After writing all morning and processing everything that had happened over the past weekend, I felt a little more energetic…strong enough to go to the gym in search of some endorphins (I know I am repeating myself: exercise is GOOD… endorphins help lift you out of grief, even just for a bit). Ramin, a grandfatherly Iraqi who volunteers there, greeted me at the door. We hug now; when learning about my son, he shared that he lost his 33 year old son many years ago. He said, “I was glad that my wife was already gone when our son died, because she could not have withstood it.”
Tell me about it.
I rode the stationary bike and focused on the music playing on my Ipod; I then worked my way through the weight machines. As I went, my mind was in several places, but mostly I thought about God, I thought about Mark (who would sometimes come to the gym with me…he used to ride the bike and watch movies on his phone…I could almost see him over there, pedaling away), I wondered how Sarah was doing, I thought about how I used to care SO much about staying in shape, I thought about brokenness and whether I could truly feel joy and love again.
I honestly don’t know if this was important, but I’ll keep up with details: I was listening to the song “Chandelier” by Sia, as I sat on the leg adductor, facing a mirror. Jeff-the-sometimes-cranky-spin-instructor often plays it as we cool down – he times it so that we all raise our arms when Sia really belts out one particular line, which always makes me smile. The song is about an alcoholic who keeps drinking to “escape,” and there is a verse where she talks about waking up the next morning after getting drunk and she says “here comes the shame…” As a person who has experienced a fair amount of shame, that word has a lot of power for me. Anyhow, as I said, I was thinking about a lot of things and I added this to it — I thought about that young woman and how I wanted to hug her, love her and help her not feel that shame. I thought about people who have done awful, horrible things and feel unlovable, as though God could never ever forgive them. And suddenly something happened: like a bolt of pure love shot through my heart. It was overwhelming enough that I stopped breathing for a few moments. I caught my own surprised eyes in the mirror – seriously?? And honestly, I looked to see if there was a tongue of fire dancing on my head. No? Well – was that just a major dam-burst of endorphins? I shook my head: that was WEIRD. I honestly didn’t know what to make of it.
I finished my workout and drove home, and as I got out of the car, I heard, in the quietness of midday in suburbia, birds chattering. The distinctive call of the blue jay was loud, and there was another voice I didn’t quite recognize. I went and stood under the umbrella’d crown of our ancient PeeGee hydrangea tree in the front yard. There were at least 6 blue jays dashing here and there, and in the oak tree next to me, 3 small woodpeckers were defying gravity as they made their way up and down and around trunk and branches – it was their unusual sound I’d heard. I just lingered there.
This past summer, on our family trip to Minnesota, I’d sat still, very very still, in the clear waters of a lake for hours, as dozens of small fish just hovered, suspended in the water, all around me. Sometimes they meandered close enough to examine me, that Large Alien Mass, before darting away and resuming their state of motionlessness. It’s hard to explain, but I experienced – in those long moments – a deep peace, a suspension of time, a profound sense of soul-level delight. As I stood there in my yard just 4 months later, in my Mark-less existence, I somehow found myself in that same state…and I thought I felt a deep hum of laughter, God’s love and delight dancing around me in the interplay of shadow and light that dappled my skin and the ground.