Wednesday, October 03, 2012

Good Advice

I think this is the original poster hanging in a British museum. It's from the 1939 British government campaign to lift morale as Hitler marched across Europe. It was only rediscovered in 2000 and you've likely seen it reproduced everywhere-- in all shapes, sizes and sentiments. It was a war-time admonition to the British public to not get swept away by fear, but to press on with the normal responsibilities of life as much as possible. The more things change, the more necessary stability becomes. With a war waging, it was essential that people face it with courage and keep the country running. Everything depended on that response.

When my beautiful friend Melissa took her life in July, it knocked our world off its tracks.  All the carefully set game board pieces went up in the air, and landed on the ground in disarray. Putting it all together again is requiring more intense effort and insight than I could have imagined.

For one thing, I feel jumpy inside. The scene keeps replaying. The questions keep coming. I keep playing detective trying to make sense of the incomprehensible. I am skittish with it, nervous, but compelled to replay it. Do answers make me feel any better? Not at all. Does that stop me? Not in the least.

For another thing, I am tired. I am world weary. I shrink from it: "This can't have happened. No." Another deep sorrow. Another huge loss, which spreads in many directions.  Deep disappointments. So many human failures in this whole thing, including mine. Is there no limit to how low life can go?  Apparently not.

And finally, there's the change. There are so many repercussions to this final act by my friend. Nothing, nothing is the same. Nothing. Grasping for the familiar is an exercise in futility. The familiar is gone. Everything has changed. No one who knew her looks the same now. The shadow of her absence is on all our faces. Our church is disoriented. People look hollow. The air has gone out of our sails. The beauty has gone out of the changing season. The Fall traditions seem like too much trouble. Her family and friends are longing for her, wishing her here, and facing the reality of never seeing her again in this life. It's a stunner.

Probably not unlike seeing beautiful, stately London bombed out by a maniac, loved ones in a battle from which they may not return, imminent danger on every continent,  and at home, food and energy and commodity shortages that unravel every day life.

Keep calm and carry on. It's become my watch word, a compass point in the storm.  Change is chaotic. It is unsettling. It is unnerving. It leaves few options.  It requires me to leave an older secure way of doing things, and to reluctantly move on to the new that is not of my choice or making. It requires letting go of cherished things with a silent grief  in the daily process. It requires me to do things I don't know how to do.  There is a learning curve and failures daily. Trial and error. Trip and fall. Depression, discouragement, and dread.

But I have learned that it can be done. It must be done. There are children watching who need hope.

Keep calm and carry on. It's the only sensible thing to do right now.

Isaiah 30:21
Whether you turn to the right or to the left, your ears will hear a voice behind you, saying, "This is the way; walk in it."


karen gerstenberger said...

Would they allow you to preach this from the pulpit on a Sunday? I'll bet your church community would find great heart-healing in hearing this from you. I know I have.

Sending you much love, and prayers for comfort for you and your community. May we daily turn the wheel over to the Captain of our ship, who owns the charts and knows the way. He is with us. xoxox

Anonymous said...

Karen, is right on spot. You are so wonderful with words and knowing when to say them and even to me when I am falling apart. Carry on for our children, yes that is what it's all about. You are so fortunate to have a loving husband that I know understands you and helps. I know you are strong and have many wonderful people and family to help you through this. It is a horrible thing, loosing this beautiful women and friend.
Prayers for you dear friend. xoxo Sharon

Robin said...

Two things:

Your analogy is spot on. Just the other day I was thinking of a scene in a movie or miniseries -- no idea which one -- in which children are playing in the rubble of bombed out London. My life as of 52 years ago tomorrow, and again as of four years ago last month.

This is the fifth October, and I see how beautiful the leaves are. I realize that I did not even notice them the past four. I am somewhat interested in the election, but in reality: the outcome will be whatever it will be. I don't care enough to do more than vote, and spar with my brother on occasion.

Oh, and a third thing: I wish that I could have the kind of trust i God that you and Karen and Chris do. I seem to be constitutionally incapable of it. An odd thing for me to say, I suppose, but I find engagement with God apart from that. I mention it here because I am thinking of your friend's children, and of what may be in store for them. If you can find a way to articulate and demonstrate God's love to them in the face of their loss, more power to you.

Love you.

Anonymous said...

It is one of the more brutal statements in life! We are left completely unawares and shocked into a sobbering truth that things like this can actually happen in life. Life becomes much more fragile than it was, if that's at all possible. And, there are no answers or at least not many.
When I was younger I use to look down on people that had somehow avoided the heartbreaks in life, that they don't have a true perspective of life. Now, I admire them and consider them much more blessed than I. They have so far escaped the harshness of life and I wish that they continue to do so.
The comfort in all this? Jesus! He knew better than anyone the sorrow, calamity and despair we can face in this life and has offered a rest stop along the way. Not only a rest stop in this life but a place of everlasting peace and reuniting in the next.
When I miss my sister, upset she left this world so early, abandoning her nine year old daughter, abandoning any chance of having a normal brother sister relationship with her, I eventually put all arguments with her and God away. It's easier that way. It's easy knowing I have a beautiful relationship with my sister's daughter Sarah. It's easy knowing my sister is in a better place far away from the torment that drove her to take her own life. It's easier not racking my brain on what I could have done or didn't do. Because one thing I realize after all these years is that there is nothing I could've done that I didn't try.
Yes, Good advice Karen, "Stay Calm and Carry On"
Love you,

Daisy said...

Karen, you get right to the heart of things. I am so very sorry for your loss.

"There are children watching who need hope."

So true. And not the cheap pipe-dreams that can so easily distract from what is really of value.