Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Finding crumbs of gratitude amidst many tears...


I know that Thanksgiving is about being thankful. Full of thanks. Giving thanks.

I remember my first Thanksgiving meal of 1994, only four months after I watched Mother Earth swallow her body. The pain is indescribable. I can actually reach the pain, after 16-1/2 years, I can actually still reach it.

I sat at the table that day, my head down, meal and accoutrements provided by anonymous others who were too afraid of my suffering to do anything but drop-and-run. I remember thinking, "I cannot be thankful. I cannot be thankful. There is nothing, nothing. Just emptiness and aching and pain."

Indeed.

So I noticed a bread crumb on the table and thought, "Can I find a crumb of gratitude? Somewhere amidst all this pain, is there anything for which I can find gratitude?" Yes. There were many things, looking back. But then, I could only be grateful for one thing: love. The kind of big, overflowing, unconditional, reckless, and fearless love of a mother for her children. And for the year 1994, that single crumb had to sustain me.

I can say that my list of sufferings since her death are endless. I could write (and have written) pages and pages of the agony and despair, crumbs enough for many loaves of bread. Ah, but now, I have equal loaves, probably more in both breadth and depth, for which I am grateful.

And today, I'm reminded of Rilke's precious words:

. . . So you must not be frightened

if a sadness rises before you larger

than any you’ve ever seen, if an

anxiety like light and cloud shadows

moves over your hands and

everything that you do. You must

realize that something has happened

to you. Life has not forgotten

you, it holds you in its hands

and will not let you fall. Why do

you want to shut out of your life

any uneasiness, any miseries, or

any depressions? For after all, you

do not know what work these conditions

are doing inside of you.


and Rilke's delicious words continue in
E Sonnets to Orpheus,

Want the change. Be inspired by the flame

where everything shines as it disappears.
..

What locks itself in sameness has congealed.

 Is it safer to be gray and numb?

What turns hard becomes rigid

 and is easily shattered.

Pour yourself out like a fountain.

Flow into the knowledge that what you are seeking

 finishes often at the start, and, with ending, begins.

Every happiness is the child of a separation

 it did not think it could survive. And Daphne, becoming a laurel,

 dares you to become the wind.



And for the fire, and the earth, and the water, and the wind, and for all of this, and all of that, I am truly thankful.



6 comments:

Jeannie said...

Oh Jo - when you said Mother Earth swallowed her body, wow. So powerful, I still cannot get that image out of my head at Danny's service, but I was so warmed by the love my uncles especially showed that day - two of my dad's brothers and my father immediately stepped up to put dirt on Danny's coffin when he was laid into the ground, and my uncle personally and financially thanked the big, over 6 foot man that laid on the ground, in the rain, to lower my son into the ground. Images of love, of respect, of loss that will stay with me forever. These experiences, and many more, have forever changed who I am.

Love to you, and your family, and MISSing our children - always. (((hugs))))


Jeannie

Meng Kiat Janis said...

I love this post. So timely. It really speaks to me, for a long time I could not find thanks either. xo

Missy said...

I have struggled with finding things to be thankful all day. A crumb seems like something I can manage. Thank you so much for sharing!

Becky said...

I too have struggled in trying to find happiness and to be thankful. There is a great book titled, "Comfort Healing and Joy: Secrets to living a magnificent life" by David Fox, M.D which has truly been an inspiration in my life... it a concrete guide to cultivating happiness. I have found that if I surround myself with these sorts of positive things that I can find happiness. Thank you for your great post. Truly the highlight of my day.

butterfly124 said...

My only daughter was stillborn in January, 1995. I have been a nurse for 31 years, the past 12 in a small special care nursery. In the past 3 weeks I have been involved in the resuscitation of 2 infants that were not alive at the beginning of our resuscitation efforts. Both babies responded to resuscitation, the first one lived 3 days, the second one lived 4 hours. After the resuscitation of the first baby, I stopped myself from crying, grieving, by saying to myself, "This did not happen to me." After the second baby died, I could not stop crying at work. Another nurse came in to relieve me. I vomited outside the hospital. I came home and told my husband I was going to quit my job. I think about the babies and their families frequently. I am dreaming about babies dying. I frequently begin to cry during the day. I feel totally new to grief. Why am I denying it. Because I need to be professional, harden myself to dying babies? I am scared. I don't know how I can keep doing my job. And I must work

". . . So you must not be frightened

if a sadness rises before you larger

than any you’ve ever seen, if an

anxiety like light and cloud shadows

moves over your hands and

everything that you do. You must

realize that something has happened

to you. Life has not forgotten

you, it holds you in its hands

and will not let you fall. Why do

you want to shut out of your life

any uneasiness, any miseries, or

any depressions? For after all, you

do not know what work these conditions

are doing inside of you."

This quote helps me. Thank you. Vicki

Dr. Joanne Cacciatore said...

Vicki- thank you for sharing this. I am profoundly moved by your story. I am also profoundly sorry for the loss of your precious, only daughter.

Becoming...

""""""""""""""""""""""""""""""""""""""""""""""""""""""""""""""""
The soul still sings in the darkness telling of the beauty she found there; and daring us not to think that because she passed through such tortures of anguish, doubt, dread, and horror, as has been said, she ran any the more danger of being lost in the night. Nay, in the darkness did she, rather, find herself.

--St. John, Dark Night of the Soul


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