scary, stubborn hope

I am starting to get a little nervous when I make grand public proclamations of hope, because it always seems to be after those moments that something earth-shattering happens.

Thanks to Facebook Memories, I can now see that exactly one day before my dad suddenly fell into a diabetic coma and was rushed to the emergency room where he took his last breath, I wrote this on my status: “My cup runneth over.”

wp-1467665127939.jpgI don’t know what to do with that. Part of me can’t help but feel really, really bitter. Another part of me wonders if it’s some strange prophecy of hope. That even in the midst of all this sorrow, my cup can still runneth over, right? I’ve certainly noticed blessings, of course. And I have seen a wild new life grow from such tragic death that I never would have seen otherwise. But isn’t it also just a kick in the gut?

It’s so strange now because I don’t feel I have the faith I used to proclaim. I don’t know exactly what I believe anymore. I don’t know what to make of that statement. But I breathe, and I sit, and I try to still myself, to connect with my Creator, to keep my eye on the center.

Last week, I wrote a blog post over at Grey Havens YA, part of that new life I was talking about. I wrote about Gandalf’s quote in The Fellowship of the Ring when Frodo laments of his burden and wishes all the darkness had never happened. Gandalf says, “So do all who live to see such times, but that is not for them to decide. … All we have to decide is what to do with the time that is given to us.” It’s a wonderful thought, as most Tolkien quotes are. I wrote about how even in the midst of dark times, I have chosen to do something that brings light to the world. Those young adults blow me away every time and make me so glad that I chose to spend my time with them, that I could turn the shadows of my past into something beautiful.

A few days after that proclamation of hope, a new shadow swept in: I suddenly learned that I inherited polycystic kidney disease from my mother. It means that I have cysts on my kidneys that may eventually stop them from functioning properly. Some people have this disease all their lives and never notice a problem. Others have to be on dialysis or get a transplant. I don’t know what it’ll look like for me, so I’m hesitant to say much. I don’t even know what stage it’s at yet or if there’s something worse on my left kidney. I have more tests and appointments to find out, and it’s all quite unnerving. There’s a problem in my body that I don’t even feel, and that I did nothing to cause, and that I can’t do anything to change…

wp-1467665105059.jpgWhile I still don’t know what to do about my 2013 proclamation that “my cup runneth over,” I do know that I want to hold on to Gandalf’s advice, to decide what to do with the time that is given to me. I don’t know what that time may look like going forward. It may be full off appointments and medication and drastic diet changes, but I hope that it will also be full of laughter, love, and work that makes a difference.

Today has been given to me, all the time of my life has been a gift. I cherish it. I try not to worry about how many more I’ll get or if those days will be good or bad; it’s about what I do with the time, and I can make it good. I want to believe that I am strong, and that I can endure, and hopefully that I can see the glory reflected backwards at journey’s end.

I hope that this hope doesn’t come back to bite me. I’ve got to believe in the light somehow, some way, and I’ve got to write about it for my own sake. I have to put the positive thoughts in writing, otherwise they’ll just slip out of my brain. I hope I can return to this when I’m feeling dark and not let it turn me bitter. Let light guide me… <3

wp-1467664793616.jpg

Advertisements

Eleven. (Months).

IMG_9631

Not long after this time last year, I welcomed the rain, the thunder, the wind, the lightning. It echoed the storm, the chaos in my own soul. It reminded me that God was big and powerful and outside my control — and yet His storms could be breathtakingly beautiful.

This year, however, I fear the storm. I fear the return of the rains because they signal the passage of time. (I’ve noticed that sudden death tends to make one obsessed with time.)

This world is moving on, and June will come again with her storms, same as last year, same as all the years before. Last June was no different than this June; for the rain it was just like any other summer.

The world is moving on, am I moving with it? I cannot decide whether that is good or bad. But I know the storms scare me. They shake me.

They wrest me, and steal my joy… when I used to run and dance in their rain, I used to marvel at their power, I used to want to be consumed by the storms, taken into the clouds, carried away on the winds.

But today I dread the encroaching darkness. I dread the thought of a year without him.

And yet the storm calls to me; the winds beckon me on…

Seven months later

CAM00181

My hair is longer now, longer than he’d last seen it. It’s cold and snowy now, it was warm and rainy when I last spoke to him. Now, it seems, we just take his absence as ‘normal’ and carry on with our lives… but life without him still terrifies me.

From C.S. Lewis, A Grief Observed:

“For me at any rate the programme is plain. I will turn to her as often as possible in gladness. I will even salute her with a laugh. The less I mourn her the nearer I seem to her.

An admirable programme. Unfortunately it can’t be carried out. Tonight all the hells of young grief have opened again; the mad words, the bitter resentment, the fluttering in the stomach, the nightmare unreality, the wallowed-in-tears. For in grief nothing ‘stays put.’ One keeps 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. The first plunge of the knife into the flesh is felt again and again.”

What I’m taking in these days…

IMG_9999“No one ever told me that grief felt so like fear. I am not afraid, but the sensation is like being afraid. The same fluttering in the stomach, the same restlessness, the yawning. I keep on swallowing. — At other times it feels like being mildly drunk, or concussed.

There is a sort of invisible blanket between the world and me. I find it hard to take in what anyone says. Or perhaps, hard to want to take it in. It is so uninteresting. Yet I want the others to be about me. I dread the moments when the house is empty. If only they would talk to one another an not to me.” –C.S. Lewis, A Grief Observed

I read C.S. Lewis’ journal of his thoughts after the death of his wife after my own mother died. It helped me in my own grief, and also gave me insight into what my father might be feeling. I feel the weight of my dad’s grief even more so now, and find solace in the fact that he is in a place where he no longer has to mourn the loss of my mother. And I find Lewis still putting into words the exact same emotions I drown in these days:

“Her absence is like the sky, spread over everything.”

*     *     *
I’m also taking in moments of hope from The Lord of the Rings stories and films. They spoke to me in my grief ten years ago, they are still speaking to me today.

“My dear Sam, you cannot always be torn in two; you will have to be one and whole for many years. You have so much to enjoy, and to be, and to do. Your part in this story will go on.” –Frodo

Frodo: “I can’t do this, Sam.”
Sam: “I know, it’s all wrong. By rights we shouldn’t even be here, but we are. It’s like in the great stories, Mr. Frodo, the ones that really mattered. Full of darkness and danger they were, and sometimes you didn’t even want to know the end, because how could the end be happy? How could the world go back to the way it was when so much bad had happened? But in the end, it’s only a passing thing, this shadow. A new day will come. And when the sun shines, it’ll shine out the clearer. Those were the stories that stayed with you, that meant something, even if you were too small to understand why. But I think, Mr. Frodo, I do understand, I know now. The folk in those stories had lots of chances of turning back only they didn’t. They kept going, because they were holding on to something.”
Frodo: “What are we holding on to, Sam?”
Sam: “That there’s some good in this world, Mr. Frodo, and it’s worth fighting for.”

Eowyn: “What other duty would you have me do, milord?”
Theoden: “Duty? No. But I would have you smile again, not grieve for those whose time has come. You shall live to see these days renewed. No more despair.”

*     *     *
“And grief still feels like fear. Perhaps, more strictly, like suspense. Or like waiting; just hanging about waiting for something to happen. It gives life a permanently provisional feeling. It doesn’t seem worth starting anything. I can’t settle down. I yawn, I fidget, I smoke too much. Up till this I always had too little time. Now there is nothing but time. Almost pure time, empty successiveness.” –more from A Grief Observed

*     *     *
A couple months ago, I wrote a tiny bit about Lamentations and how I found the poetry beautiful and heart-breaking, but I wasn’t sure of its Biblical purpose yet. I wasn’t questioning it, I was just marveling in God’s ways that I didn’t understand. I still don’t understand, but I am grateful to have the book of Lamentations in the Bible so that I can read it now and friends can share it with me and I can say:
Yet this I call to mind, and therefore I have hope: because of the LORD’s great love we are not consumed, for His compassions never fail. They are new every morning; great is Your faithfulness. (Lamentations 3:21-23)