“No one ever told me that grief felt so like fear.”
― C.S. Lewis,
A friend- a mountain acquaintance wrote on Facebook last Thursday that she had had a stroke, but was recovering well and there seemed to be no lasting effects. I wrote back with some comment expressing happiness and offering prayers… and then went on with my 3 day weekend.
And then last night I hear that she has either died or has been declared brain dead from a series of strokes… and I check her facebook page and find no solid answers. I think about her teenage son and 12 year old daughter. I think about the mini fridge sitting in the driveway that she was supposed to buy. And the plant holders. And some specific paintings of mine she liked. Too young… too young.
It was shocking and I am sad.
I keep trying. And I think that is an important thing. I keep writing and painting and teaching and traveling. Because there are pure moments in those things. Where the thought is not on grief or pain or loss, or trying to access a memory– but on specific word choices, or color and composition, or the delivery of a lesson, or catching a flight on time.
It is in that act of focus that grief seems manageable.
And at the risk of losing friends– more friends. Sometimes there is a conscious effort to avoid the negative. To think about good things and teddy bears and kittens. There are things that somehow give me comfort. Maybe that is why I paint so many animals. There are enough problems and issues to focus on that I don’t think we need to all the time, every day.
I should probably stay off of facebook. I should probably avoid ever talking about politics or religion. I should probably shut up and try my best to fit in. To give people what they need and to say what they want to hear.
But I am yet not that wise.
I think about politics. I talk about it all the time. Not just the issues and problems… but also the forgotten victories. About decades and decades of struggles… Labor unions on labor day. And national and global big things, as if suffering and work wasn’t for nothing. I no longer go to the funerals of students several times a year. Crime is down drastically from 20 years ago and few people will believe that, much less celebrate it. Poverty, even though more children than ever live in it, is less crushing. We live longer and healthier lives. The economy is improving. Unemployment is down. More are graduating from high school than ever before. More are attending college. And I know there are problems. But I think racism is on the decline. More people are more accepting of a lot of differences in people. And no one believes it. But that is what solid numbers tell me. But it helps me
And somehow this view is leftist- a minority perspective from a radical minority angle.
Worldwide, good things are happening. Half a dozen major diseases that killed millions every year are now a memory. Deaths from war worldwide are down. Way down from 20 years ago. Even with ISIS and Syria and everything going on… Fewer dying in wars and insurgencies. And global poverty is down. More people everywhere have access to clean water, to enough food, and maybe even to schools.
And no matter how many times I post solid numbers online, it is always my cynical Christian friends who feel compelled to deflate that. To mock me and call me an idiot. And because they can’t question the numbers, they post cynical articles about a recent rise in this place or that. It seems my Christian friends are always down for that- what is essentially, to me, a negative message. What looks like me to be a hyper conservative, white perspective- anti- labor, anti-education. Anti-“me” agenda. Making the world seem worse, scarier and on a downward spiral.
I have to shut up. To fit in. To cynically believe the worst about the worst. To hate Obama. To believe that white males and Christians in America are the most persecuted minority to ever walk the country. To believe in Fox News and accept Bill O’Reilly and Rush Limbaugh as my spiritual guides.
Along with that it gets mixed in with homeschooling and the evils of public school. With cynical anti-science, global-warming-is-a-hoax, alternative medicine, gluten free, sugar is poison, meat heavy diets and my fad is better than yours… and maybe that is just me. Somehow I not only have to buy into Jesus and His message… but I have to buy these books and this plan, and into lots of things from politics to health in order to fit in.
And more and more I feel less of a kinship with my Christian brothers. More and more their message seems to be one of exclusion and depression… not of the hope and love that I need. And less and less do I feel I have anything of value to offer- to my Christian family. To my people of faith. And I cling to Christ in the hopes that someday I’ll find where I fit in with them.
So I am going for a walk. With the dog. And I will pray for a miracle for Veronica, who will leave too early, and will leave two younger children at home.
And somewhere I will think about what I would have been doing with Ethan on this day.
“For in grief nothing “stays put.” One keeps on emerging from a phase, but it always recurs. Round and round. Everything repeats. Am I going in circles, or dare I hope I am on a spiral?
But if a spiral, am I going up or down it?
How often — will it be for always? — how often will the vast emptiness astonish me like a complete novelty and make me say, “I never realized my loss till this moment”? The same leg is cut off time after time.”
― C.S. Lewis,