Through the last week I have been reading our son, Ryan’s, last few months of blog entries he posted before he died. He blessed us with his openness and his honesty but, wow – it is hard. The brutal and the beautiful – hand-in-hand. And I continue to learn from him. So much I couldn’t absorb while we were walking through it. I tried to be present – I so wanted to “be there” for Ryan and for Jessica. As I read his blog now, I hear things about his journey through; things I just didn’t have enough space to hold then. I am thankful for his writings on so many levels. But a big reason is that as time passes I get to hear his voice, I can absorb more of what he was sharing, and I can allow it to change me. The challenge is also to extend grace and compassion to me when I find myself (like this morning) judging myself on what I wish I would have done differently: listened more, asked more questions, read every blog and responded … And so I receive the compassion and mercy – which enables me to extend compassion and mercy to you. Richard Rohr reminds me that how we love and treat ourselves is how we will love and respond to others.
There is much loss and suffering around us. And although I don’t intent for this blog site to always be about suffering – I want to embrace the fact that I am walking through the last week of Ryan’s life this week – five years later. And I know that many of you are either carrying loss yourself or are walking through suffering with a loved one or friend. Many have shared with me that they just don’t know what to do or say to help those hurting. What so often happens is that we respond out of our fears and our discomfort and it usually doesn’t work out so well. After walking through the loss of my child, I thought, now I know what to say and definitely what not to say. What kind of help is needed and what may be invasive. What food is helpful to the family and what food is not? And then I heard myself say “How are you doing?” (how do I think they are doing! They just lost their husband!) or realized that I just brought bread and salad to a family who just lost their mother. (Everyone always bring bread and salad – and sure enough her fridge/ freezer was full of salad and bread!) Now, be gentle with yourself – we have all said those things and brought bread and salad. What I realized is that when I said and did things that I thought I would never say or do again –it was because I was not present. Presence is key. It is tricky I know, because being with those hurting hurts. And it brings up uncomfortable feelings in us or triggers our own past experiences or we can feel ourselves shut down and have no idea what to say or do. You are not alone. It will always be challenging to be present with those suffering. But if I can connect and be present with my own sufferings – I can connect with yours too. Presence. That is the real gift we give to each other – especially when there is pain. So, I decided to spend the next week or so posting different quotes, excerpts, and other blog postings that might be helpful as you try to be present and gracious to yourself and to others in grief and loss.
An excerpt from Ryan’s blog 7/2/2012
“… In the end Jessica and I are realizing more and more that all we’ve ever been given is today. It’s cheesy to say. It is so incredibly painful to practice in real life. And it definitely has the potential to be one of the most trite things an individual who is not connected to a person’s story can say to someone suffering or grieving – but in this life today truly is all that we have been given. Nothing more, nothing less. I want more. I need more. I have not been promised more. . . not in this life.
Thank you Jesus for the hope in the resurrection.”