Thursday, February 18, 2010

Dancing With Hope

Ten years ago I discovered that grief is not linear. It does not haul you smoothly from one stage to the next. It drags you in fits and starts. It drops you roughly and lets you linger until you are comfortable, only to grab you up by your heart and push you into the next stage. And then, before you have a chance to breathe, it yanks you right back again. Grief is a bitch. And I have also discovered, after ten years, that she never leaves you entirely.

She likes to lurk in the shadows. She makes you think that you are safe and well and fine. And then, she comes out and forces you to dance with her. And she is a master dancer. She doesn't step on your toes. She leads you silently, smoothly along and you have no choice but to follow.

Sometimes, Grief chooses only to briefly dance. You just get a hint of her dark hand on your shoulder and then she is gone. But sometimes. Sometimes she clasps you like a lover and she clings. She beckons you to grab her back. She tempts with her darkness. Like I said, Grief is a bitch.

Ten years ago, I sat waiting in a bed in a hospital delivery room. It wasn't the joyful kind of anticipation that I had previously known with the births of my daughter and son. It was quiet and uncomfortable and deeply sorrowful and surreal. We were waiting for our baby, whose soul had already flown to Jesus, to be born.

Joseph would be born late at night in a bright room filled with quiet voices. There were no cheering cries of "Push!" and "Your baby's almost here!" and "Congratulations! It's a boy!" Instead there were only consoling hands and quiet words of sympathy. Instead of tears of joy, there were only tears of pain and sadness and disbelief. When my baby slipped from my body, Grief slipped into the room.

Grief was my companion when I walked empty armed out of that hospital room and down the long hallway where other mommies had babies to hold. Grief made me hang my head in embarrassment and shame. She made me think that I had done something to deserve my loss. Then, Grief followed me home.

She was an unwelcome visitor that refused to leave. She was there with each delivered casserole, each card of sympathy, each shared hug. Sure, she had companions--Sympathy, Love, Empathy, Compassion--but she made sure that she was the one right by my side.

She was there when my body, fooled by a delivery with no baby to hold, caused milk to flow that would never be consumed. She was there, whispering. She was there in those long, sleepless nights when I cried so much that I ran out of tears. She was clasping my hand. She was there when I screamed in rage at God that He had messed up. She held me in her lap when I went to the funeral home to make arrangements for my son. Grief even had the nerve to slap my small children who were too young to really understand why she had even come to our home.

Over the days and weeks and months that followed, Grief would leave for periods of time. Her absence allowed me to mother my children and laugh again and feel like life could be normal. But she always came back. She would return just as I saw a baby that was the same age as mine would be. She would come back in time to accompany me to baby showers and birthday parties. She made sure that she was there when I prayed. I always knew when she was coming. I could feel her impending arrival. My heart would darken as if shutters had been thrown over it. Grief scared me. I didn't like having to share my life with her. I tried to ignore her. I wanted her to go away. But Grief is persistent and didn't really care what I wanted. She had a job to do and she was determined to get it done.

Over the years, Grief has visited less often than she did in the beginning, but she still remembers where I live. She was by my side when I tried to minister to friends that suffered a loss like mine. She is in the background during holidays when I feel a Joseph-shaped hole. She was pacing the room when I explained to my younger children about their older brother. And every now and again, she taps me on the shoulder and points out a boy who is the age Joseph would be, had he lived. And she always makes certain to visit on Joseph's birthday. I'd love to steal her calendar.

It's a funny thing, because as devastating as she is, Grief has also been a good teacher. Grief taught me to lean on my family and my friends. Grief allowed me to see that no matter how big my anger, no matter how deep my sorrow, God is bigger; God is deeper. Grief helped me to cherish my children and see them with different eyes. Grief toughened me up. Like the world's meanest personal trainer, she prepared me and stretched me and infused me with strength. She made me see that I can withstand so much more than I ever thought I was capable of withstanding. Grief pushed me to my husband. I know that she tried really hard to force us away from each other, but thankfully, her attempts backfired. And most importantly, Grief also introduced me--without intending to, I'm sure-- to her relative: Hope.

Even now, ten years later, Grief still stops by for a dance. But now when she leaves, I'm never left stranded in the middle of the dance floor alone. I know that Hope will be there to take me by the hand and finish the dance.

Happy 10th Birthday, my sweet Joseph Ryan. Hope says that I will see you in heaven and dance with you someday. I trust Hope.

blog comments powered by Disqus