Archive for the ‘loss’ Category

I love you my readers! I treasure you!

As we all struggle through a difficult season of life, I find myself wanting to be talk about what it means to be connected to each other.

Today a close friend stopped by. He shared about his battle with cancer earlier in life. He reminded me of the time, before a major surgery, when we walked in the park and talked and he disclosed his feelings and I listened.

We talked about my current chronic pain. We talked about his hearing loss. We talked about what it feels like to be dependent. We talked about what it feels like not to be able to do the things we use to do. We have a bond over shared experience — and shared loss.

The question arises, how well can we connect with others during this time of social distancing, during this time of racial and political tension?

In contemporary parlance to be rightly connected to each other is to be “woke.” The word “woke” has now taken on a specific political meaning. It means to be woken to the awareness of social, class and racial inequality and injustice. It means to wake to the institutional nature of racism, of the harm it causes, of the need for change.

Early in my career, when I was teaching a class in Advanced American Literature, I had my gifted students read the Autobiography of Malcolm X. One of my female students, a black Muslim, stayed after class one day, and told me that I was of the white devil race, I was an oppressor and that I would never understand the black experience.

I didn’t argue. I heard her. What she said had truth in it. She was resolute. I tried to receive that, but in a very real sense we cannot fully understand and feel the exact experience of another. She left. I felt pain. I still do over this issue. I felt some of her pain, and I felt my own, and I felt the pain of the history and literature of the people of the United States of America.

I was the white teacher, I was male, I had wealth and with these things came many advantages and many privileges. My goal was to empower my students. Not one my students in that class was white, and so the very dynamic of our relationship argued in favor of my accuser’s position. I had all the power over what they were taught, over how they were allowed to behave, and over the grades that would determine their future.

A question stands before us as a nation, a question for conservatives and liberals alike. How does one wake up to what another person experiences and feels? How do we wake up to truths that we haven’t made our own, truths that we haven’t wanted to hear? How do we awaken to what someone else thinks and feels about us? How do we bring justice to the harmed?

This morning as I spoke with my pain brother, my pain elevated to the point that after a while I wept in front of him —so much so that we couldn’t continue. My sense of loss in the moment of connection actually increased in the very presence of what I need and loved the most — my dearest friends. He sat quietly as tears roll down my face. He knew my heart. He was present. just as I had one known his. I didn’t hide my pain. He didn’t look away from it.

Before he left we prayed for each other and I found myself praying for the whole world, that God would have mercy and bring healing to all of us.

How do we connect? How do we understand? Understanding begins with being present. It proceeds along a path following the awareness of shared pain. Then brokenness begins to connect with brokenness. Loss with loss. Tears with tears.

Our losses may be different, but our tears are the same. How do we become woke? We “weep with those who weep.”

A close friend texted me today. She wrote, “Funny. I am amazed at how much spontaneous crying I do. There is a vulnerable place opening up within me. I’m in a less thinking, more loving place. I hunger and stumble after ‘the love that will not let me go.’Finley said ‘I’m not God, but I’m not other than God. I’m not you but I’m not other than you.’”

We know this. Within us is the capacity for understanding. The secret lies within our tears. We may not merge with another, but we can identify. Inside us there is the possibility of unity. The secret is in the awareness of our shared losses. Inside us there is the possibility of justice and equality. This happens when we realize that the other is none other than us.

P1020582“Sometimes I can’t stop crying at night,” she said to me.

I understand; I don’t at all. I don’t know what it’s like to lose a husband after a lifetime of having him.

Someone else, whose mom recently die, (her mom had lived with her and taken care of her for fifty years),  said to me recently, “I just feel so totally al0ne. I miss my mom. We used to sing together. Now she’s gone. I sing alone. I watch TV alone. She isn’t there to laugh with me, to tell her something that I’m thinking. I feel so all alone.”

I’ve felt alone —  not that alone. I don’t know what it’s like to lose a mom that took care of me for fifty years because my disability made me dependent on her, then to have her gone, vanished, never coming back, an empty apartment, everyday and every night. The silence. The utter aloneness.

We know; we don’t know. We know loss; we don’t know others loss if we haven’t experienced it. Empathy only goes part way up the steep path.

This week we finished cleaning out the old house that once served as the church office. It was a house, then an office, now it is going to be put on a truck, driven to a new lot, and become a house again. It is being repurposed.

Life is like that, here, gone, then something new.

I told one of my friends whose has experienced a huge loss, “Think of it as like moving to another country. You used to live in the country of  mutual dependence; now you live in the land of independence. In this new land you make your own decisions, and you take responsibility for yourself. It’s very different for you, it’s scary,  but gradually you’ll get more used to  your new country and it feels more familiar to you.”

I know what I’m talking about; I have no idea! Every person has a snowflake experience of life; every relationship is unique, every loss is unique too. And yet I’ve noticed of late that loss has a parallelism in it; my tracks run through territory not unlike that which others travel.

Loss has a tendency to have a kind of gain in it. Gain runs right there along side of loss.

The old house has that in it.  Things that happened in that old house that were vert good; people connected with each other there. Other things  dark, harmful and  wrong happened in that house. Peope were hurt there. I’m glad the house is moving. A bit of the ugly past  moves with it, and gone, the space opens up for something beautiful, and new.

I’m happy. I am happy for what will replace the house. The little piece of earth it has squatted on will now become a beautiful church courtyard, a patio garden, a place where lovers will marry, where children will chase each other, where people will sit and eat and talk and be not so alone anymore at all.

We drew the plans for the new courtyard on paper this week. Very soon it won’t be on paper. I’ll walk on new; I’ll celebrate on it! I’ll walk on an epiphany, a vision, a dream — a sacred space will itself contain new paths that will lead to new relationships.

Loss can be so very painful;  we won’t have what we once had, ever again, and that really sucks.  And yet, when something is gone, then there is new space for something else to begin. Loss creates new open space, to run in and new experience to play with,  and new places to be a different person in. Change offers a different country to find new friends to sit with, to cry with and to talk a little to and maybe sing together with.

I’m looking forward to seeing that old house on a truck, flying down the street to its new home.  I’m looking forward to a new garden to sit in with new friends, especially those friends who have losses and need a new space to recover in, and places, just perhaps, to laugh in, once again.

I don’t like loss, but I like new places.

Let it come.