Today, I made gnocci (pronounced YON-kee), strained some of the most beautiful chicken broth I’ve ever made, and completed a painting. I think it may be the last of the piece-of-crap-wood collection I had resolved to turn into something beautiful. To think, this chunk of wood was destined to rot in the storage barn, and my husband (then friend) rescued it four years ago, and said to me, “Paint on this.” So I did. Four years later. After we endured a long-distance relationship (oh my heart), got married, and had a son. We are such different people than we were then. Painfully beautiful.
This particular piece is the prayer of my heart today. I zoomed in on my favorite part and posted the photo to the left. It’s a tiny metal butterfly wing that a friend from church gave to me–he found it in a stream and brought it to church to give to us. I didn’t know what to do with the wings until today. Maybe divine inspiration? My 5 megapixel camera doesn’t do it justice (I know I’m from the stone ages. I keep entering to win a free camera on Pioneer Woman–here’s hoping).
I’ve been working on several different paintings, and photos of those perched on my easel are posted in The Studio. Not posted in The Studio are the tiny paintings for my dear friends who have lost children. Eventually, those paintings will replace the gray squares you’re currently seeing in The Gallery of Wings. They’ll be posted when it’s time. It’s a project I am looking forward to maintaining for years to come, for love of my son.
Regarding the possible move, STILL we wait. The company Steven wants to work for is putting together a business plan, and is taking their time, which I both appreciate and resent. I’m tired of waiting, but that’s the season in which we find ourselves. Maybe this will be another closed door? Maybe. As for me and my house, we will serve the Lord… wherever that house may be…
People ask how we are, and I think sometimes they’re just asking to ask, but most of the time, I think they might be actually asking. For those who are actually asking, and maybe for those who are afraid to ask, we are well. I am still grieving. I still weep. I am still very confused about how God might make this good. I still don’t know what to do with these empty arms. Steven and I are closer and more in love than ever–this is a blessing for which I continually thank God. It is not something I take for granted. A mother I know, who lost her baby a couple of months ago, is alone as her husband left her last week. This kind of loss is not just “one of those things” that’s part of life. It’s destructive. It’s painful. It’s life-altering. It unfortunately often ends in more than one tragedy. This kind of loss is not something we should ever get used to or get over, as we were not built to endure such brokenness. It is a miracle that there has been beauty. It is a miracle that there will be goodness and healing, not just despite this, but because of this.
My friend, who recently experienced the loss of her son, loaned me a book called Naming the Child by Jenny Schroedel (thanks Becca), and I would highly recommend it. There is a chapter about signs, which seem to be abundantly and miraculously available to bereaved parents, and I loved the confirmation I felt through the author’s words.
Last night, at our little grief support group, we talked about bad comforters. I found myself thinking about the many well-intentioned comforters we dealt with as we anticipated then endured the loss of sweet Sammy, and I found myself feeling such compassion for them. They really were doing the best they could. I think it can be really intimidating to be present with someone who is grieving. It can be scary, as it might be a reminder of how mortal we really are. That said, in the hopes of helping others be better comforters in the future, and in my understanding of how daunting it might be to be around someone who is grieving, I wanted to make a list of what I appreciated and did not appreciate.
-Even if you don’t know what to say, your presence can be a comfort. Really, it’s enough.
-Not dealing with your own pain makes my pain all about you in a time when it’s not appropriate. Deal with your pain. You’ll be a better comforter. Some of the most insensitive comments we’ve heard have come from parents who lost children during a time when it was not OK to grieve or talk about the loss.
-When you ask how you can help, and I tell you, I’m being truthful. Don’t try to figure out something more important or noteworthy to do.
-Do not remind me that I’m not the only one who has experienced pain. I am well aware. This loss has so reduced me, I cannot fathom my own pain, much less someone else’s. God’s grace really is enough during a time of loss. He is big enough to care about everyone’s pain. I am not.
-Do NOT quote Romans 8:28. While Romans 8:28 is true, the only person who is capable of entering that place in my heart where I contemplate God’s goodness is the Holy Spirit. Really, He is big enough. He does not need your help.
-Don’t ask if we can have another baby, and then act relieved when we say we probably can. We’ll experience so much joy if we’re able to have another, but Sam will always be my son. You’d never ask a widow if she plans to remarry, and then act relieved when she says she might. It’s just as inappropriate to ask if there’s any way we can replace our son.
While the memory of the bad comforters still stings, I am happy to say that they were far outnumbered by good comforters. Steven and I do not have family in this area, so we had to lean solely on our church for support, and I am so proud of how beautifully they came to our aide. Here’s how:
-Meals! We had meatloaf coming out of our ears by the time we were done, and I eventually had to say, “I really do want to get back to cooking!” to get the meals to stop. What a great problem to have!
-People would ask how we were, and they genuinely wanted to know. I’m pretty sure everyone in church followed my blog. It really made me feel like we weren’t alone to know that others were aware of what was going on. Sometimes, just hearing, “I read about your last doctor’s appointment,” was really comforting to me. I felt people’s concern and awareness.
-People would approach us at church. I know it’s scary–who knows if we might be angry or weepy or out of control! But people were really brave, put their reservations about not knowing what to say aside, and approached us.
-Little tokens of remembrance came in the mail and came to us at church. Plants, cards, trinkets, a tiny metal wing :), etc. There’s not much to say, but I heard so much love through these little things.
-Some people still check in with us to make sure we’re still processing things. While some assume we should be over it by now, I so appreciate the people who recognize that grief is a healthy process.
-For me, it was/is really tempting to isolate, and I really appreciated the people who made themselves available to just hang out with me sometimes.
I could go on and on, but I’m really not trying to come up with a complete list. These are just random things that popped into my head that I thought I’d share, maybe for the good of others who mourn, that their comforters would be gentle with them.
In keeping with this random string of thoughts and updates, I would like to close with these thoughts… gnocci, mozzarella cheese, and basil pesto make a yummy dish. God is good. And I need to go make dinner. Amen.