Letting Go Of A Dream

Letting Go Of A Dream

Have you ever found yourself facing the unfulfilled end of a long-held, soul-rooted dream? That’s what I’ve been doing for the past year. Specifically, I’ve been wrestling with my unfulfilled dream to be a mom. It seems divinely appointed that I come to let this dream go during the season of Lent. I’m comforted in the fact that I am not the first one to make a difficult sacrifice.

There’s a lot of quiet in my life, especially in the evenings. I’m a homebody who doesn’t often fill my free hours with the noise and distraction of TV. The more quiet you allow in your life, it seems the less you are able to avoid what’s happening in your heart.

In my evenings this past year, I’ve faced the aching reality of the loss of my foster daughter, the disintegration of my hope to adopt, and with them, the collapse of my dream to be a mom. God, it’s been painful! And so important.

All the wrestling has allowed me to get to a place of resolution. I know I need to leave this dream behind, and I’m ready to, but it won’t be easy because wanting to be a mom is such a big, beautiful dream.

When I was a young girl thinking of my future, I always pictured myself as a mom. In fact, I never imagined a future in which mothering wasn’t a main feature of my story. If you asked me at ages 8, 11, and 14 what I wanted to be when I grew up, I would have told you quite sincerely that I wanted to be a mom. That’s it. Just a mom.

with baby Katie Crossman

That’s me as a tween with my baby cousin Katie

Everything about me being a mom makes sense. Children delight me. How other people get embarrassingly enthusiastic about sports, gush over classic cars, or blather about their favorite video game — that’s how I get about spending time with kids.

Anytime I get to snuggle a baby, I call it therapy; it fills me to the brim with joy. One of my favorite activities is to read aloud to kids, especially if I can jazz up the stories with fun accents. When I was a pastor at a large church, parents would often pass me their kids while they dashed off to use the restroom, grab coffee, or have adult conversation. Sure, it’s a sign that I’m trustworthy, but these parents also knew I would enjoy hanging out with their kids and would never find it an inconvenience.

I’ve been caring for other people’s kids since I was a kid. I was the youngest nursery worker at our church, drafted when I was just 11. In my early teen years, I spent more time minding the neighbor kids on weekends than their parents did.

auntie loves me

Looking back at my life, I realize that I’ve been mothering all along. I care deeply for my nieces and nephews and for my friends’ kids. They all call me Aunt Coco.

It matters to me the kind of influence I have on the children in my life. The kind of love and affirmation I give them. The fact that I can teach them to laugh loudly, to be caring and empathetic, to be courageous and adventurous, and most of all, to be kind to themselves.

Yes, I was a foster mom — and that is being a mother in the fullest sense of the word — but it was temporary. I had hoped fostering would lead to adoption. For years, I made choices and sacrifices to make that dream a reality. Fostering exposed my depths and limitations, and taught me exactly what it takes to be a single parent of a child who has experienced trauma. I discovered that I don’t have the emotional reserves to do ministry professionally only to come home and do even more intense ministry at home. So, after a lot of prayer, reflection, and conversation with trusted friends, I’ve concluded that it’s best to turn away from this option.

“But Corrie,” you might say, “you aren’t decrepit! You are still young enough to have your own child.” And yes, while it’s technically true that I’m still of “childbearing age,” I’m also well into what they call “advanced maternal age,” which comes with its own catalog of risks. There’s no guarantee that I’ll marry, and even if I did, that my spouse would want kids, or that my reproductive system works. Sure, there are medically-assisted ways to become a mother, and paths to adoption other than the foster system, but those aren’t things I can or want to pursue.

Rejected options, dead ends, and diminishing paths brought me to a place of wrestling. I’ve asked myself, God, the world — what options remain? What more am I willing to give or to sacrifice to realize this dream? How far, and for how long, am I willing to stretch the endurance of my soul in pursuit of being a mom?

There is a cost to our souls when we pursue our dreams.

Think of athletes who, for years, train their bodies and minds toward the achievement of a big dream: complete a ultra-marathon, swim the English Channel, break a record, win a medal, summit Everest, be named among The Greats. Imagine all of the time, money, energy, and heart, not to mention the injuries and rehabilitation they likely put into reaching their goal. We understand that in order to reach these big dreams, training becomes their job, almost their whole lives.

Big life dreams can become too big, larger than life. Sometimes what they require of us becomes unsustainable and we crumble under the weight. Or, our dreams can grow too big too fast, spreading like weeds, choking the other sources of life that surround us. Dreams can deplete us. Constant striving, all this emphasis on pushing ourselves, can cause injury and damage to our bodies, our minds, and our spirits.

The danger of big dreams is that they can eclipse everything else about us. We can get lost in them.

If a dream, and your journey towards it, becomes your largest identity marker, what will you do after you’ve achieved your dream?

Or, what would happen if somehow your dream was suddenly taken away from you? Imagine there is some circumstance beyond your control and you can no longer go for your dream. What would you do then?

Reaching these craggy, shadowed places means grappling with these questions:

Who am I without this dream?
What will I suffer if I lose this dream?
How will I cope?
How will I grieve?
What will it look like to recover?
How will I rediscover who I am beyond my dream?
How will I detangle myself from its tentacles?
And once I do, will I like the me that remains?

There is a cost to our dreams.

I have a friend that got married much later in life. We lived in the same town for a few years when she was still single and I learned very quickly that her greatest dream was to be married. Wherever we went, whatever we were doing, she would talk about this dream.

Now, there’s nothing wrong with wanting to get married and looking forward to married life, but I often felt a little concerned for her. When we would meet up to go out she would talk about how long it took her to choose her outfit or how presentable she was because, she would say, “you never know when and where you will meet your spouse.”

My friend lived with such laser-focused hope — she was so some-day-focused, so saturated by her dream — that she seemed to devalue herself in the present. She lived leaning forward, always in a state of wanting something else, wanting more, always waiting. She was waiting for marriage to fill out her life, to define or redefine her, but she didn’t seem to realize that she was already well-defined.

There is a cost to our dreams.

I’m grateful for my life as it is and as it has been. Frankly, it’s been downright gorgeous: a vibrantly bloomed garden of rich relationships and experiences. There is such deep value in being a daughter, a sister, an aunt, a cousin, a friend, and a pastor. I am completely fulfilled by these things. I’m in no way less than, nor lacking in dignity or maturity, because I am unmarried and childless. I faced those demons of insecurity a decade ago. I just also hoped to have a child to call my own and to love for life.

63396_10153035211031033_4690035403601447972_n

With my nephews and nieces in 2015

Being a mother, getting delightfully messy in the art of mothering, is a dream I cherished for so long. But now, for my heart health, for the good of my soul — to live as fully and freely as possible into the me that I am right here and now — I need to let go of this dream.

I’ll keep mothering as Aunt Coco. I’ll keep rocking babies, reading stories, coloring with crayons, playing in parks, and showing up to soccer games. But to my dream to be mom, I’m saying goodbye. To this dream, I say:

You are a beautiful dream, so worthy of having been dreamed.

You made me a better person because, for years, you stretched me toward a very good thing. You helped me be optimistic as I imagined and believed that I would one day care for a child.

You taught me to be brave, because bravery is exactly what I needed to follow the call to foster as a single parent — a scary, and some would say, crazy idea. You taught me patience as I waited years before the time was right to foster. You taught me to pray boldly for a two bedroom home I could afford. Through that long-shot prayer, you showed me that miracles do happen; you expanded my faith. And for six months, you gave me a precious soul to nurture.

I gave you my whole heart, and I am so thankful I did.

But now, dear dream, I’m going to let you go. I set you aside with warm and sincere gratitude, so I can focus on being exactly who I am, as I am.

Thank you. You are good and you blessed me.

dandelion lawn

I read on a gardening website that dandelions, if left undisturbed, can grow roots 15 feet deep. I guess that’s why, when you yank them and only break their stems, a new flower sprouts quickly in the same place.

My hope to be a mom was rooted as deeply as a dandelion, but I want the freedom to plant something else in its place. So, I had to dig deep and extract this dream at its root.

I haven’t made this decision lightly, or as an escape from my pain. I’ve wrestled with it. I’ve waded through the pain to get to this place. I’ve cried confused tears, angry tears, and sorrowful tears. I’ve prayed confused, lamenting, and sorrowful prayers. All this has tumbled around in me and finally settled in my soul.

The pain, angst, and grief have loosened and fallen away. Now there is relief and a welcome peace. Yes, there’s still occasional sadness. There probably will be for years. But I imagine the sadness will fade and transform into a simple, cherished memory of a sweet dream.

I’m okay to let my dream go. I’m ready. I will be healthy and happy without being a mom the way that I hoped. I already am.

Now, my prayers have turned to hope for new, unimagined, good things.

Dandelions are prolific. It’s part of their design. They easily spread themselves around until they blanket our lawns with their cheerful yellow caps. But I think they are at their most beautiful when they’ve transformed into seed heads. One yellow flower can produce up to 170 seeds. Those delicate white parachutes gracefully dance away on the breeze, off to spread their cheer in new places. They fall on new ground, shoot out new roots, and spring up into new life.

Dreams, when given away, allow for the birth of new dreams. I look forward to my post-Lenten, spring bloom.

Fly away dandelion

A Good Friday Lament for Child Loss and Childlessness

Good Friday is a day for difficult reflection. It’s a day we remember a tragic death. We remember that Jesus hung on a cross to die for the sins of the world.

This year I was asked by a neighboring pastor to lead a Good Friday service for his church. It was a unique request–could I lead a service of lament and remembrance for those who have suffered miscarriage or infertility? As we talked, prayed and planned, we decided to expand the service to minister to anyone who has experienced any kind of child loss or childlessness: infertility, miscarriage, stillbirth, SIDS, failed surrogacy or adoption, abortion, or any other circumstance.

As a former hospital chaplain assigned to the high-risk pregnancy and neonatal intensive care units, I had an idea where to begin. As an aunt to two miscarried babies, I knew something of the sensitivity needed.

So we began with lament. We set our pain and grief before God through corporate readings and song. We prayed and poured out our hearts before the Lord.

From there we moved into acts of remembrance and healing. We lit 41 candles for children lost or hoped for. I anointed sisters and brothers with oil for healing of body and spirit. We went to the communion table and received Christ’s body and blood so that God would sustain us as we heal, and wait, and hope.

942287_10153525711966033_3295896868941904305_n

Then we let Jesus’ words minister to us through Lectio Divina:

Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is kind and my burden is light.      Matthew 11:28-30

I wrote a prayer of response to this whole movement of souls:

Jesus Christ, Son of God who hung upon the cross in agony—
Remember our suffering, sorrow, and loss.
Help us come to you when we want to run and hide.
Replace this heavy yoke of grief with one that is kind and easier to carry;
We need your holy rest.

Living and eternal Savior,
Heal and restore us.
Gently teach us how to live with joy.
Resurrect our hope that you are good at all times and in every way.
Supply the resilience we need to live in broken bodies and a broken world, until you
Come and make all things new.


Too often the church remains silent about the pain and grief we experience because it make us (pastors) uncomfortable. Or, we tell ourselves, that the plans we have for our services and sermons can’t be interrupted. But child loss and childlessness burdens too many people for the church to ignore this pain.

1 out of every 10 couples experience infertility.

At least 1 in 4 women will experience a miscarriage in her lifetime.

God lost his one and only son to death.

The church should be a safe place to cry out our every pain and suffering. A place to weep. A place where we give ourselves over to the mysterious, healing work of the Holy Spirit. A place where we stretch our empty arms toward the God who knows our loss.

So tonight a small branch of the church gathered. Tonight we cried out like God’s people have done for centuries. We sat in the quiet–waiting, listening–and expecting that God was at work in us.

At the end of this Good Friday, we left candles burning before the cross and went home knowing that God heard our prayers.

May resurrection and new life come soon.

Lent 2014: The Fiction Fast

I do strange things for Lent. The first time I observed Lent I was 24 and an earnest seminarian. I decided to fast from exaggeration and sarcasm. Yes, you read that correctly. If you know me, you realize the irony – I speak fluent Sarcasm. Hyperbole is part of my charm. My friend Courtney, a Presbyterian minister and a veteran practitioner of Lent, questioned if this would be too much for my first time. I thought and prayed about it but I was resolved. I’d always liked a challenge. Plus I’d recently been convicted by a sermon on Matthew 5:33-37. I was all in.

My first Lent was a sometimes funny, always challenging experiment. I found myself offering the world more pauses, lots of apologies and much shorter stories. All of the new empty moments in my life created space for more introspection. I thought a lot about truth, chaffed against a deep-seated insecurity to be heard, learned about the risks white lies and half-truths pose to my soul and my relationships, and through it all I grew closer to Jesus, which for me, is the whole point.

It’s uncommon for Evangelicals to anchor themselves to the church calendar. I imagine there is a modest group of us who do extra devotional reading between Ash Wednesday and Easter but only a small subset who participate in Lent by fasting. Few of my fellow Evangelicals seem to understand why I observe Lent by fasting. Even my formerly Catholic sister-in-law is curious and confused by my practice. Sometimes I’m not even quite sure why I do this. Maybe it’s the artist in me craving sacred time when I can imaginatively enter into the life of Christ.

Every year I get to choose whether I observe Lent. I don’t have to do this. No one expects me to fast and certainly no one is judging me if I don’t. This is something I do for myself, for freedom. My attitude going in is always a strange blend of eagerness, seriousness and curiosity, with a shot of playfulness. Lent is a truly mystical choice in our get-the-next-best-thing-because-you-can culture. For me it’s 40 days when I willingly sacrifice something of my life, something I love or need, or think I need, because Jesus spent some time in the desert without a survival pack and without attempting to escape what was surely desolate.

The most unleashed thing about a Lenten fast is that there is no clear goal. There’s not a single anticipated outcome that I can project with any certainty. It’s just me creating space with the hope that this sacrifice will make me more attentive to Jesus. I think of it like a sugar detox. Once your body is stripped of artificial and added sugars, the flavors in natural foods begin to zip and zing along your taste buds like Pop Rocks. So I guess I could call Lent my “Quest for the Organic Jesus.”

book-stack

This year I fasted from fiction. Before you roll your eyes and think this lacked bite, know that I read several hours a day – probably the equivalent of time you spend watching TV– often finishing several books a week. Stories are like food to me; they feed my spirit and soak my always-thirsty imagination. I confess – non-fiction puts me to sleep faster than Ambien would crushed in warm milk. I’ll take David Baldacci over C.S. Lewis any day. (I know, I know. Please don’t judge.) Fiction captures me. It takes me on adventures, welcomes me into foreign cultures and families and then confronts me with new questions and challenges. In some ways, reading fiction has better prepared me to be a thoughtful pastor than most theology books and seminary classes ever did. Fiction lets me engage deeply in others’ stories without worrying about myself – what to do with my hands, what my face should conceal or reveal, and when to speak or keep quiet. Each book is someone else’s world, a life unlike my own. The more foreign the story, the more I can learn, particularly how to have compassion for a life so different from my own and how to welcome a stranger. I owe so much of my ability to love the world’s outcasts and the suffering because books have opened my eyes to complexities in the human experience that I didn’t know existed.

So now you see that my fiction fast of 2014 wasn’t just a trifle. It opened up hours of time in each day, some of which I intentionally replaced with gospel reading. Like those magnifying vanity mirrors that allow us to zero in on wrinkles and stray hairs, my fast revealed some major flaws in my spiritual life. For most of the 40 days, my yearning to read fiction dwarfed my yearning to read the Bible. That was intensely humbling, especially as a pastor. Many prayers spun out from there. I also grappled with the fact that too often my reading becomes a buffer from allowing myself to feel, to process my feelings and to pour out my day before God.

Ministry, like life, is not something we pastors can control. Because our work centers around people and their connection to God and to others, what is a smoking ember on Monday can cause a blazing firestorm on Tuesday – all it takes is a little wind. During Lent this year life gusted and ministry blazed. Miscarriages, crumbling marriages, career disappointments, painful perseverance, major life changes: all of this was swirling around me and within me. And each night as I retreated to the quiet of my bedroom, when I would normally pick up a book and dive into a fictional life, the silence and my empty hands stripped away my buffer. I catalogued my cares and fears before God and I cried enough tears to turn any book into slimy paper mache. And every time, I felt better. More connected to God. Heard and loved. Companioned by a Savior who endured much more than 40 days in a desert. A Savior who knew solitude and hunger, and who understood the need to stay connected to the Creator of all good things. Those tears and those prayers cleansed me and prepared me for another day.

This is what I learned by fasting from fiction – even the things we enjoy, things that are not inherently harmful, can become liabilities to our spiritual lives. We can lose ourselves in the things we love. If mismanaged, our hobbies can diminish our vital connection to God. Even healthy habits can become a buffer, an escape, a way to hide from God, ourselves and the world. I suspect that we are all masters at twisting good, happy, fun and fruitful things into barriers, numbing agents and knots. I don’t want to do this anymore. I want to love myself better than this. I want my relationship with God to thrive in and for itself, but also so compassion and mercy can continue to flow in my ministry.

Lent 2014 – I gave up fiction. I wept with Jesus. God restored me. I’m ready for more. More life and more ministry. And yes, more fiction. I’m reading again, but I hope with greater maturity, using fiction as a tool for fun and relaxation and not a buffer against my life, my feelings and my God.

A Holy Week

On Palm Sunday I preached the good news about God’s unexpected salvation – salvation from sin, salvation for all, and salvation from circumstances. I said this –

If God’s power can conquer sin and death, then he can certainly free us from everything that enslaves us. He can remove every roadblock and work miracles through our limitations. But often God doesn’t intercede the way we expect…

Friends, too often we make ourselves prisoners of hope, looking for salvation from circumstances to come in a particular package or follow a particular pattern. As greatly as God loves you, he wants to set you free! But are you coming to God with clenched fists, holding tightly to your expected outcomes? What if God knows that there is something better, something you need more than what you are asking for?

My last blog post was a raw expulsion of feeling. I compared myself to an unraveling sweater. I had reached a breaking point emotionally, spiritually and physically. I could not think of another month of job searching without crying.

What a difference a week makes.

Within days of writing Unraveling Sweater, good news rolled into my life like a 4th of July parade. My father, who was laid off a year ago, received a wonderful job offer. Beginning May 1st he will raise money for a non-profit that serves some of the poorest children in Phoenix. God heard our prayers and came to save.

A few days later I received a job offer of my own. From June thru December I will be serving as a chaplain at the Punahou School in Honolulu, Hawaii. I will lead chapels for students from Kindergarten through 5th grade and offer pastoral care and counseling to students and their families. Though I love spending time with children and prize my role as aunt as much as I do my role as pastor, I’ve never imagined myself working with kids. Clearly God had other ideas. He heard my cries and he came to save.

After 4 years relentlessly pursuing a full-time job, this new opportunity feels like a Jubilee, a real trumpet-blast of liberation. I will have a new challenge to feed my brain and an island getaway free from job-searching to feed my soul. I’m embracing my own lesson. God has given me unexpected salvation, a gift in an unusual package, but I’m welcoming it with joy and anticipation.

The desert has been a significant metaphor for my inner life and experiences the past four years that I’ve lived in Phoenix. It’s not lost on me that I’m moving from the desert to what many people consider paradise on earth. Most people only dream of places like Hawaii and only a privileged few vacation there. I will soon live and work there. I will leave behind the dry, dusty, marrow-sucking heat of the desert for the lush greens, fragrant blooms and warm breezes of a tropical island. I can’t find adequate words to describe my sense of gratitude to God and the renewal of hope that is happening in my spirit.

And in the middle of all of this good news, pain and loss continue to shade my life. A friend is experiencing the miscarriage of her first baby. Another is newly devastated by infidelity. Two others have said their final goodbyes, one to a mother, the other to a sister. A homebound widow begs for a visit and prayers – her roommate returned to a life of addiction and is now hospitalized after attempting suicide. People I love are hurting and so even as I rejoice, I shout – Hosanna! Save, now! Save, I pray!

This has been a holy week. A week of contrasts inhabiting the same moment. I rejoice in my circumstances even as I weep with others. Hope sprouts with new dreams for my future while circumstances crush the spirit of those around me. Joy mixes with sorrow and makes its own kind of liturgy.

As a Christian, Holy Week is the strangest week we live. We do our best to step into time with Jesus, to participate in the iconic moments of his last days. On Sunday we celebrate his arrival as king. He’s come to do his most sacred work, to redeem God’s people and take the throne. We dazzle and sometimes disturb visitors to our churches with waving palm branches, cute children’s plays and shouts of hosanna. By Friday everything has changed. We have lost our joy. We are full of confusion, pain and fear. We turn down the volume and the lights and soak in the fact that our savior has been betrayed, arrested, tortured, humiliated and nailed to a cross. On Saturday we weep. Some give up and walk away. In all of us there is an inner stillness; we’re waiting for something, but we don’t know what. And then it’s Sunday again and we experience the deepest possible joy as Jesus appears before us alive and victorious!

It’s a week full of contrasts that inhabit the same moment. Light and darkness. Life and death. Waiting, seeking and finding. Unprecedented despair followed by unparalleled rejoicing. Holy Week is the pattern of life, at least for now. And it’s only the knowledge that painful things lead to unexpectedly good things, that keeps me living.

A Letter A Day: Reflections on Lent & Love

ImageI’ve been meaning to report on my practice of Lent this year but time has blown by lately like a desert monsoon. (I started a new job in mid-March and I reserve most of my free-time for brain recovery.)

A love letter a day. I loved the idea and for much of the season, I enjoyed the discipline. However, I bumped again into one of my weaknesses: I’ve never been good at doing what’s best for me every day.

I find time to read fiction 1-2 hours a day and it is of some value. Exercise, reading scripture, prayer — these are of higher value and yet I struggle to make them part of my daily life. Even excited to write these Lent letters, there were days I had to pull out my calendar and count boxes to know how many letters I needed to write to catch up.

The major benefit of writing to so many of my beloveds? I was constantly reminded to offer myself the grace and love that I show others. I forgave myself the skipped days and focused on enjoying the hours spent with pen, stationary and warm memories.

The picture above is my final stack of love letters before I stuck on Forever stamps and sent them across the globe. The easiest part of this whole practice was deciding to whom I should write. Composing these letters often slipped into times of praise and thankfulness for the many cherished memories and relationships I’ve formed over the years. I wrote to each of my 7 nieces and nephews, to my siblings, parents, some extended family, many former college students whom I mentored, and friends from every stage of life.

I wrote to my mentor from high school, thanking her for showering me with unconditional time and love. I credit her gentle and considerate presence in my life as one of the major reasons that I have an authentic faith in Christ today.

I wrote to my friend and former roommate Joni who is a long-term missionary. She recently moved to Madrid and despite debilitating chronic pain from scoliosis, Joni lives with such joy and purpose. Since meeting her in 1999, she has inspired me to take risks and to push against the boundaries of what I think God can accomplish through my ministry.

Secrets and trust were themes in many of the letters. I wrote to several friends about secrets shared and released. I met Karen at a time when I held many things tightly and fearfully inside me. Openly and honestly Karen shared a personal struggle with me, which enabled me to trust her with my stuff. By example, Karen ushered me trust again. Writing to Karen sparked a second letter to a friend who last year broke silence to me regarding a life-long struggle. I wrote thanking her again for trusting me with her pain. I sealed the second letter realizing that have become a safe place for others because Karen was first a safe place for me.

I sent Lent letters to more than 15 states. Three went to Canada; a few to Europe. The youngest recipient was my niece Kherington, who, at age 3, got a few silly jokes her mother will have to read to her and a terrible drawing of a cat.

Some letters remain on my bookshelf, stampless. There are 5 written to God, labeled with different names of God depending on the nature of the letter. I sent those through a prayer office rather than a post office.

There’s a letter written to a friend whom I’ve lost contact with, but for whom I pray regularly. Over the past two years I have asked for his new address via Facebook and email. He has not responded. My concern that I caused him pain is the very reason I wrote. I hope he will allow me to make amends. I’ll hang on to his letter with hope.

I never wrote the letter to my former sister-in-law. I stared at many blank notes intended for her. In the end it was too difficult to write, too charged. I chose instead to pray for her, for us, for all whose lives were forever changed by her actions.

To Corrie, July 1st, 2017 — this is the label of the letter I wrote to myself in 5 years. I’ve spent a lot of time in these tumultuous three years praying and thinking about the woman I want to become. I’m not looking for a brand new me but a Corrie who is renewing, refined, purposeful.  This letter had several lines of celebration for the real and far-reaching love I’ve experienced.

I wrote all of these letters sitting on my bed just an arm’s-length from a high school graduation gift – a friendship quilt made by my relative Augusta Cole. I always hang it close to my bed, where I do most of my praying. The quilt, like these love letters from my seventh season of Lent, reminds me that my life is not about me.

My life grows richer because I move toward others, as I share myself with others, when I love others. I thank God that I learned this lesson young.

My friendship quilt. Each cream square is signed by a friend.

My friendship quilt. Each cream square is signed by a friend.

morning, the first day

Study of Women Mourning by Michanelangelo Buonarroti

Study of Women Mourning by Michelangelo Buonarroti

 

 

dirt and ash adorn my head,
a dark covering of filth gritty on my scalp.
thick, tangled hairs scratch my cheek like coarse threads,
strangely comforting.

hands hang guiltily at my sides.
soiled, broken nails like swords
left streaks of red down my arms
as I rent the clothe of my tunic.
tight fists like clubs that beat purple, black and green onto my chest.
iron fingers that ripped clumps of hair from roots set deep in my skull.

eyes, swollen from the blow of wind and grief,
see little but tan ground or grey sky;
everything out of focus and unremarkable.

my body is parched:
muscles shriveled and limp,
skin cracked like the wadis that line every valley.
even the marrow seems sucked out of my cavernous bones.

i think i should waste away but the gushing never stops;
(perhaps another of his miracles).

tears tear a wide rift down the plains of my face,
a mark of my homeland etched into a thousand layers of skin.
some slide into my mouth creating a paste with the dust that always coats my tongue,
today made thick and repugnant by the yeast of bitterness.

lips posed like the spout of a clay jar,
a feature delicate but useful,
tremulously pouring forth watery wails birthed deep in my bowels.

my voice joins the chorus of anguish made by the many women of this illegitimate tribe:
a babe in the arms of her grandmother, neither able to be pacified,
a wife and a prostitute standing as sisters,
an adulteress supporting the weight of one already weakened by years of bleeding,
a samaritan’s tears soaking a galilean’s breast,
one who was possessed by demons now doubled by a stronger affliction,
some rich, many poor —
all unpaid mourners weeping a sweet harmony of sorrow.

a single flute accompanies our morning song;
its high pitch slices through the humid air,
giving tragedy a proper dissonance.

the mingled cries produce a slow rhythm;
our bodies sway to its haunting pulse.
feet drag slowly forward in steps so heavy
they could cause Jerusalem to go the way of Jericho.

we follow the dusty wake of the bier,
a simple pallet that bears the dead form of our master,
torn from a cross.
some of our brothers carry him, an excruciating weight.

many in our procession grow faint.
some stumble to their knees,
tripped by grief or fatigue.
hands reach down to drag the fallen to aching, splintered feet.
we must reach the tomb.

the carnivorous sun,
unrelenting even when death is done,
waits to consume his flesh.

we will give him shade in death;
we could not provide as much in life.

the room is sealed but we hunker just beyond the slab.
every limb, feature, voice twisted and marred in the expression of woe.
our bleating continues;
perhaps it will never cease for suffering was never so dark as now,
today,
just the first of innumerable days of mourning.