New Life

February 22, 2010

New Life

There was once a mother whose child tragically died only a few months after her birth. The woman was so distraught at what had taken place that she carefully bound the infant’s body to her own with cloth and went in search of someone who would be able to resuscitate her.

She travelled far and wide to doctors, magicians, and wisdom teachers but no- one could offer any help. In her travels she heard a rumour about a holy man who lived high up in the mountains and who possessed the power to work great miracles. So she went in search of this great saint, eventually locating his small dwelling in an isolated patch of land high about the town.

Upon meeting the man she relayed her story while he listened intently. After she finished he thought for a while and then spoke with compassion, saying, “I can help you, but only if you gather up a handful of mustard seeds from the home of someone who has not suffered the pain of loss.”

The woman immediately went on the quest and travelled throughout the city in search of a single home that had not been overshadowed by the pain of separation. However she could not find a single place. Nevertheless, as she travelled from house to house and heard the stories of other people suffering she slowly began to come to terms with her own. She was eventually able to take her beloved child and bury her in the soil of the world.

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It took me years to be alright with crying.

I mean, in my headspace I was ok with it. I’d say, “I certainly don’t think there’s anything wrong with a person crying, much less a guy,” but I would never do it. I think I had absorbed all that BS about people not letting their emotions show on the surface. Stiff upper lip and all. Amazingly, though, years of saying it finally sunk in right around my sophomore year of college and I started crying again. Now I’m turning into my mother; Satuday night I listened to a new Radiolab and the story of a chimpanzee named Lucy who’d been raised among humans made me cry.

You might be saying, “Chris, I’m sure the woman in this story was crying plenty; she had her dead baby strapped to her body.” Fair enough, but I think her story and mine are two sides of the same coin. There’s no one way to deal with grief well, but there are innumerable ways to deal with it poorly. In C.S. Lewis’ The Great Divorce, one of the people the narrator runs into is a mother who has made her dead child’s room into a shrine to the idealized boy she once had. Her grief hasn’t been dealt with properly and has created for her and the people around her an earthly hell. The mother in this story is much like that. Her grief, real and powerful, has blinded her to the shared suffering of those in the world around her.

I think her situation and the situation of folks who don’t show their grief are remarkably similar; we have no-one to truly speak our grief to. People say things like, “Buck up, you need to be strong for your family. Other people in the world are suffering, too.” What a twisted thing to say to a person in the midst of grief. Some friends here in town had a meeting recently in which they spoke their grief to one another, mutual support starting the healing process after naming and confessing the sorrow that had a hold on them. Answers weren’t offered; what answers can there be?

Instead: Space, Love, Support.

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