Wednesday, May 22, 2013

Five Years

Five years that you've been gone.
Five years of recycled stories and photos.
Five years lamenting the music, laughter and vibrancy missing from our lives.
Five years of shifting the weight of heart-aching loss like a bag of boulders,
from one side to another and back again, trying to find a way to get comfortable.
Five years trying to come to terms with the emptiness in the place that was once filled with you.
Five years of missing you every single day.
Five years of wishing this wasn't our story...searching for a different ending than the one we got.

Our faces are different now without you.
We are each so changed...weaker...stooped...aware of our frailty.
No energy for the superfical, shallow, or stressful.
We each have struggled to find a new way to live on.
We seem both hungry for and wary of happiness
Knowing it can be snatched away in the blink of an eye.
Loss hurts more than we ever knew.
Life is more fragile than we ever imagined.
Life is a house of sorrow and now we know it.

Faith is the anchor of the weary soul and we cling to it.
Our skeptical hearts have journeyed into doubt and nihilism.
Our pat answers have been ripped up like useless scraps in our hands.
Yet we've been opened to a world beyond, an unseen world of beauty and hope.
You have stirred in us a dream for a life to come.
You have pushed us into the deep waters of mystery, where we swim most of the time now--
not well, but these are our refreshing waters.
We go gentle into them. They are unfamiliar, but they are the hope that leads us forward.
Faith is the anchor.

Where are you now?
When you flew away on angels' wings, where did you go?
Where is that place where we feel you still alive?
You are not what the greeting cards say.
You are not the wind in the trees.
You are not the cardinals or the dragonflies or the butterflies that we love.
No. You are more than that.

You speak to us.
We hear your voice.
You meet us in our dreams.
Sometimes the brick wall that separates us becomes a gossamer veil and we are in the same place.
We hear you whispering words of hope and perseverance, comfort and the joy to come.

God is there in that place where time and space fade.
That is our secret miracle, our prayer closet.
That is how we live now.
All will be well. All will be well.
That is what we hear.
Stay close.
That is what we hear.

The light that shines in the darkness leads us.
Grace carries us.
Life is a raw, glorious mess, but
in death.

You told us so.
Five years ago.

Joseph Neal Johnson

Joseph= "He shall add"
We love you, beautiful son. 
Thank you for adding your love, light and strength to our lives. 
We will hold on to the hope of heaven-reunion day. 

John 14:1-3 
"Do not let your hearts be troubled. Trust in God; trust also in me. In my Father's house are many rooms; if it were not so, I would have told you. I am going there to prepare a place for you. And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come back and take you to be with me that you also may be where I am." 

Sunday, May 12, 2013

Four Mother's Days

This is what I was doing on Mother's Day morning five years ago. We were staying at a hotel in Waikiki, having a lively breakfast on a deck overlooking the beachfront. All was right with the world. I had all three of my grown children with me and all of my grandchildren, too. Married for 35 years, and blessed with cherished friends, we were all here to celebrate college graduations. We were all healthy and prospering. Life was truly as good as life can be. 

Later that day, Joey and I went for a walk along Waikiki's main street, and he entertained me the whole way.  That boy could make me laugh like nobody's business. I couldn't have been happier.
 Mama Bliss. 

A few short weeks later, my life had turned upside down. My son's ashes had been spread in the sea before me,  and I was myself an ocean of grief. 

I placed his memorial brochure beside the flowers. I wanted those passing by that precious spot to know the magnificent young man the whole world had lost.


Since that day, I have lived through four Mother's Days. The day is still very tender, and I still need to prepare for it emotionally. I know it will never be the same without a hug and a card from my beloved son.

But I have come to realize that this is the nature of life. What is true this year, may not be true next year. Life is ever-changing, it moves swiftly and relentlessly forward, ready or not. I have also come to see that I do not have it the worst. I have two daughters by my side, both beautiful mothers,  and we share the meaning of this day. I have two wonderful sons-in-law, who make me feel special. I have five adorable grandchildren, that keep me rooted in the present and the future, rather than in the past. I am not alone in my grief, as I have other bereaved mom friends, with whom I share the pain and poignancy of this day.  

As I lay out my blessings, I am fully aware of my cherished friend who cannot conceive a child, for whom this day is full of sorrow. I know another mother who has lost the one and only child she will ever have, and with that child, the potential for grandchildren. I know a mother who today is caring for a terminally ill child, and who does not give a second thought to her own breakfast in bed, when she is so busy squeezing all the memories she can from what remains. I know another mother who is experiencing this day for the very first time after the loss of her beloved son, and I know she can barely breathe today. And I know other sad stories of motherhood, that cannot be told here. To all of those beautiful women, I acknowledge your courage and send my love today. You are not forgotten. My heart and prayers are with you. 

And me? I am thankful for the privilege of motherhood, even when I lose, and pretty much under any circumstances at all.