hushed hallelujahs: overcoming the overwhelming
I’ve been thinking about death a lot lately. Sometimes at the end of the day, when I’m lying in bed, trying desperately to get comfortable without setting off a chain reaction of pain in my hips, back and pelvis, I find myself staring at the same spot on the doorframe. The corner, where white meets smokey robin’s egg blue. When Florence is fast asleep, or needing to be tossed and turned, since she can’t turn herself, or when I feel the baby in my womb making excessive flutters or rolls that nearly make me sick, I think of death. In reality, I’m scheming up ways to protect the life in my womb and Florence’s life. Pregnancy is a fragile, vulnerable time. My friend Becca wrote about birth and fear inspired by Naomi Wolfe’s book, Misconceptions. Becca writes, “Do we believe that to acknowledge such dark thoughts will increase the chances of the unimaginable happening? What kind of subconscious fear do so many of us bring to the birthing room? I wonder if naming our fears is what sets us free from their power – not that the actual risk is lessened, but our fear of the future can be disarmed.”
I worry for Florence, what if she gets sick, really sick when I’m pregnant? How will I cope? What if I go into preterm labor? It’s a funny thing, being pregnant. You are not in control, but have the strongest desire to protect the life in your womb. And when you have a fragile child in your home? You protect at all costs. Everyone, everything. Sometimes this means being extra cautious, this means removing myself from potentially dangerous situations, wearing face masks when I feel a little off, or allergies kick in and I’m just not sure…
Yes, paranoia and I play games somedays. I’m a mama bear on lockdown.
Before you start thundering the heavens and praying for me, maybe read this post by my friend Sarah Bessey. Although the title threw me off for a moment, since sadness is not what I want to obey in this journey, the meat of her words spoke deep into this untouchable, mysterious place that I never had the nerve to call out. Yes, sadness needs to be acknowledged, and in my case, sometimes that’s every day. Looking at old baby photos of Florence? I sends waves of pain and grief over me. Sometimes I just smile, and I miss her babyhood, and realize that all parents miss their child’s babyhood in some way. Remember when she could hold up her head? Remember when she could talk all sorts of crazy baby talk before her tongue played tricks on her? Remember when she could…
Sometimes this grief has us crying hard tears into the carpet. A dip into sadness, but not an embrace. An embrace could cause weeping for days. The lamenting? It has broken us down now over time. Our sadness is not over, for she’s laying right over there. This is joy, this is celebration! When our sadness is over, will that mean she has met her Jesus in that safe, new home? Will our grief take on a whole new form?
This is what I think on when I think of death. How long O Lord? How deep must these valleys go? Terminal illnesses have a whole new way of turning your life upside down. Just when you think you can unwrap the claws of shock or sorrow, another wave comes like a wicked tsunami. It seems so big. But you’re not swept away, you’re still living, you’re all still here.
Then, gradual acceptance comes as the wave slowly recedes and you’re left with the aftermath. A new piece of equipment, a change in a care plan, another step closer to letting go all together? You never quite know.
But don’t think on death, you say. Don’t dwell on it.
I can tell you with my eyes clear that I don’t dwell on it. I have learned to overcome in. I have learned to push back. But what might be hard for you to understand is the day in and day out living, unless of course you live this too. We have hope everyday. And yet we must overcome our sufferings everyday. We celebrate our daughter and her life and her accomplishments everyday. And yet we are sometimes taken aback by the sheer magnitude of all she’s lost, of all we’ve gone through everyday.
Our hands grip tight to the wagon and fly down the tracks. This is actually what if feels like to live our life right now. We barely have a moment to catch our breath sometimes. Rollercoasters can make you sick. And when you’re living on an emotional ride like this, you must find steady ground.
For us, it’s our faith in Jesus. It’s digesting the truth that God has gone before us (Deuteronomy 31:8) to all the places.
Sometimes steady ground looks like hot pavement, a chorus that makes you sing lung loud. It’s driving down the highway with the windows open and the music up so loud the car thumps like you’re a teenager. It might look like a paper cup of coffee stuffed between your knees as you watch children chase seagulls, a chance to dig your toes into the sand, however cold and dark the grains might feel underneath. It might look like a solo dance party in the kitchen, where you dance so hard you start to cry and release something deep, something unknown.
It might look like hands on your belly, nudging the wee one inside of you. It might look like finger pads on black keys, stringing words together. Fresh cut peonies blooming hard and fast in the warm house, the luxurious fragrance spilling into the crevices. Library books on loan, and new, stiff books in the mail.
And sometimes, its listening to those songs that filled your new mother ears in the months before her diagnosis. It’s finding the courage to press play, and let the tears fall even if the song doesn’t make sense. It’s the memories attached, it’s overcoming those memories, it’s overcoming the sadness. It’s saying, I don’t want things to be painful anymore. I don’t want to skip this song anymore. It’s listening to the music until you are dry.
It’s finding the boldness to tell a well meaning soul not to feel sad for you unless they can sit with you and laugh after the tears. It’s acknowledging that you feel oh so alone when people put you in a box and say: I don’t know how you do it.
It’s okay to cry here in the dark with the neon green lights pouring into the car. It’s okay to pull over, it’s okay to cry into your coffee, it’s okay to feel this, all of this.
Sometimes…it’s being thankful for the very feelings that make you human, that make you weep when you see injustice, when you see suffering in any form. It’s offering your shredded heart and in a whisper, asking the sweet King to use you, in whatever way, however painful the journey may become.
It’s hushed hallelujahs, here, right here.