31 May 2008

Foot Bridge

I went walking this week. I probably walked close to 30 miles, all over town, across bridges and up hills, through neighborhoods, past baseball diamonds, into parks, through fields and into the city. I walked across rivers and I stood on a foot bridge with the river splashing over the top of me until I was drenched, until my glasses were fogged and my hair was dripping and my clothes were soaked. Certainly the urge was there to get lost in the river. What I wanted to do was float, I wanted to float on top and let the current take me where it will. They say people die in rivers because they fight the current, that if you really fall into fast moving water, you shouldn't fight it, you should float it. That's not to say there isn't still a danger. Of course there is. Of course, there is still a huge risk but you have a greater chance of survival if you don't fight it, if you don't fight the current.

That makes sense because I'm guessing that people who supress their feelings, people who bury their grief, live a shorter life. This is not a scientific theory but it makes sense to me. After all, if you can release your emotions, if you can release your feelings, it's healthier for your physically, mentally and spiritually.

What if we took our collective grief and really did something with it? What if we took our collective grief and let it out, if we wailed in the streets, if we danced in the park, if we floated down the river.

Grace would be five years old tomorrow, on Sunday. And Grace is five, but she is five in a much more ethereal way then I ever expected. And of course I'd rather have her in a tangible way, I'd rather have her in a physical way. So I can mourn that loss, I can grieve that loss of her while I celebrate the presence of Sawyer, while I celebrate the presence of other things in my life.

Here is a list of first names of people I know because Grace isn't here:


This is by no means a comprehensive list. But it is a list of people who have made me a better person in one way or another. It is a list of people, one or two who have saved my life, 5 or 6 who never lived more than a month but affected my life, many who have made my life better.

And so for that I am forever grateful and knowing that Grace is not here, I know that my life is still rich and my life is full and I am supposedly a more empathetic person. I am a person with a deep, deep wound that once in a while seeps. But we all carry our wounds one way or another and it is how we heal them that determines the size of the scar. I wear my scar proudly, and I remain wounded, but I am wounded with my heart grown larger and so the river still rages but eventually it will subside and it will flow more smoothly until another snowstorm hits and another thawing melts the snow and it may just very well start all over again to rage. But it will have changed and it will have evolved and it will have strengthened.

29 May 2008

Chronos versus Kairos

In graduate school, I had a professor who often referred to literary references in novels in relationship to kairos versus chronos. Kairos time, he explained, meant 'in the time of angels.'

It was a difficult concept for me to grasp at the time because when I was working on stories, it was easy to think there was a beginning, middle and end. Time moved forward. But the more I wrote, the less time began to move in a forward direction.

While chronos is described as quantitative, kairos is described as qualitative.

My life used to be easily divided into segments of time: before I got married, after I got married, as soon as we have children, when we adopt a dog, 10 years into marriage, etc.

And then Grace happened and time as I've always known it, twisted and turned upside down. Time was no longer linear; time was no longer slow or fast, time became kairos, time became qualitative and I still find myself struggling to define time. When I tell a story, I often confuse the time period, I can't recall how long it's been since I've been on an airplane, or how long it's been since my last period. But I can tell you how long I have been without Grace and how long I have been with Carver, with Sophia, with Sawyer. I can tell you that Sawyer is 2, but really hasn't he been here my whole life? Haven't I always known he was going to come be with us. And it is in this time that I now live, with the angels, among the angels and because of the angels.

28 May 2008

The River

If you live in Spokane, it is highly unlikely that you've missed the river of late. Even as it is rushing by, you cannot miss it, you can blink and it still appears rushing by. It is swelling, full, raging--it is all things I have felt of late. And still I am drawn to it, to its power, to its fullness. I walk by it nearly every day. I have walked across all the walking bridges in downtown Spokane, and I stand on the edge and look over; I stand on the edge and wonder about jumping and I don't mean jumping in the sense of losing life, but I mean jumping and swimming up river, swimming against the current or lying on my back and letting myself float downstream. What if you could wear some kind of body suit that protected you from the river's damage, would you jump? Would you fly over the edge? What if the river took you downstream and there sitting on the edge of the stream was a little girl, about to turn five, with her feet dangling over the edge, and you could swim and sit beside her and talk to her and ask her about her life and ask her about the life she isn't living. What if you could find her in the river, on the rock not worried at all about falling because she has already fallen. What if you were the one who had fallen and she was there to pick you up?

But then the river just keeps flowing and I keep going downstream and occasionally I try to swim upstream and I try to fight the current and eventually I return to floating on my back, to watching the sky above me and letting the river below me hold me, float me, and carry me. And on that journey, I discover new things about myself and others.

27 May 2008


Have you ever felt like you were walking on egg shells that were just about to crack? Have they ever cracked on you?

I am both amazed and frightened sometimes at the fragility of life. It can happen in a moment, a child darting away from you, stepping out onto a ledge, a heart beating one moment and the next, it stops.

Today Sawyer ran away from me. He ran hard and I chased him. He ran out into the street. Luckily there were no cars coming because if they were, well, I can't go there. But he does this often, he thinks it's a game and he dashes off, running at full speed with a good lead. It can be hard to catch up to him.

And shortly before this, Sophia went off to a public restroom with a friend. Carver never would have gone on his own and I wouldn't have let him. But now, my hands are so full with so many children that the younger two get away with much more. And so off she walked, dripping wet in her swimming suit, barefoot, into a public restroom. And then, I didn't see her come out. I didn't see her come back and head toward the fountain, the water fountain in the park where everyone was playing. And so I went looking for her and as the minutes ticked by, my heart beat fast, my head filled with blood and I started to feel woozy.

I've been holding it inside, all of this, thinking that if I breath, if I let out my breathe, something else might happen. As if my very existence could conjure up something terrible. I breath and my breathe holds itself up, as if falling, it might very well crush something. And so my chest rises and falls, and I wait, wondering, looking, feeling overwhelmed.

26 May 2008

Plunging into the wild

Have you seen the movie, 'Into the Wild?'

Some might see it as adventure, as foolishness, as stupidity...I see it as loss, as growth, as discovery...The quote that takes my breath away:

"I fear for the mother in her. Instincts that seem to sense the threat of loss so huge and irrevocable that the mind baulks at taking its measure. I'd begin to wonder if I can understand all that chris is saying any longer but I catch myself and remember that these are not the parents he grew up with but people softened by the forced reflection that comes with loss. Still, everything Chris is saying has to be said and I trust that everything he is doing has to be done. This is our life."

And there it is--'people softened by the forced reflection that comes with loss.'

I suppose you have a choice, to be softened or to be hardened, but in choosing, one doesn't really consider those things on a conscious level. One just does what one has to do to go on living, and sometimes the living is the most difficult part, the getting up in the morning, the getting through the day, the getting to the end of the day.

And here I am, nearly five years out; in just a few short days, Grace would have been five. In just a few short days, I begin the re-living that starts again, that has already begun. It is not so much that the grief pales, but it does change, it does metamorphose and in that change, it doesn't always necessarily get easier. I feel like I've taken steps backwards as of late, steps in the opposite direction. I feel like I want Grace here. I have everything I've wanted. I have Terry, I have Carver, I have Sophia, I have Sawyer. I want Grace.

Why is it so hard this year? Why is it different than last and the one before that? There is Sawyer who is no longer a baby, but a toddler, a person coming into himself and love grows and love grows and Sawyer, I know, is not Grace nor would I ever want to put that on him. But in turning five, Grace would be starting kindergarten, Grace would be trailing after Sophia, looking up to her, looking for her approval, testing the limits. I want the tantrums, I want the hair cutting episodes with a pair of scissors under the kitchen table, I want the ponies lined up waiting for princes and princesses. I want those things that are out of reach, out of touch, out of sight. I don't want flowers on an altar; I don't want pity; I don't want gray images of my daughter with her eyes closed. I want Grace. I want the very thing I cannot have. I want to see the baseball land at my feet in the 9th inning with the bases loaded so that I can reach out to catch the baby that is falling; I want to catch the baby; I want to stop falling.

17 May 2008

before you leave...

Go here, buy a song, buy a cd, take ellis home with you. And before she leaves town, I want to say thank you for coming back, thank you for reminding us what matters, thank you for your laugh and thank you, thank you.

It is much easier to get through the month, it is much easier to make it to June 1st. It's much easier to make it past June 1st. It is all just much better with you here.

Blessings, my friend!

09 May 2008

The Anguish of Loss

This is the book on my desk next to me. Have you read it? If not, why? It speaks volumes around anything else I could say or write. And when I just want to curl up in a ball and cry, this is the book I hold. It is beautifully written, the art is stunning and what it says, says it all.

At our MISS meeting on Tuesday night, Sara and I gave out books to all the moms and grandmothers who came. It is a reminder of where we are, of what we share.

Mother's Day is on Sunday and for some of us, it is a reminder of what has been lost, of what is missing, of what we can't have. It is a reminder that we while not entering lightly into the task of motherhood, could not choose our path, could not have what we wanted, could not hold on to our children despite our best efforts to protect them, to protect ourselves from that which we could never wish for.

We are mothers still; some of us have other children that we can cling to; some of us are mothers despite the fact that our children are not here.

And so a challenge: What could you do for someone on Mother's day who is hurting, who is lonely, who might be missing their child? Probably nothing, but for us whose children are missing, in Spokane we are handing out Random Act of Kindness cards and we are driving through espresso shops all day on Mother's day and we are buying cars behind us a little bit of joy, a little bit of relief, and in the moment, maybe for just a few moments, someone will think of our children who aren't here, someone will wish for us the kind of peace that we might never have. But I will drive away from the window smiling, knowing that in that moment, perhaps someone can have a cup of coffee with grace, for grace and of grace.