day, they decided to emergency petition him against his will and took him to the hospital.

Within less than a week, Sonny would be dead at age 81. Another funeral book-ending Partner's dental trials.

A memory: Sonny bringing a rose to my grandmother weekly for many of those ten years of her post-stroke life. Often the roses came from his own rose garden. He always called her Tots or Tottie, even though he was a younger brother. They both loved flowers and a good laugh.

Sometimes, I think that I am not exactly sure what I lost, so how can I possibly know what remains, let alone what is possible. Death, illness, aging are all ordinary losses that we all will experience. So what's the problem?

Grief is sitting with me these days. It often feels overwhelming to sit down and write or play the harp. Loss is real. I can't wish it away.

My grandson helped decorate gingerbread cookies over his brief Christmas stay. We used some of the cookies to set out for Santa on Christmas Eve. My experience was a bit like the Catholic Church's idea of the sacred heart. A loving heart pierced by sadness. No more little child to share Christmas here. My daughter and he are developing new ways to adjust to their life closer to their home.

As a spiritual director, this kind of experience offers an opportunity where growth can take place - where all the cracks from the Great Fall break our hard shells apart and, as one Quaker put it, the light shines through.

I certainly can't put the pieces back together. Maybe I will find what is left and see how to re-thread the needle so that I can patch together something of an outer covering.

Perhaps, our Inner Light shines out from within?  For as long as there is breath, I sure hope I can breath in and out with compassion and lovingkindness, and a kind of beauty that encompasses what is.

Those gingerbread cookies are made with flour, sugar, Grandma's molasses, butter, and spices, fragrant spices. Smell the beauty. Taste the goodness. Revel in the colorful decorations. Feel the dough in your hands. Listen to the holiday music.

As Father-in-law took his last breaths, Handel's Allelujah chorus came on. What a year.