Grief is a journey unlike any other. The grief of a mother for her child is, I’m told (not winter-sun-1547273_1920that I doubt it), the most profound there is: I have been, we have been, utterly shattered by Mark’s death. You never really do “recover”; instead, you eventually emerge from the dark, soft webbing of your grief cocoon and find the world has changed, too, because you see it with different eyes. The wings you unfold are stronger, maybe a little darker, but also luminous with hope and anticipation. You know that one day…one day, all will be well.

A few weeks ago, I had a very short dream (my sleep is interrupted often these days by – yay! – hot flashes, so my dreams are often short, if I have any at all). I was standing on the floor of a small auditorium, right up against the edge of a stage – so the stage floor was at roughly the height of my belly. I had a vague impression of musical instruments left lying on the stage, in the dim periphery just outside my field of vision – as though a band had recently played and was on break – but my focus was on a dime lying face-down, right in the middle of stage. As I stretched forward to retrieve it, it was then as though the dime was removed or picked up; it just wasn’t there. And I had an impression (not a clear picture, just more like the idea) of Mark suddenly being there — full size now (maybe even bigger than normal) and a little solemn — and he said “I don’t want you to miss out on life, Mom. I’ll let you know when I’m around.” And I woke up.

At about the same time, I decided I needed to do/could squeeze in one new, good thing (while still being available to my MIL and our accounting business): I started working at the church preschool just one day a week. I am not allowed to talk about the kids on social media at all (ARGH! SO MANY HILARIOUS STORIES!) but the delight and joy of being around those warm, often-gooey, real, affectionate, all-in little people is just…lovely. And funny. And beautiful. And simple. I felt like my soul had shoved my body one big step forward. Thank you, God.

(I also waded back in to help coordinate my 35th high school reunion, which is a whole different ball of wax. I may actually be mentally ill.)

But it was also really hard…because doing something new and different was a change: I felt like I was leaving Mark behind. In starting to unwrap from my cocoon, I instantly missed the constancy and communion, the deliberate “otherness” of being almost… sequestered with God and Mark for a whole year. The dream coincided, left me wondering if I’d walked through some kind of door that slammed shut behind me: would I ever feel a strong sense of connection to my son again? The coins – my little hints of heaven – dried up. Is that it? To paraphrase Joan Didion, is my ‘year of magical thinking’ over?

Inner battles were fought; long conversations with trusted friends ensued to help me steer my ship back into truth: as important as it is for me to come out into the light, to “carry forward,” it’s also impossible to “leave Mark behind” when he is always with me, in the fullness of God’s overwhelming kindness and grace. This brings me great comfort and has helped me breathe once again as I’ve climbed out of the hole of sadness around the one-year anniversary of Mark’s death. I also have been slowly learning that the more I choose to dwell (this is a deliberate act, truly a choice made every single day) in joy, in interacting with other people – whether little sticky ones or not – the more I laugh, the more gratitude I practice (even on those days when I do not really FEEL grateful at all)…the more I sense we are all, whether here or ‘there,’ whether struggling at this moment or not, still and always swimming together in one vast ocean, cupped inside God’s loving hands.

After about a week, the coins started showing up again. And in the days since the one-year anniversary on 10/8, I’ve stumbled across a few pennies and a dime, all embossed with the same year: 1996.


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