How are we given but one life to live and millions of books to read? The ratio seems unjust. Who are we to pick and choose which pages we turn and which we close when the ones we close might change our lives with just the words on the page?
This morning I could not do it; there was simply no way. I accepted defeat, called in sick, and went to the doctor. Being new to this town, I am not sure where to go. This city does not have my usual “call the mom and pops doctor” place, so I rationalized an Urgent Care in my time of dire need. Paper work consumes me when I walk in as a newbie. Filling out the paper work, I sit at the waiting room waiting to be called to the back. I do everything I can to get how awful I am feeling off of my mind. My biggest concern, as one’s usually is when they are sick, is how to get better. All I could really do in that moment was moan in pain. I hate being sick, but you know what I hate even more? Missing work for being sick. I finished my paper work, and I look around through my aching eyes to see another woman sitting a few chairs down from me in the waiting room. Unlike me, she has no sniffles, fever, or weakness it seems. She smiles nervously, and I notice her hands twitching back and forth. She tells the receptionist she is stepping outside for a minute as she makes a phone call. I offer a smile and wonder if I should hand over my germ-ex or just leave the exchange at that. I am sure she wants me gone just as much as I want myself well. She comes back in, sits down, and we both wait.
The TV is playing the recent news–Brussels was attacked. Dozens are killed. Terrorist are to blame. ISIS proudly takes claim for the attack. Tensions between the middle east and America are at an all time high thanks to the news. Knowingly, the lady and I glance at each other again. She is of Middle Eastern descent as noted from the Bindi on her forehead, and I am Caucasian looking as “white girl” as could be. In my sickly state, I can see the uneasiness in her eyes as she looks at the TV. How I wish that I could let her know that my heart does not see her this way, but I remain silent. I am sure, she as well, wants me to know that she is not what is on TV, but she remains silent too. In society’s eyes, we are opposites, so I believe we react to each other with that condition in mind.
I’m finally summoned to the back. The lady glances at me as I pass, probably holding her breath as well to avoid the fumes of my disease. The nurses greeted me with such a positive reception; I think they felt sorry for me in my ridiculous state. They take my dreaded weight, consistent height, and all the other necessary things that they normally monitor. “Everything is looking good,” the one nurse tells me. She begins taking my blood pressure, and I can’t help but ask, “Will I be better by Thursday?” I must know. “My students are testing. I want to be there.” Without missing a beat of monitoring my blood pressure, she smiled and simply said, “You are a such good mom.” She is mistaken. My thoughts are racing. I’m not a mom; my mind reels. I didn’t correct her though. I wasn’t sure if it was worth the effort really, but her words were fixed in my thoughts like the paint on the walls of that office. I couldn’t fight off the tsunami of thoughts crashing in my brain.
The tidal wave roles in, and in the next moment, I’m 20 years old staring at the clouds in the ceiling light laying on the padded observation table in the nurse practitioner’s office. I refused to visit this place for so long, but after a recommendation and encouragement from friends and family, I knew I had to go. I went alone, and I was nervous. The nurse was short and to the point. Her clouds in the light offered no comfort and neither did she. A nurse held my hand, and that was my only source of hope. After my procedure was finished, the nurse waltzed in with her curly hair and nonchalant attitude to tell me what I’ve always suspected but never hoped to be true. Without any comfort in her voice she said that “Medically speaking, there’s a rare chance for children.” The rest of her words are a blur: “Blah, blah. Blah, blah. Blah, Blah, Blah Blah.” I heard. “Here’s a prescription.” She left. The nurse left. And, I was alone. The suspect I always feared became a real life criminal, and there was no hope of justice being rendered soon.
“We will take you on back to your room, Mrs. Jones,” the kind nurse calms the waters of my mind and pulls me back into the shores of reality. She files her paper work, and we walk back to my waiting room. “We will do everything we can to get you back to your babies.” I lay on the bed, misty eyed. I could play off the tears with the amount of pain I was in. Waiting, again. Laying there, I hear the noises of a normal doctor’s office: people walking around to the different areas of the office, doors opening and closing to different patient’s rooms, patients talking to their doctors about their health. In this particular office, I could easily hear much of the conversations going on around me as I lie there waiting for relief. Suddenly, I heard footsteps walking toward my room. I halfway sat up expecting the doctor to walk in, but then, I hear the room next to me open and close with a patient going inside along with another set of footsteps behind the patient. I hear the voice of the lady in the waiting room through the paper thin walls. In her poetic accent I hear her say, “I need to take a test” to the doctor in the room. My heart stops. They go on to discuss detail and what to do next then the doctor leaves her room and walks directly to mine. She is very thorough with her observation and excellent at her job. She listens with concern and runs a flu test on my poor soul. As she walks out, I wonder how the doctor so easily shifts from the contrasting problems from one side of the wall to the next. I lay back down in hopes of drowning my sorrows and pain in the pillow to forget how I feel and what I have heard. I hear more footsteps coming my way, but they stop short of my room one more time. The doctor steps into the room next to mine, and I hear the words “Congratulations” shot like an arrow straight through the walls and into my heart. How beautiful a moment, and how treasured a time in this woman’s life. I feel the tears come into my eyes. She will go home with a child to love one day, and I with an unwanted ear infection.
As I hear her leave her room, I sigh. I listen to the footsteps of the life I have always wanted walk away with a sense of joy. Deep down in my heart, I feel happiness for her, but my human mind is overcome with rage, sadness, and fear. We are so different, her and I, but at the core of who we are, I know we are the same woman whose soul wants to love something more than just herself. I am given my prescription, and I leave the office down the same joy-filled hallway that was walked just moments ago. What contrasting images these walls have seen today. The sun shines on my face as I leave the office and drive towards the pharmacy to fill my prescription. Going home, I am slightly discouraged by the events of the day, but I push those thoughts to the back of my mind. My desire for a family is not my immediate problem anymore, and I take the medicine in hopes of feeling better for work. I must forget what happened today. I fall asleep quickly in the king sized bed and wake up the next morning feeling better than the day before. For a moment, I see the woman from yesterday in my mind, but I dismiss those thoughts and get ready for the day ahead. My students are waiting and need me today. I must live for those that I do have rather than focus on what I do not; I must face reality.
Searching for answers that I had been desperate to find in the long, dark years of my past life, I found myself driving down the road from my house to a familiar place that I visit once or twice a week in hopes to find peace and strength for the days ahead. Calvary, it’s called. Quite familiar a name for a few, for this is where I am driving on this Sunday afternoon.
How did I get in this predicament?
Never do I know.
A quick email, and here I am.
My mind is racing as I pull into the parking lot, gather my things, and waltz to the building that I’ve never discovered before this present day. Building 2, if you need specifics.
I go straight to the back; I never talk. It is my comfort in the uncomfortable; a source of refuge, home.
I can do this. I think.
I’m in over my head.
Nervously, I sit and wait and watch and listen.
Bible scholars, I smirk.
That’s who these people are.
I know no one.
But, I am an English teacher, right? Analytical things? I can do this.
I think I know everything as we dive into the book of divine romance written as a love letter to me from God above.
I read through the dense matter that is called “Genesis-Exodus-Leviticus-Numbers-Deuteronomy”. The “Pentateuch” they say, those first five books, but after reading, I am not inspired or impressed in the least. Never would I lower myself to the likes of them!
“You Israelites,” I think, “how foolish can you be?
How could those who have been promised wander and whine?
To hear the voice of God and see his works completed in face, upfront?
“Ignorance at its finest,” I protest as I turn each page more grudgingly than the previous.
I, of course, know all things and how they should be done……until a unfamiliar question captures my thoughts and captivates my mind with its unsuspecting complexity and application to my ever present life.
“So where are you,” the words were spoken, “in all of this we read?” From the mouth of the man who is teaching the Word to the listening ear of an eager heart, I ponder without saying a word.
The rose color glasses, from which I see, fall and shatter before my eyes, and I look up to see the color which many describe but rarely and honestly behold– Reality.
The alignment between the words on the page and the strings in my heart composed a sweet melody on this winter afternoon; these uncanny parallels can never fully be performed or composed to do justice to what the composer has created.
These perplexing ideas crossed over generations of time in one short period and shook the foundation of my soul to cause me to see eye level with the reality of who I am in God’s sight and establish the purpose of the “Old” that I never gave a minute to before today’s time.
Who am I?
To think that this book was written specifically for me?
Am I so prideful?
Am I so vain?
How pretentious a thought!
How foolish am I?
Did someone hold a mirror to my mind to allow me to see my thoughts for what they are?
I begin to see.
I begin to hear.
I begin to dwell.
I begin to listen to discover who I really am.
I am the unfaithful follower refusing to believe in the promises of the promised land.
I am the foolish worshiper who called for a golden calf in fleeting moments that God was away from my immediate present.
I am the non-seeking soul who does not look for counsel in the days of war when the enemy is in my territory.
I am the deaf ear who heard the perfect words of God whispered in my ear and turned to my own devious ways.
I am the wicked mouth who speaks and spreads evil among the people.
I am the hungry man who cried for more when daily he was provided for with what he needed.
I am the ungrateful woman who looks back desiring the past and does not appreciate the present.
I am the untrustworthy leader who hears the laws of the land and refuses to live justly.
I am the mute judge who does not speak when the truth should have been spoken.
I am the impatient king who takes matters into his own hands when things are not in the way he sees fit.
I am the ONE.
I am the one.
I am the one, indeed.
An Israelite, I am.
I see you all, and my heart aches to see this happen. While I do not understand your situation as clearly as you do in this moment, I do understand how gut-wrenching and what toll grief can take on a person. I wish I could do more than these simple words because the English language is just not enough.
Grief is not something that you can put into a box and call it the end all be all of how it is. Please know that my letter is not written out of “this is the way its going to be” but from mere personal experience in how I felt. I hope that you can find some source of comfort in knowing someone has felt this way too; hope for a time past what the awful here and now is; and peace when the time is right.
Please know my letter is not written out of insensitivity or from a “know-it-all” perspective, but simply from heart that aches for you and wishes for better days for you and your family.
Grief is passionate and vivid. Individualized and unique to each person who experiences its touch. Just as no two persons have the same exact fingerprints, no one cries the same tears or feels with the same heart. At times you will want to be surrounded by the world. Other times you may desire times of peace and solitude. Each day brings with it a new emotion and feeling. Sometimes you just pray that others around you understand why you may not want to speak. Other days you micromanage every second of your life to try and forget what’s happened. No matter what day it is or emotions it brings, grief, you will realize, is a lifelong process that shapes and molds all aspects of life.
You never see it coming, and I think that’s the problem with the matter. At one moment, all the world is the way things should be, but the next second, you are left picking up the shambles that your life has now become. Nothing from this point on will ever be the same, and that moment will forever define the rest of your life. When you think back on events that took place and reminisce, the calendar even changes. There is no longer January, February, March but instead 3 months or 5 months since this has happened. Every holiday and birthday becomes a mile marker in your journey rather than a celebration of togetherness. I always think of it as the “BC” and “AD” of who I am today, and when you grieve that intensely, you are truly never the same.
A blessing and a curse during these times are those who want to help because there are three types of people who want to help: 1. The truly sincere, 2. The perform my civic duty, and 3. The nosy ones. People seem to come out of “the woodwork” when tragedy strikes. Of course the ones who fall into the #2 and #3 category are all experts on words of comfort and how to deal with these new found emotions that you have not even had time to process. Misguided, ill-timed, and insensitive words are what you will find that leave you confused and angry. You learn so much about others when things like this happen and even more about their character. Grief causes you to see people with new eyes and a new heart. A lifelong friend may become the most self-centered person you know while an innocent stranger becomes a source of hope, peace, and unconditional love and support. Even close family and church members may surprise you. You will notice people do not know what to say in these situations. In weeks to come people always approach you with an apology rather than a greeting, and in all actuality, you just want to feel normal again and not as the person “who this thing happened to”. All most people want is someone who will listen.
The process of grief, while different for everyone, has one commonality –it is unpredictable and there is no timetable for healing. The stages of grief is no myth but a true experience. The steps are not evenly distributed throughout the process nor do you “graduate” from one phase from the next. One day at a time is all you can take and the stages will mix and fade from week to week. The event will be on your mind everyday– never fails. There will be times when you are a complete wreck, then there will come a day that you went the entire day without thinking about that horrible time. But, the bad days that happen will be on some random Wednesday afternoon when you smell the scent of perfume they wore or hear the song that you sang together. These blindsiding moments will seem to tear you back down to Day 1, but whether you realize it or not, each time this happens, your heart becomes a little bit stronger.
For a while, survival mode seems as if that is the only place you’ll stay. Everyone has their way of dealing. Some lay in bed all day… for days at a time or do not sleeping. Others I’ve seen throw themselves into their work. This time, in my opinion, is the hardest of them all. Numb is the only feeling that I can clearly remember, and “numb” followed me everywhere and with everything. And despite all the “help” and friends around, loneliness will seem to surround you. No one but you can work through the emotions and feelings because at the end of the day, you are the only one in touch with how you truly feel. Get help if you need it. It works.
When everything first happens, every one will be there for support, but be sure to look around you six months from now when times are incomprehensible to you and see who is around, those are your number ones. The number ones are caretakers that are constantly by your side, and whether you realize it or not, they get hit the hardest at this point in your grief because there is literally nothing they can do but wait for their person to be ready for them. Caretakers are what I call the silent victim; the situation did not happen to them but to their loved one or close friend. Caretakers must be strong for their loved one, but caretakers, do not forget to grieve for yourself.
Time and distance from the situation allow you to find a “new normal” but also a new you. You learn to develop a new appreciation for honesty and sincerity, and not just finding those qualities in others but rediscovering them in yourself. You learn and appreciate how to say “I’m not okay right now” and express emotions that you need to feel. Its cathartic. Its needed. And it may take a while, but you will get there. You gain a new perspective on the things that truly matter in life– being surrounded by those you love. Trivial things, like money, jobs, materials, just do not play the same importance anymore. Getting to this point takes time, but there is a point such as this in the process. You will make it.
While the stages of grief suggest that you eventually learn acceptance, I have to disagree. Grief never truly goes away, and I do not think you learn to accept. I think as humans, we learn to adjust our lives and our emotions. We feel, heal, and constantly remember.
Never forget friends: I love you, I’m here for you, & I’m willing to listen.
She sat at my table and told me one story after another. Nothing necessarily important, but just the daily struggle in life; the day to day problems that weigh the person down. During the conversation, I kept checking my clock on the wall listening to her talk thinking of what I could have been doing instead. How “great” of a person I am to think in such way after hearing my own friend pour out her heart.
But then I look up, and I see it. She shouldn’t have even spoken a word; her eyes say it all. She’s tired, she’s hurt; she’s searching for a kind heart to help her make it through the day.
It was not that long again that I, like her, was searching for one kind word.
Wasn’t I just like her in college when I lost my best friend?
Wasn’t I just like her when I just moved to a city where I knew no one; the only conversation was the occasional “hello” from someone in the grocery story or a cashier just doing their job. I longed for a warm smile from a stranger or a friend to tell about my silly problems. Yet, here I was dreading a conversation from a friend in need?
Who have I even become?
When I looked up and finally paid attention, I stopped hearing the monologue of words that filled the air but saw the raw emotions that were on her heart; I quit with my pretentious idea of “what else could I be doing now” and remembered what it was like to be in need.
I stopped seeing a problem with my eyes, and I saw a human being with my heart.
It takes strength in a word of hatred to have a kind heart. It takes courage to fight against and stand up for those who are cast down. And, if you’d stop for just a second, you would see people with your heart.
Aside from our unique personalities and our strange little quirks, isn’t that what we are all anyway? We are all human. And, we are all in need.
S0, be kind.
This morning we sang the soothing lyrics from “There is a fountain.” It’s an older hymn not sung much anymore, but some of you older ones may know it. I love older hymns. I think I love them more than the new songs. Their words are more complex, more thought provoking, and written with passion, but most of all, these old hymns remind me of my old church home.
I teared up during service today at the thought of those words and the flashbacks brought to my mind. I can still hear my sister playing this song on the piano as we sang aloud in church with my mom in the choir and I sang wa-ter-melon for an entire verse. So funny how things that I once held no value or thought to are the things that I treasure so dearly now. Nothing I wanted more than to go back to those times. Such simple times.
Oh while my heart yearns for adventure, its greatest desire is to have a place called home.
Moving from home has not been easy. I think on the imaginary scale of hardest things in my life, this would rank among the top 2. Moving takes you away from every comfort zone you once knew. The comfort of knowing what stores to go to when you need that one little thing. How to drive from point a to point b. Oh, what doctor should I use for this? Even the people you never thought you’d miss.
I wish I could count the times that I walk through the hallway at school and get overjoyed because I saw one of my old students only to realize that it was someone who looked exactly like them. Or, even in the grocery store to see someone I know only to see my mind has played a evil trick on me. Its only a mirage of an unknown face.
The life I lived in luxury was a life I took for granted. Now, every source of comfort has been eliminated, and I’m forced to start over. How do you make a place become “home” when nothing about your surroundings are of familiarity?
Is this the “oceans” moment people praise about so much? I’m sure. It’s one I never thought would be for me.
But, as I have always said, I know in the end all things will be beautiful, if its not beautiful, then its not the end.
So, hold tight, will I ever, to find my place. My source of comfort. My home.