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Posts Tagged ‘widow’

winter treeI thought I could write today. I thought I would title this post, the Widow’s Lament, but really, to what end? I am forging on, for good or ill, the way I usually do, with busyness and tasks. In this way, I can push back the other, that unnameable thing some call grief, but the word barely scratches at the guts of the experience.

Williams Carlos Williams wrote a beautiful poem entitled the Widow’s Lament, but it also carries the hope of renewal within it, set in the spring. For me, it is still winter, cold short days and bitter wind and frozen tears falling white.

I sought out scripture about widows, and we, like orphans, defined by our aloneness, are cast upon the body for care and love. I am grateful for it, I can say that plainly for my capable self is perilously close to shattering her illusion. Keep busy. What is worse? To collapse under the weight of it all and cast one’s being into the flurry of well-intentioned voices and pursuits or brave it well by appearance and lose support? Where is the middle ground? I am not a blubbering mess, not really, but I am also not a tower of strength. Stay close, my people, the way is long.

True devotion, the kind that is pure and faultless before God the Father, is this: to care for orphans and widows in their difficulties and to keep the world from contaminating us. [James 1:27, CEB]

I found these words, I dedicate them to my children, that they might know something of the truth (written by Lauren Bacall, at the death of her beloved husband, Humphrey Bogart):

A new beginning for me, the making of a life without Bogie . . . And from the time of his death–and more and more–his teachings have permeated by being. With each passing year I find myself repeating more and more often to my three children and to many of my friends his words of wisdom . . . how two become one and is that one way people live on after death? . . . So imagine my shock when I realized, at the tender age of sixty-five, that with all the above, the final truth is this: I live alone. I need a reason for all that I do, not just fill my days but to unleash my energy, to make me feel warm, that I matter, to satisfy my emotions. When I travel, which is often, who do I buy things for? My children. to whom do I send postcards? My children. Who do I call? My children. they are my connection. My connection with yesterday, today and tomorrow.

And so I imagine it will be (and is) with me: my children and my God and the people who love and need to be loved.

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How many of us are ashamed of the chains of another person? Sometimes it’s a looking away or denial of the mistake someone has made and “paying for it” through imprisonment. But there are other chains, like mental illness, grief, illness, divorce, unemployment, and poverty.

II Timothy 1:16
May the Lord show mercy to the household of Onesiphorus, because he often refreshed me and was not ashamed of my chains.

I was ashamed of myself today as I realized I had lost touch with a woman who lost her husband last year. When he died suddenly, I had every intention of reaching out, of staying in touch, of being present to my friend as she went through the grieving process. But I didn’t. And now it has been a year. What caused this lack of attention? I wasn’t ashamed of her pain, per se, but I was uncomfortable. Grief is palpable.

And then I thought of other women I have left to bear the chains of their sorrow, my dearest friend whose brother died suddenly in a car accident. I didn’t know what to say or do and so I did next to nothing. Another friend lost her husband to lung cancer and it was months before I even sat at table with her. She was bitter at the desertions, not unlike Paul who names Phygelus and Hermogenes [vs 15].

I have colleagues whose teen and twenty-something children have gotten caught up in dangerous and illegal circumstances that have put them in prisons and detention centers. I know these mothers sorrow and I know it is hard for them to talk about it. What am I doing to ease their pain?

Another blogger wrote of the isolation that comes from mental illness and how people fear it, not unlike an infectious disease. The very thing that is needed is an unfailing and understanding presence.

I know, I shy away from so many things I do not understand but I am caught short today by my frozen inaction. Even though I am not gifted in removing the chains of others, I can still give a cup of water and hold a hand. A pastor friend of mine once said that people in grief generally need little but someone sitting beside them. Talk is often unnecessary. But I am all about the talk and the words. Silence in a group is outside my comfort zone.

It’s back to phrases like “life is in the being not in the doing” or, we are human “beings” not human “doings.” Corny but all true. But all that “being” needs to be in a place, needs to be with others who are struggling with their current state of “being” and could use a little support, like Aaron and Hur holding up the arms of Moses [Exodus 8:12].

For all of those whose chains I ignored, I ask you to forgive me. May this day be a reminder and a call to be present in the lives of those around me, chains and all.

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