Tuesday, October 29, 2013

Never, Ever, Did God Choose You or Your Child

Leukemia? Brain Tumor? Drug Overdose? Autism? Kidney Failure?
Never, Ever, Did God
Choose You or Your Child
My God! God Is Not That Mean

Some of the most evil, misguided words about parenting are making the rounds again. When I recently saw them on Facebook, I had to stuff my hands in my pockets to quell the urge to pound the keys and type my anger and dismay. Why did I stifle that urge? I am and continue to be stunned and angry, but I saw that people get some sort of perverse comfort from this garbage. Last week, the noxious thing had 125 Likes and 31 people had shared it.
What is this vile prose making its rounds of the Web? It’s a pseudo-inspirational poem that tells parents of chronically or terminally ill, disabled, and challenged children how special they are and that God chose them.
The first time I saw a version of this God-chose-you nonsense was in 1985 on the living room wall at the Ronald McDonald House in Gainesville, Florida. Titled “Heaven’s Very Special Child,” it advises parents of disabled children that God chose them. It adds that He put quite a lot of effort into doing so because of the profound privilege to receive such a gift. I shook my head in disbelief that anyone could write such drivel and also that anyone was cruel enough to put it in plain view of the parents it was supposed to—but certainly does not—celebrate.
Parents and family members stay at the Ronald McDonald House because a child has a major illness—heart abnormalities, major organ failures, cancer, diseases that defy diagnosis, severe birth defects. Their child may have been in an accident so serious that life-saving techniques available only in a university hospital setting are necessary to keep that child alive. We stayed at the Ronald McDonald House because my child, Alexa, had brain cancer.
Most of the time we stayed at RM House, I was exhausted, filled with dread, fearful, unable to eat or sleep, and emotionally, physically, and psychologically overwrought. I did not feel “special.” Reading that plaque and its message that God “chose” me only increased my anguish. I wanted to scream out loud, climb on a chair, remove the plaque from the wall, and throw it in the trash, where I thought it belonged. I still believe such drivel belongs in the trash. I’m shocked that it is doled out to heartbroken parents like it’s some sort of balm for their wounds.
Another negative aspect of such dreck is that it purports that mothers/parents of children who have life-threatening illnesses or physical/mental/developmental challenges are chosen for certain reasons. Flowery phrases extol their special strength and wisdom, and that they’re unselfish (or just selfish enough as one of them states), or that they are among the few capable of great faith, and worse, great love, the greatest love, because it’s “supposed” to be more difficult to love a child that’s sick or is challenged.
Let’s be clear about love: Mothers, fathers, and other guardians and caregivers do not need to be faced with the death of their child, or their child’s suffering and great need of hands-on care—whether it be for days, months, years, or a lifetime—to have the greatest, most supreme love for their child. I did not, do not love Alexa more than I love my other children. No special strength, challenge, or blessing from God was or is necessary to love all my children. That is what parents do: They love their children. It’s that love that moves us, unawares, to do all that we can for our children, from birth, because special needs, illness, or challenges aside, the human infant must have such intense care to survive. We provide that care and that love because it springs forth from our basic human instincts to care for, love, and nurture our children. It is one of the greatest human callings.
It mocks and disparages all parental love to say that calling to love our children morphs somehow into a different, higher love when faced with adversity.
I don’t say or even hint that it’s easy to care for a child who has a serious illness (or any other of the conditions I’ve mentioned). It isn’t. But just like when your baby is a newborn and it cries during the night, you get up and feed the baby. When your child requires that you sit beside them for hours and mop up vomit while chemo drips through their veins in an effort to save their life, you mop up the vomit—that is, “you get up and feed the baby.” When your child needs to go to the doctor for a checkup, you take your child to the doctor. When your child needs to go to a teaching hospital for brain surgery, you take your child to that hospital.
Would I and the thousands of other parents who have shared experiences similar to mine prefer to simply go to the doctor? Absolutely. But in certain situations, you have no choice. It’s part of the love, it’s part of being a parent. You don’t rise to the challenge because God has gifted you with a special child. You rise to the challenge because you love your child.
And anyway, what kind of a God sits up on a throne in the clouds and decides which child will be “special,” as noted in this disjointed prose? It’s abhorrent to describe, much less believe, that God scans the Earth and then decides which parent will conceive a child that has a disability or illness or accident. God would decide a child will have cancer? God would decide a child will have heart defects? God would decide a child will be maimed in an accident? God would decide a child will have autism? God would decide a child will become drug addicted? The idea that a supreme being and creator, one who loves us, would do such things is despicable. If God chose me to be the parent of a child who would have brain cancer and die of that disease, then I don’t choose that particular God.
My God! My God doesn’t operate like that. My God doesn’t micromanage the lives of people on Earth. My God doesn’t micromanage DNA. My God doesn’t manipulate a toddler’s blood cells and tweak them so that child gets leukemia. My God doesn’t micromanage the chambers in a teenager’s heart so that one is faulty and that child either gets a transplant or dies.
My God! Where do people come up with such garbage?
Of course, we ask why: Why my child? Why me? I have asked why a thousand times and counting. Why? And you know what? I don’t get many satisfying answers. Life has too many mysteries for me to fathom. I can’t figure out why a cell goes haywire and starts reproducing because some awful switch in a child’s body chemistry has jumped to on, producing rogue cells. I can surmise that the environment and what we’ve done to it are part of those answers. I also know that some things are just random. No answers are available. I know that I just have to live with that.
What I do know is that God doesn’t have much to do with child illness, disabilities, challenges. What I do know is that God did not choose me or any other parent to be the parent of a “special child.”
So where is God in this? Sometimes, I admit, that it’s hard to find God. Anne Lamott, one of my favorite writers, often says a variation of, “God, would it be so much skin off your nose to _______________?” Fill in the blank with whatever you think God should do. I’ve tried it, and God doesn’t always pay attention to my queries.
What God does is provide a source of courage when facing the nightmare of a diagnosis. What God does is provide a sense of calm when I want to do nothing more than scream. What God does is provide a sense of peace when everything and everyone around me seem to be at war. What God does is bless my efforts when I try to walk with courage and grace in spite of anguish and loss. I believe God does this for all parents.
I’m not a theologian. I’m not a pastor. I’m not even very well educated in the Bible. I do know that the parts about Jesus focus on love, not on blame, not on judgment, not on choosing which child will be sick and which parent will become a caregiver or a mourner. I prefer that God—the one that tells me to love and to keep loving in spite of the things that crush me, in spite of the things that try my patience, in spite of the things that leave me with only the tiniest shred of energy, in spite of the things that anger me. I grudgingly admit that those stupid poems bring comfort to some people, but it’s a false comfort. It also gives God and the angels a really bad rap. They aren’t picking and choosing special parents and special children. That’s too dark to imagine. What God does is provide light and a way to walk the path I took as a parent and the one I continue to take as a parent. I don’t walk that path because I was chosen. I walk that path because I love my children.

Saturday, October 26, 2013

Remove Those Invasive Plants—and People

Cultivate What Sustains You
And Your Garden
Ditch the Invasives, Crazymakers,
and Other Pests
In the Garden and in Your Life
Invasives are tempting, but dangerous, in your life and in your garden. Life can get lonely; gardens can get sparse. When life is barren of relationships and gardens are barren of growing things, it’s far too easy to enter the danger zone of the psyche and the garden center. Under such circumstances, which are wrenching both personally and in the garden, it is tempting to let invasive people into our lives to sooth the ache of loneliness, to cover the bare spaces in our hearts. It’s tempting to plant something, anything, that will grow in the space around our homes.
That’s the time to be careful, watchful, and aware of what we let into our lives as well as our gardens.
When I started my Florida garden, poor soil, lack of rain, record-breaking cold, too much rain, fungus, and bugs thwarted my efforts. Every clod of compost or potted palm I introduced to my lot was for naught. My yard was lonely, unpopulated except for some struggling Bahia grass and uglier-than-imaginable Lagustrum bushes. I labored in vain to grow trees, shrubs, annuals, and herbs. Failure after failure inspired a bleak gardening motto: “If I plant it, it will die.” Or this other charmer: “If at once you don’t succeed, dig up all the dead stuff and plant something else.”
Much like clearing away the debris after a failed love affair, or other problematic relationship, I dug up all the dead stuff. I planted something else: Mexican petunias. I added other plants, amended the soil, learned how to water a Florida garden, and fought the good fight against fungus, bugs, and nematodes. I read “self-help” books on the challenges of Florida gardening and how to overcome them. Rather than hope for the best (which I’ve certainly done in relationships), when cold weather was forecast, I got to work and tucked blankets around susceptible plants and moved some sensitive ones inside to protect them.
Even so, some didn’t make it. And I resolved to end that plant relationship. No more trying again.

None of my garden challenges affected the Mexican petunias. They grew and grew and grew and grew. They bloomed. They spread. When anything else withered and failed to thrive, I knew their purple flowers would greet me every day. That is precisely why I planted them. That’s the nature of invasives—people and plants. No matter what you do, they’ll stay around. They continue to show up, year after year, like creepy Uncle Ernie, who, in spite of your futile hopes (and maybe even prayers), will be sitting at the table Thanksgiving Day.
Uncle Ernie and his plant counterpart, Mexican petunias, are Category I invasives in Florida.* Invasives invade. They take over your garden, they spread by runners, drop seeds, and sprout. They edge out native species on which wildlife depend. They drink too much precious water. They alter the balance of growth. Self-respecting gardeners turn up their noses at Mexican petunias and narrow their eyes in scorn at the ubiquitous pots of them at garden centers and plant sales.
Much like I planted Mexican petunias, I once cultivated too many invasive people. I wore the Queen of Codependency crown. I gave out second, third, fourth, fifth . . . chances like candy on Halloween. In my quest toward fixing what was beyond broken, I rebuilt too many houses of sticks and straw, ignoring the many times they had been blown down.
I recently returned to my front flowerbed after searing months of Florida summer heat. Plants had suffered. Some had died, blocked by the sun, choked by weeds, and wilted by thirst. Not the Mexican petunias. They were the reason many of the plants were stressed and dying. They took up the space. They drank the water. They ate the food, just like greedy Uncle Ernie who always hogs the gravy.

Most of the family wish Uncle Ernie had never been invited in the first place, just as I wish I’d never planted those purple pests. It’s tough to uninvite Uncle Ernie. It’s tough to get rid of Mexican petunias. It’s tough to disentangle ourselves from weedy, invasive people.
I got out my shovel, dug hard and deep, and started ridding the garden of the Mexican petunias. As I paused to sop up the sweat dripping down my forehead, I reflected on invasives—in my garden and in my life. I realized that I have freed myself from most invasives—plants and people. Study, prayer, education, and determination have been and continue to be my tools. I plant and nurture what sustains me in and out of the garden.

*A Category I invasive in Florida is defined as a plant that
alters native plant communities by displacing native species, changing community structures or ecological functions, or hybridizing with natives.

To identify and remove invasives from your garden, Google, for example, “invasive plants, New Mexico” and you’ll get this list

Cornell University has a Web site that identifies invasives in the United States as a whole.
A comprehensive list of plant invasives in Florida can be found here.

For invasive people, Julia Cameron presents a fine definition of crazymakers in her book, TheArtist’s Way

Twelve Step programs such as CodependentsAnonymous have helped millions of people develop healthy relationships.  

Mexican petunias are invasives. If you have them in your garden, get rid of them. If you don’t have them, don’t add them. 

Monday, October 21, 2013

Live with Inattention

Mind Less Monday
Live with Intention?
Maybe Not
A Case Against Being Mindful
I don’t want to be mindful all the time, or even most of the time. It’s a worthy endeavor, but my mind is full most days. If I give careful, that is, mindful, attention to everything, I foresee serious overload, resulting in my brain experiencing the infamous Microsoft Blue Screen or the Apple Mac spinning rainbow of doom.
To avoid such an experience, and contrary to all things Zen, I decided a few months ago to have Mind Less Mondays.

Mind Less. My Monday morning started with muddy gloves and dirt-crusted jeans. Record heat is on its way this late-October day, so I gardened early, not minding a bit that the ground was soaked from last night’s most-welcome rain.

Everything October has fest in these late fall days. Bok Tower Gardens in Lake Wales, Florida, held their annual Boktoberfest plant sale on Saturday. This Monday, I’m trying to mind less that I rent a giant gash in my budget and instead revel in delight at the treasures I found: a pink orchid cactus groaning with its load of buds, a long-lusted-for Papileo amaryllis bulb, and a pitcher plant to replace the one I killed a few months back.
Mindless Monday means I enter my office and get ready to work. Glancing at the clutter (and trying to mind it less), my eyes lit on the piano. Few inches of space are left on its top because it’s covered with photos. I mind less what might appear to be clutter because each of those photos holds the face of someone I love.

Cats might represent the pinnacle of the love-hate relationship. They are warm, they snuggle, they love fiercely. They also are cold as ice, distant, and dole out their affection in bite-sized pieces. Alas, they also barf. I’m minding less that the cat barfed on my car for a few reasons. The hose was handy, so I sprayed it away before the aforementioned record heat could bake it into the paint. Because my son just washed the car yesterday, when I hosed it off, it was still clean, so I wasn’t tempted to do a complete car wash.

Moonflowers are among my favorites, but they’re annuals. This summer’s vines had dried to a scraggle, so I cut them down yesterday. I mind less that they’re gone because hidden in these pods are seeds for more moonflowers to delight me. Like precious eggs in a nest, the white gems will produce next season’s beauties.

Gardening is rewarding, but oh, so, demanding. Because of time constraints, I can’t do everything I want to do. I’m minding less that this hoya desperately needs to be trimmed and repotted. Instead, I’m focusing on the waxy pink blossom at the end of the vine.

Mind Less Mondays are about attention and where I focus mine. This Mindless Monday, I am re-mind-ed that humor brings such joy to life! Last week, I wrote on the white board my decision to “Live with Intention.” I laughed aloud when I discovered my son’s edit: “Live with inattention.” On Mindless Monday, inattention is my watchword. Some things deserve attention; others merit inattention. On Mindless Monday, I make that choice.

Less attention is often a good thing. I mind less, much less, that the corpse cactus smells, well, like a corpse, because I don’t ever give it my close attention. Like Mindless Monday, I distance myself from it and other things that I must mind less, much less.

Wednesday, October 9, 2013

Tell That Fear to Just Wait

Turn Away from Fear—It Can Wait 
If You’re Afraid of the Dark,
Turn on the Light
It’s Okay to Avoid Those Hurt Places,
Those Tender Spots
“The Englishman said slowly, ‘I don’t know. I’m not sure I agree with you. It seems to me that hurt of any sort rather eats into you, like an acid, when you try to ignore it. There’s something in facing it. As though the energy you bring to it were healing.’ ” ~ Richard Tordell in Golden Apples, by Marjorie Kinnan Rawlings

What do we do with hurt that “eats into” us? We are warned that it can fester and grow and become more powerful. (It can, but not always.) Some motivational speakers and writers have stated that fear and hurt are wake-up calls in our lives; that it’s important to look our fears square in the face, eye-to-eye, challenge them, and move on, better, stronger, more ready and able to face new challenges.
Value can be gained from such actions, especially when the fear is transformed and becomes a path toward gratitude and even healing in our lives.
But dealing with fears at the wrong time and in the wrong place can bring forth even more hurt, more pain. Choosing the right time to act and then doing so is essential. Not every fear must be addressed head-on in the moment in which it occurs. All fears don’t necessarily turn to an acid that wears away at our being. Fears can put us on notice that change is necessary. Just as it is important to determine when and how to run from a wild animal or whether to confront it, timing is beneficial when changing fear to action, when letting fear change us and move us in a positive direction.
To all things there is a season. Facing what gives us pause in the dark might not always be necessary. We have the option of turning on the light. When it’s time, in due time, and the right time, we can square off against those moments of dread in the night and in our lives that make our hearts race and our thoughts grind. In that way, we achieve the change, peace, calm, and comfort that our fears remind us is what we really want and need.

Tuesday, October 8, 2013

Buttinski: Oh, How You Make Me Laugh!

Best Buttinski of My Workday
Giggling Through Interruptions

Buttinski. What a great word! A noun, it means someone who butts in or someone who is a troublemaker, perhaps someone who interferes. The self-employed, work-at-home-alone life gets dull at times. To stifle my often-present urge to break up the workday, I spend far too much time online. It’s the biggest buttinski of my day.
I use a wonderful program called Freedom to keep me offline.
During those offline hours, because I’m an editor, I still must look up words but without the benefit of the quick search. I keep my dog-eared, much-thumbed, dust-jacket-torn Merriam-Webster’s Collegiate Dictionary at my side and use it often. While searching for a term, part of the fun of words, and especially the words in my Webster’s, is spying those I don’t know. More fun is when a word surprises me. Buttinski is such a word. I marked its entry with a Post-it and whenever my fingers touch that page, I stop and giggle aloud during my momentary distraction. It is the best buttinski of my day.

Monday, October 7, 2013

Monday Sneaks Up on Me Late Sunday Afternoon

Mind Less Monday
Big Chairs for Little People
Weeds and Hidden Treasures
A Case Against Being Mindful

I don’t want to be mindful all the time, or even most of the time. It’s a worthy endeavor, but my mind is full most days. If I give careful, that is, mindful, attention to everything, I foresee serious overload, resulting in my brain experiencing the infamous Microsoft Blue Screen or the Mac spinning rainbow of doom.
To avoid such an experience, and contrary to all things Zen, I decided a few months ago to have Mind Less Mondays.

Mind Less. Monday starts sneaking up on me late Sunday afternoon. Dusky pinks in the sky signal sundown and the day’s end. I’m re-mind-ed that the weekend is almost over. I must begin to shift gears toward work and the business of life. I mind Monday much less when my weekend has been fun, engaging, and enriching. (Note to self: Plan for such weekends and when Friday rolls around, I won’t stare off into space thinking, “Hmm… what do I do now?”)
Mix and Match, Early Everything, Thrift Shop, and Yard Sale headline my decorating style. Too often, in keeping with that style, I purchased chairs that fit my five-foot, two-inch, 115-pound self. I rethought that mind set after (more than once) yanking a cane-seated chair away from a 140-pound person about to sit in it. Those chairs now hold plants, books, and other lightweight items. I was relieved when I finally had four matching grown-up chairs at the table. But now I am back to mix-and-match, although sturdy, chairs. I mind it less, much less, because one of those now has a baby booster seat firmly attached to it. A baby at the table trumps matching chairs any day.
Weeds oh, weeds! Today, I mind less that the bougainvillea is choked with grass and weeds at its base because it’s filled with flowers at its top. I minded those weeds even less after I realized those flowers would be lovely in my green pitcher on the table.

Today, I mind less that other parts of the garden are a jungle. Instead, I let my eyes be drawn to the treasure hiding beneath the overgrown shrubs and flowers.

Passionflower vines overtake the front garden, but who could possibly mind when the flowers they produce are pure magic? Looking deeper in this aspect of my garden, I found the stunning passionflower. I mind less that I’m re-mind-ed to look deeper into other aspects of life.

Scraps of paper with notes, sayings, motivational phrases, and story and blog ideas are taking over my desk. I mind those bits of paper less, much less, because I have been putting those words into stories. Those scraps signal that I’m creative, working, writing, doing what I love.
I Mind Less and then gratitude becomes my focus—gratitude for babies, gratitude for looking beyond the weeds, gratitude for looking deeper and seeing what gifts I can find, gratitude for words, thoughts, and the actions that spring from them. Mind Less Monday—also a gift.


Saturday, October 5, 2013

Mastering the Surreptitious Pit Sniff

Mastering the Art of
The Surreptitious Pit Sniff
Smelling My Pits
Oh, Hush! You Do It, Too
Sneaky, surreptitious sniffs. I’ve done it, and you do, too. There we are, carrying on with our lives, and the odor hits us. It could be swift smack in the nostrils or a light scent wafting toward our olfactory senses. Body odor. “Uh, oh.” We instinctively think, “I hope it isn’t me.” Heaven forbid in this age of smell well, be clean, don’t sweat it, that anyone has anything other than a bright and cheery scent. Any hint of odor would signal the smellers to pass the worst possible judgments: You are unclean. What? Have you been working in the fields? (Like that’s a bad thing, like the scent of hard labor is something to avoid.)
Oh, oh, that smell! Does anyone else smell that smell? Whenever I smell that smell, I am drawn toward getting a closer sniff to rule out myself as the source. If I’m alone, that’s easy: Lift my arm and poke my nose into the suspect area. If the right arm is clear, then I go ahead and check the left. If I’m the culprit, I make haste to squash the scent.
It’s not always easy to get a sly sniff. When the odor wafts our way and we’re in public, our first reaction is to look around and check for anyone who looks like they just left a construction site, the gym, the beach, or a homeless shelter. If nobody fitting that description or scent is nearby, then our next reaction is to suspect our own pits. In mild panic, we ask, “Is it me?” Next, we look again to be certain no one is too close before we make our next move: Checking the pits beneath our own arms. This must be done with care and caution and a bit of finesse. Nobody wants to be seen doing the surreptitious sniff.
The surreptitious sniff can be done in a few ways. The easiest is the sudden development of an itchy area on your nose. It’s best to perform this maneuver when your hands are full; otherwise, you look like an idiot. You might look like an idiot anyway, but that’s probably better than smelling like a cutting board covered with a pile of just-minced onions. Turn your head to the right, or left, and lift your arm just enough to touch your nose and rub it a few times with said arm. That’s long enough to determine whether it’s an offending pit.
Subtle, surreptitious sniffs also can be accomplished by some yoga-type neck stretches. You suddenly develop a kink in your neck (oh, oh, that smell), and must relieve it right away. Bend your neck and drop your chin to your chest, then in a slow, gentle, non-straining action, move your neck so that your head almost rests on your shoulder. While your head is near your shoulder, take a deep breath like you’re relaxing, but what you’re really doing is taking a deep sniff. Using a circular motion, move your chin back to your chest, and then repeat on the other side, being certain to take another deep breath/sniff.
Another way to check is to lift your hand to touch your lips and then look over your shoulder while taking another deep breath/sniff. Again, it looks weird, but with a bit of practice you can develop the important skill of pit-checking.
If you discover that you are guilty of emitting eau de skunk, your next steps are pretty clear. Clean up your act in the most expedient way possible. If you’re free and clear of noxious odors, then carry on, or go back to chopping onions—which is what I was doing the last time I did a pit check. I conducted a few sniffs, came away with clear nostrils, and then looked down at the cutting board. I said to myself, “Oh, right. That’s the source.” Carry on.

Thursday, October 3, 2013

Take the Fun Out of Funerals

Celebrate Life, But Mark Death

Where Is the Weeping, Wailing, and Gnashing of Teeth?
Bring out your dead. No, really, I mean it. Death and the tenor and tension of funerals have changed over the last several years in America. Hospitals, funeral homes and their directors—morticians, now there’s a word with its root, mort, in death—have a smaller number in the mourning equation in many ways with the move toward hospice care nearing life’s end and cremation following that end. The term Celebration of Life is often used instead of the once-traditional word funeral. Those are positive things—hospice, cremation, celebrations—but I find myself missing the mourning, the grieving. For me, there’s value in weeping, wailing, and gnashing of teeth.
At some life celebrations I’ve attended, I’m reminded that the person who died often had a rich, full life. Photos, videos, and mementos are shared. A microphone is often available and stories and remembrances are shared. But at several of those celebrations, other than the absence of the deceased person, I'm not reminded that the person is dead. And what I haven’t seen shared much is grieving. By name and also by tradition, funerals have been the time allotted for such grieving. Not that grieving isn’t the most intense, personal, and private of emotions—in some respects it is. But the experience of mourning, grieving, in a gathering also has an important place in our culture, in our rituals. It’s often one of the few times we express strong grief. That expression is valuable. It’s cathartic. Shared grief, mourning, and tears release strong emotions that we otherwise might repress.
Also, in many cultures, including our own at certain times, the presence of the body, or the cremated remains of the body, make a statement about the finality of life. I don’t think I’m being macabre when I say that I think that tangible presence of the life past, that aspect of mourning, also is important, even though it isn't often visible in public gatherings to celebrate the loss of someone for whom we cared.
I Might Prefer Yelling and Fainting
I think that some celebrations of life have become too staid, too lily-White American; they’re smiling, stiff-upper-lip occasions. We focus on the life—which has merit—even though we would not be gathering if there had not been a death. But the feelings regarding the death aren’t shared. They’re almost stuffed. I’ve been an expert at stuffing my feelings during my life, and I no longer want to stuff. I might prefer yelling and fainting. I might prefer what Barbara Kingsolver described in her book The Poisonwood Bible: Following one harsh rainy season, several children in the Congolese village where the story takes place have died from diarrhea. The mothers of the deceased children walk on their knees to the burial areas, all the while wailing for their dead babies. Later, they throw themselves onto the dirt mounded over their children’s bodies, digging, clawing. I don’t think Kingsolver has experienced the death of a child, but she must have intimate knowledge of someone who has. Her words mirrored my feelings after I buried my seven-year-old daughter. I visited her grave often, and the desire to throw myself to the earth was so strong, it was akin to a magnet pulling me down. I felt that way, but of course, I never would have done so. Like that suppression of my inner yearning to give myself over to grief, I see in some of these celebrations a suppression of grief and its expression.
I sometimes think I prefer the funeral with its heavy organ music, scent of cut and soon-to-wilt flowers, mourners dressed in black, wads of tear-soaked tissues, and somber processions as family and friends leave to resume their lives sans the one they loved.
I feel like I need those props to properly grieve and then move toward the rest of my life when I’ve lost someone. The emotions I express at such times are cleansing. Rather than being left with what I call the crying lump choking off my throat, when I weep, I release that lump and let the salty tears fall on my face and drop on my chest. It’s almost a relief.
I feel a need for that ritual. It acts as a pinprick on the balloon that encases my strong feelings of loss. A funeral and its mourning ritual break the balloon, let my tears flow, and release my sorrow, my sense of loss.
Certainly, those who have died must have their wishes honored regarding the activities that mark their life’s end. It’s been rare that I have had to choose how to send a loved one’s spirit to its final place, and for that I am grateful. I simply must accept that funerals are often different now and rather than a gathering of weeping folks, we instead celebrate the life of the one who is no longer with us. I know that the life is what was importantnot the death, not the loss. But for me, when someone I love dies, it’s that death, it’s that loss that I feel, and I need a time, a place, a space to grieve that loss.