Fallen Asleep

November 18, 2012 in Uncategorized

When Erik died, I fell apart in a whole new way. No children to tend to, no little faces to kiss, no reason to be awake at all hours of the night, the death of an only child is absolute. The absolute emptiness, the ugly echo that comes back from a world gone hollow makes it almost impossible to live.

Pain took me over in waves. I’d lay nearly numb and dead, and then suddenly a spasm would draw my body into a knot. Twisting and moaning, my cries were almost gastral in their depth. Throats don’t produce those sounds.

Sometimes, I’d be moving down the hallway and then find myself on the ground. Twisting and groaning, I flailed, buckled and screamed. I didn’t care. “Take me away if you want to,” I felt. “Put me somewhere. I can’t live or function out here like this.”

My child appeared everywhere. Just like with Arthur, I saw him in places he was not. I felt convinced that the right kind of asking would cause him to mysteriously appear in one of his old places–if my request was fulfilled in a certain window of time. Magical thinking. Do you think I am alone? Ask any grieving parent. We enter the realm of the magical when the real ceases to be acceptable.

I would lay on my back in bed most of the day. Sometimes I would just scream out, “NO! NO! NOOOOOOOOOOO! I don’t WANT this identity!!”  I used to liken it to being burned horribly in a fire. No matter what, when you enter a room, the view others have of you will have changed, forever. You are “Her” or “The One”. Now, I am the woman with two dead sons. I am. Or I forget them. Great choice.

Not long ago, a friend told me my blog (I hate that word) had taken a turn for the dark. Revealing how the tape the hospital used tore Arthur’s skin is very upsetting. In the past, another friend commented that sharing his death picture was too gruesome. At the very least, I should photoshop over the missing skin.

In this moment right here, I reach my hand out to every person who grieves like this. I reach out to everyone who appreciates that grief. The things I share are the things that I have. To share otherwise is to embellish. Here, I tell you the untellable truth.

My grieving friends are screaming in support, right now. We hide these feelings while we uncomfortably dodge other people’s fear of our pain. We hear things like, “Well, at least you have this one,” as new babies are expected to take away our grief.  When Arthur died people said, “At least you had two.”  Sorrowfully, that turned out to be true; nonetheless, I don’t think they understood the depth of those words when they spoke them.

Today, in church, our priest asked why it was hard to look at the tough stuff. A door opened beneath me, and I fell in. I pointed my tattooed face down at the glisten of my bright blue, velveteen pants and gripped the floor. Pay attention to pain and don’t flee, she advised.

I froze like prey. Were the people around me so comfortable with pain? Was the horror that met my eyes so foreign to those around? My own grief is only a part of what touches me. The terror of this world is all around. The pitchforks of polite society raised behind me as I ran.

“Grief changes to the reveal the face of love,” I heard. Before we had even talked about pain, we were running from it. We said the word pain, and then sprinted to the safe-line before we could feel a thing. I can still feel the heat of their tiny bodies leaving as I held them in my arms. My fellow parishioners were being led on a sprint. I couldn’t catch up.

I sat through the reassurance like a stone, studying, taking notes. Where did I fall away? Facing pain was likened to birth, the worst of which was identified as transition. My hands remembered the warmth of my children’s bodies, and then it slowly leaking away. Another transition. As I listened, I wondered how the transition from pain to its beauty was being made so fast.

Recently, another grieving mother I know was accused of being obsessed with death. She mentioned her son, Isaac, too much. Had I the time, I would have asked to share his picture in this post. He looks so much like my friend, Jamie. When she and I talk about these things together it is hand-in-glove. All else transcends as we cling together in grief and Christ. Awkward moments like these are impossible.

All grieving mothers share the same experiences. When people dare to mention our children we often weep. “I’m so sorry I made you cry,” they tell us. Don’t they know that we cry whether they can see it or not? We never stop crying. When you mentioned our children, we gain the chance to cry communally. Communal crying is the most healing of cries: don’t help us avoid it. Have the courage to invite it. As our priest said today, “If we stay with it, we have the chance to go deeper.”

But if you’re comfortable, who wants to go deeper? Who wants to experience this grief with me? Will you grab at it, like a kid on a dare, and then dodge before you get the full hit? Really, forget about my grief. I’m far from the only one; and my case is far from the worst. When it comes to those in pain, how does Christ call us to care for one another? How much should we let ourselves share?

We put a fence around pain. In this world, it is more common than joy; but we steel ourselves before we approach it. When my grief is on the table, I watch eyes dance at the edges of my dark Medusa. If you look too closely, you might make it your own.

Yesterday, a friend told me she hurt her back. “It just hurts and I can’t get comfortable,” she told me. From my grief place within I said, “Exactly.”

1 Thessalonians 4:13-16

But we do not want you to be uninformed, brothers, about those who are asleep, that you may not grieve as others do who have no hope. For since we believe that Jesus died and rose again, even so, through Jesus, God will bring with him those who have fallen asleep. For this we declare to you by a word from the Lord, that we who are alive, who are left until the coming of the Lord, will not precede those who have fallen asleep. For the Lord himself will descend from heaven with a cry of command, with the voice of an archangel, and with the sound of the trumpet of God. And the dead in Christ will rise first.