My friend of 16 years has died. And my brother died the same day. Neither of them died in pain. And her best friend died exactly six months earlier, at almost the same time of day. What’s with this timing? Both my brother and my friend died with their loved ones around them. I think this is important. Maybe the loved ones and the lack of pain are actually the most important of all.
I hear many things in the white noise around me: “Death is part of life.” “One day at a time.” “The pain softens with time.”
Is there such a thing as soft pain? What I see around me, what I feel around me is nothing but sharp pain. Pain in the eyes of my friend’s husband and teenagers. Pain in my daughter’s own eyes as she peeks at the scary place of motherless children. Pain in my eyes above the bags and shadows that trample my face.
And I am like some multiple-personality disordered woman with a zoo of voices grunting, shrieking and hooting. The elephant in the room trumpets, “What will happen if you lose even more loved ones?” as the Others all beg me to let them take over my heart and mind and soul:
The Injured Party—They limp around hissing, “Poor me, lost a friend, lost a brother, gave my heart away, poor me, poor me, pour me a drink!”
Boys in the Band—My subconscious creative crew, I give them assignments like “Help! Fix this chapter!” and they drum and jam all night while I sleep and in the morning hand me a few sheets of music that reveal my theme. Currently unemployed due to a labor dispute with the Injured Party.
Jesus—He holds a little solar-cell stone that you can only see in the dark. It beams my mantra, “I am safe, I am safe.” He doesn’t make much noise at all, really. He’s always there, and pretty much just waits. When I let go of my gaggle of fears though, I can feel tender touches: the comfort of writing, a summer breeze, seagulls wheeling high. And I hear more fragments: “Ruthless trust, trustless Ruth, restless Truth.”
Little Orphan Annie—She’s my artist child and the leader of the pack. Right now she’s crouched under the sink, crying her heart out. Someday soon she’ll feel the arms of comfort all of you have extended through emails and hugs and kind words and prayers and being there. Showing up. Then she will be. And do what she was born to do and rest and receive in that thin place where the lion of love lies down with the lamb of listening and a little child leads us all.