Tuesday, December 4, 2012

Advent: Just Sayin'

There was a time, years and years, really, when I wondered how anyone survived without Advent.  It seemed so essential to me, this time of preparation, of slowing down, of paying attention.

These days, I find that I am wondering whether I would miss it if it evaporated.

I think that I might not.  Might not miss it at all.

It seems to me to be the hardest time of the year.


This morning outside the post office I ran into a woman whose young adult son died last summer.  I stopped her because I wanted to assure her that it gets better.  I don't know whether that's true.  Some days, I suppose.  It definitely changes.  For some inexplicable reason I was sufficiently delirious as to think that I might have something to offer her.

"I went to one of those services last week, one of those that are supposed to give you hope," she said as she climbed into her truck.  "I won't be doing anything like that again."

I paused.  "All we can do is live it," I said.

"I know; that's what everyone says," she responded.  So much for originality on my part.  "But how long?  How long can you live like this?"

I don't know.

How long, O Lord?


  1. The sorrow is so so deep, I am glad He is the man of sorrows. I am glad He suffered too. He knows. And someday it WILL be over...

  2. Today was one of those days, for me. So hard. Just missing, missing, missing her, and longing for her. Remembering the suffering of this time of year, 6 years ago...homesickness, illness, uncertainty, sadness. And now, she is gone. Christmas has never been, will never be, the same.
    We have to accept what is given, and live with it. I am striving to be thankful for what is, rather than dwelling in sadness upon what is not. But sometimes, I just don't have the energy to work that hard. And I am thankful that you are willing to tell the truth about it. That is liberating to everyone who feels the same way.

  3. I am sorry, ladies. I keep hoping that one of you has found a way . . .

    Energy, yes; it takes so much. I am thinking maybe a leave of absence next Advent. I don't see this as sustainable.

  4. I'm praying for all of us (including Chris) as we walk through these days, looking to see His appearing wherever we are able. xoxoxo

  5. I am heading through the 6th Advent following the suicide of my closest friends partner and a close much loved friend of mine. I hope one day to find more than feeling that I have simply made it to the other side of Christmas but it is a hard dark path .I find some chinks of light in poetry. Rowan Williams a man who understands suffering and who is also a poet reminded me of why I light a candle each day of Advent

    He will come like last leaf's fall.
    One night when the November wind
    has flayed the trees to the bone, and earth
    wakes choking on the mould,
    the soft shroud's folding.

    He will come like frost.
    One morning when the shrinking earth
    opens on mist, to find itself
    arrested in the net
    of alien, sword-set beauty.

    He will come like dark.
    One evening when the bursting red
    December sun draws up the sheet
    and penny-masks its eye to yield
    the star-snowed fields of sky.

    He will come, will come,
    will come like crying in the night,
    like blood, like breaking,
    as the earth writhes to toss him free.
    He will come like child.

    1. That's a magnificent poem.

      I am so sorry for your losses, Anon.

  6. Beautiful poem/prayer.

    I just watched an interview with Matt Lauer and the woman, Madonna, who lost her children and parents in a Christmas Day fire last year. Clearly Matt wants her to be doing better. And she, on television, said she was doing better. She talked about praying and feeling her children close to her and being aware of their presence, even that they speak to her.

    All I could think of was, and what about those for whom this is not the case. For whom their loved ones never speak? And for whom, regardless of the assurances from those on the other side, that all is okay, the truth remains that the one we love is not here with us.

    It is wonderful that this woman has been embraced by so many loving friends, has received therapy and continues to pray...that she is going to Thailand for Christmas to work in an orphanage - to be with others who have lost their families. She may find purpose in that.

    Perhaps her doing something will give someone else a sense of hope and direction in this season of despair?

    Mostly though I thought of you. And this poem. And a loss that never ends.

    Love to you, and prayers, too.

    1. I've been thinking about this all day. I guess I would say three things:

      One is that we are all different, we grieve differently, and we respond to shock and awe differently. If she has been able to respond with graciousness and generosity to such devastation, that's a good thing -- as long as it is not presented as the model for all. I would guess that the average person watching that segment (which I didn't see) would feel highly motivated to crawl under a rock and stay there, knowing that she could never measure up.

      The second is that of course Matt Lauer wants her to be doing better; everyone does. 100% of the people who speak to me about grief in their lives tell me that one of the most isolating parts of their experience is the expectation/hope/wish on the part of others that they "be ok" asap. That expectation silences us all in many public circumstances, and even in relationships with good friends. People do not want to know what this is really like -- guess what: neither do we! -- and they can't quite believe, because they haven't had to do it, that you can be functional and useful and helpful to others while in a state of terrible sadness. Our culture sees things in such black and white terms -- you must be either fine or dysfunctional.

      And third, I am guessing that Matt Lauer and his crew will not be in Thailand on Christmas to watch her stomach twist into knots as she bathes a baby not hers, or to follow her into the bathroom to tape her as she flushes and flushes and flushes to drown out the sound of her sobs, or to watch her wash her face and step out wearing a smile, because she knows that there is more suffering than hers in this world.

    2. You express the nature of this grief so well, I feel my thoughts are being given words (except it sounds better when you write it).
      You're right that others want us to be okay, I've found very few people who can handle my sadness. I don't blame them, I don't like it either, but I have no choice.
      By writing your blog and sharing your thoughts you are helping many people feel less alone. Thank you so much.