Today was a day where words are so inadequate, where one can’t hold all that it contains into a sentence, a post, my hands or my heart.
I was blessed to have spent the day with family and friends near and dear to me honoring life, grieving loss and holding hope. I was reminded of how powerful ritual is, how love can weave together broken hearts, how vital community is and how important we are to one another. Looking at the people that surrounded me with all of our lives flashing before us, from the picture above, to the moments now so many years later with so much love, light and loss woven within each year, each milestone, each step taken together. Weaving in and out of each others lives, creating a safety net of community, of connection I was overwhelmed with so many emotions. With the angelic voice of Heatherlyn lifting our hearts, a moving message about the power of marking the time and the acknowledgement of the difficulty of the firsts of a year after loss an ordinary Sunday afternoon where time was suspended and love was made visible.
Last night I was blessed to hear beautiful music from the talented Leslie Ball whose beautiful stories, sharing and music broke open the hearts of the audience and drew them in from the very first strum of her guitar. Followed by a reading/talk by Matthew Sanford about his memoir: Waking- A Memoir of Trauma and Transcendence.
When Matthew Sanford was just thirteen, his family’s car skidded off an overpass on an icy Iowa road — killing his father and sister, paralyzing him from the chest down, and changing his life forever. Years later, yoga would dramatically change it again. In WAKING: A Memoir of Trauma and Transcendence (Rodale, June 2006), Matthew chronicles his journey from the intensive care unit to becoming a paralyzed yoga teacher and founder of a nonprofit organization. Along the way, Matthew gains a deeper understanding of the connection between mind and body, and formulates an entirely new view of existence as a “whole” person.
For years after the devastating accident, Matthew felt a schism, or “silence,” between his mind and his body. As he grew into adulthood, he began studying philosophy in an increasingly frustrating search for answers. Then he discovered yoga. At first, he didn’t even know if a paraplegic could do yoga, but he was willing to try. Guided by his teacher, Matthew began to explore what it truly means to live in a body, and discovered new meaning and purpose in the “distance” between mind and body.
Then while standing in line to get my book signed meeting Joe Stone and learning more about his amazing story. And being reminded this weekend at every turn, about how people every day experience trauma and transcendence, how people experience love and loss, how we move forwards, backwards and everywhere in-between. And sometimes it is our own volition that keeps us moving, sometimes it is friends, family, others that share their hope and healing with us, and sometimes it is a moment from a book, a blog, a movie, a stranger that offers what we need at that moment if we are willing to receive the gift.
At the service today, to honor a young life taken much to soon, on what would have been his first birthday, last night hearing Matthew speak, and the stories and songs that Leslie shared, my own experience- they all have common threads… the love of friends and family that sustained us through difficult times, the power of using your experience to guide and help others through, reminders of how dependent we are on one another, reminders that we are all vulnerable to loss as long as we love, that life can change in an instant, that we are all so fragile and yet, so much stronger than we ever knew.
And reading the words from my journal after the funeral one year ago…
It is always the things that you can’t prepare for that hit you the most about grief. Today it was watching as S. and another man went in for the man hug and his suitcoat revealed the hospital band still on his wrist. The dead look in their eyes as shock, grief, fatigue and overwhelm numbed their souls and weighed heavy on their hearts.
It is a wonder we can literally still stand, when grief knocks you to the ground it amazes me that we continue to breathe, that we continue to function in any significant way when you just want to curl up and stop breathing.
And that is the hard part… walking away from the moment where you feel so held, where others feed you, where others tell you when to sit, when to stand, where to go, what to do next… and it is the moments when you have to figure out how to rebuild a life after… what to do next, how to keep going when you feel dead inside.
And somehow it happens. One moment at a time the rebuilding begins. The new castle in the sand. And that is the hard part, with no control over the ebb and flow of the tide, no timeline for how often, when or if the sea will give or it will take away… moments of pure joy and ecstacy in the building of a new castle and then the sweeping in of grief once again and you are left with a mound of wet sand and the decision yet again… to rebuild, to enjoy the process, to sit and let the waves wash over you again and again, to move your castle, to pout, to cry, or to find a new opportunity. Because as long as you love you will be vulnerable to loss, and the deeper your love the deeper your pain, but I have decided there is truly no choice, that my desire to live in love is too strong, even though it is a risk, but the rewards are great. The deeper my love the stronger my support, even when the waves are crashing in and in that moment of being knocked off center there is an underpinning of certainty that I will build again. I will believe in the power of creating another castle, of sharing brief moments of joy, of moments of dancing and honoring all that has been created, all that I have loved and lost. But retaining the little snapshots of joy, little moments of my love being so full and complete that it drowns out any darkness that tries to seep through to color the moment or the memory. It is better to be here… this place where I know that they will be okay… but then the pain of knowing how hard the journey is… how long and how difficult… but also knowing the treasures found along the way…
I was trying to think of how to pull this blog “together” to weave the threads together, to have a striking ending of some sort… but then remembered- that is how life is. It isn’t packaged neatly, there isn’t always a clear beginning, middle and an end. Once again I am brought back to the In-Between and how so much of life is lived in the mess where there are no guidebooks and no simple answers.
And sometimes it is all we can do to hold on to one another in love and trust that one step at a time the way will unfold.
We live into the healing, into the meaning of events, sometimes not realizing their full power until many years later.
I can already tell that this was one of those times.