Tread my heart lightly, but please leave your mark.

It does not move toward love easily,

although it will surrender

thoughtfully,

willingly,

fully.

It knows the pain of loss too intensely.

It knows the consuming joy of embrace.

It has your smile imprinted,

your words engraved upon it.

Words…

So lately the words aren’t moving through my head, but today while cleaning away more clutter I found this passage written by Henri Nouwen from Bread for the Journey in my desk.  Words I needed to hear emerged from my clutter on a piece of scrap paper and I wanted to share them. My sincere thanks to Henri Nouwen for his words.

Dressed in Gentleness
Once in a while we meet a gentle person. Gentleness is a virtue hard to find in a society that admires toughness and roughness. We are encouraged to get things done and to get them done fast, even when people get hurt in the process. Success, accomplishment, and productivity count. But the cost is high. There is no place for gentleness in such a milieu.
Gentle is the one who does “not break the crushed reed, or snuff the faltering wick” (Matthew 12:20). Gentle is the one who is attentive to the strengths and weaknesses of the other and enjoys being together more than accomplishing something. A gentle person treads lightly, listens carefully, looks tenderly, and touches with reverence. A gentle person knows that true growth requires nurture, not force. Let’s dress ourselves with gentleness. In our tough and often unbending world our gentleness can be a vivid reminder of the presence of God among us.

A reminder to me of a virtue I hope to be measured by…trying not to let my self perceived failures get the best of me…success is fickle, relative, and not always assessed by what matters most.

Mommy then…mommy now

Nearly every mommy does her best to provide an environment of love and nurturing for their children.  I am one of those mommies.  I want my kids to feel loved and valued. I want my kids to have the freedom to express themselves, their creativity and their ideas.  I want my kids to know how important they are and that the most important thing they can give or do in this life is build loving relationships with others. I want to guide by example and be present to them. These things are important to me as a parent.

Years ago when I was in ministry I had a mentor who believed in the strong bonds between parents and their adolescent kiddos.  He believed so strongly that he and some colleagues formed a group to nurture relationships of parents and adolescents.  This is not an easy job! Parents of teens and preteens are often overwhelmed and frustrated. I would have him speak at the churches I ministered in several times a year.  I was always happy to have him.  He was a great mentor to me, not only professionally, but as a parent.  He spoke of setting goals for the outcome of our own parenting and then would give loving, poignant, and humorous examples from his life and experiences.

When I was mentored by him, I was a new parent.  His family was grown.  I had a baby on my hip and felt so lucky to have people around me who were years ahead of me on the parent continuum.  Along with him, I had women I worked with who had grown families and friends who were a bit further down the line than I was.  When my big boy was little, I really felt like I was on my game as a parent.  I felt like Dave and I were doing pretty well.  I listened thoughtfully to other parents, to Dave, and to my child.  I even had more time to listen to myself.  I had time to form goals and put them into action as a parent.

Well, you know the story…then my life shattered.

With my big boy only six and a new baby boy in my arms, I buried my husband.  When he left, the parent I was died too.  For the first year, I did my best to hold our family on the same path we were on as a two parent family.  I nearly killed myself.  I was reeling from my loss, trying to make sure we had the help we needed to keep breathing, and well, to be that family even though we felt so broken.  After the first year or so, I realized that we couldn’t be that family anymore.  I realized that no matter how much I didn’t want it to be, our family was different. I realized that it was up to me to figure out how it would go from here.

I’ve adapted over the years, but still have never felt back on my game like I did when my big boy was younger.  I often look around and wonder how my little one feels about our life.  He’s at the age now that his brother was when his dad died.  Although he didn’t have much time with Dave, as he gets older the loss impacts him in deeper ways.  He really has never known a family with a dad here on earth.  What he does know now is that his friends have dads and he can see the difference in his little seven year old life.  He has really only ever been parented by me.  In the past, this seemed ok, but now I think he realizes the difference, the discrepancy.  It makes me sad.  It makes me wish I was back on my game again.

Here’s the thing though…I can never be back in that game again.  It was a totally different playing field.  I’ve had to learn to adapt and gain new skills, but I can never go back to the mommy I was then.  I can never go back to the woman I was, the wife I was, all that has gone…it has been changed, transformed.

I remember the goals.  I remember the plan.  I still think those things are important, but a key player is gone.  I have to go with the back up plan.  I have to convince myself and my family that this plan is as good as the original plan.  I have to somehow blend the mommy I was…the one who had extra time, energy, who felt loved and easily spilled that out onto my children…with the mommy I am…the mommy who is the only emotional, spiritual, physical support, the mommy who is taxed and exhausted a lot of the time, the mommy isn’t always on her game.

While I miss the mommy, the woman I was, I still forge on to the woman, the mom, I am becoming everyday.  I learn new things everyday.  I am stronger and more competent than I’ve ever been…

But, I still don’t feel like I’m on my game yet.

I’ll get there.  I get a bit closer every day.

Dance, grieve, dance, grieve

This morning, a friend sent me an email and said she was thinking about me during her morning prayer.  She had read a reflection about mourning.  It was in a daily meditation by the Henri Nouwen Society, http://www.henrinouwen.org.  There was a part that put words around some feelings I’ve been having the last week.

 We celebrate a success, and in the midst of the party we feel deep sadness.    Mourning and dancing, grief and laughter, sadness and gladness – they belong together…

The words grabbed me.  They reached inside my heart and pulled out a way to verbalize feelings that have been rolling around inside me looking to escape.  I am always so happy when the jumbled up stuff in my heart finds a safe way to express itself.

Last week, I finished my master’s program.  I have really been looking forward to completing this.  I am looking forward to more free time, reading books for pleasure again, and well just having a few more moments to myself and moments to share with my boys.  I set a goal.  I achieved that goal. I thought it would feel so marvelous.

Then I came home after class last week.  The house was still lonely at night.  The kids were still the kids. The dishes were still waiting. I felt the pride of accomplishment wither out of me. There was no one to share it with really.  No one who had witnessed to this accomplishment from start to finish the way he would have watched.  It was just me and my new master’s degree.  No one to say, “hey, I’m so proud of you”, no one to utter, “nice work” or “I knew you could do this.”  It hit me like a ton of bricks.  Even though I did this for myself, somehow it felt shallow, somehow it felt like…well, it felt like no big deal.

Then I read the reflection that my friend sent this morning. That was it.  It was the dancing and the mourning.  It was the celebration and the deep sadness…all in my heart, all in my mind, all a part of me and my experience.  An “aha” moment! It’s ok to feel like dancing then like crying.  It’s ok to feel proud of my accomplishment and deep sorrow that no one saw all in one breath…it is ok.  I’m ok.

Next month will be the seventh anniversary of Dave’s death.  At the end of next month, I will dutifully march into year eight…forever changed, forever marked by him, by his love, by his death.  Every new moment when I feel that feeling that I can’t put my finger on…and then “aha” there it is again…dancing, grieving, dancing, grieving…

I will continue to leave my heart open.  I will continue to look for the way to become who I am to become.  I will dance. I will grieve…and through it all…I will be ok.

Here is the complete meditation my friend sent today-

Where Mourning and Dancing Touch Each Other

“[There is] a time for mourning, a time for dancing” (Ecclesiastes 3:4).  But mourning and dancing are never fully separated.  Their “times” do not necessarily follow each other.  In fact, their “times” may become one “time.”  Mourning may turn into dancing and dancing into mourning without showing a clear point where one ends and the other starts.

Often our grief allows us to choreograph our dance while our dance creates the space for our grief.  We lose a beloved friend, and in the midst of our tears we discover an unknown joy.  We celebrate a success, and in the midst of the party we feel deep sadness.  Mourning and dancing, grief and laughter, sadness and gladness – they belong together as the sad-faced clown and the happy-faced clown, who make us both cry and laugh.  Let’s trust that the beauty of our lives becomes visible where mourning and dancing touch each other.

  http://www.henrinouwen.org