This summer my family is experiencing a whole lot of angst. Small scale going to kindergarten angst and large scale my mother is on her deathbed angst. There are days we are laughing in the morning while singing Old Town Road for the 800th time in the car and then on the other side of the hour I am yelling at my children to stop playing with their grandmother’s sagging 69th birthday balloon in the memory care unit so I can check and see if she’s still breathing.
A few hours later we are at the pool and I wonder if it was all a dream or if everyone else around us lives the same kind of weird existence we do. Then, I word vomit to a dear friend about the balloon checking breathing experience and she in return tells me about her divorce situation. Meanwhile, our kids all cannonball joyfully into the water and we know that in five minutes any of them could be crying about the fact that their snack bag won’t open the way they want. We also know that it won’t have anything to do with the bag. It’ll be about the death of their beloved grandmother or their parents’ divorce. Because yes, in fact, everyone is dealing with some crazy stuff.
The depth of my personal sadness lately has been palatable to everyone who must interact with me. Sometimes I try to cover it up and sometimes I let it all spill out. It depends on the day and the person. To be loved by my mother was, in fact, magical. So to lose it as slowly and painfully as I have through her dementia, and with its ultimate end coming soon, I am currently experiencing what will most likely be one my Top Three Hard Life Things. I have been raising children for exactly the same amount of time I have been losing my mom. Her symptoms literally began at the birth of my oldest child.
As an English major, the extended metaphor of this is so deep I can’t even handle it completely. Well played, life. Well played.
My husband has borne much of the burden of my grief. Dealing with an empath wife in ministry who for eight years has been grieving the slow loss of her parent is a lot for a spouse to carry. And yet, he is still showing up in awesome ways.
A few weeks ago after I made a comment that I thought our children were old enough to kayak on their own, he turned our family of one kayak into a family of four kayaks (thank you, promo codes and sales and coupons). This was a big time partner win. We were both raised in Hawaii, so the water is life for us. It’s therapy. It’s where God is revealed. He knew I needed some grounding as it felt like my foundation was being broken apart.
Growing up on the beach I assumed that everyone thought the waves were God’s heartbeat. I also thought that Eucharistic Prayer C was only for the Diocese of Hawaii, but that’s for another time. The bible is rich with with the Spirit moving over water. With Jesus meeting up with cool guys in fishing boats and inspiring them to leave everything and follow him. With Jesus telling women they are forgiven and loved at wells while getting something to drink. With baptism in rivers and Living Water.
Water is the sacrament we are each ordained for experiencing and embodying.
We work so hard to get our kids outside, to keep them breathing fresh air. We know all the things the research says about children’s brains and the importance of spending time outdoors. But, what about us? This week when I pushed off the dry land and felt the heartbeat of the water beneath me, there was a moment of surrender that I had been longing to feel. The surrender I had been actively praying about was finally actualized.
Jesus ministered in boats and on rocks, yet rarely in buildings with walls. For me, there is a connection with the peace of entering in to a space that calls us to just be with the invitation into the presence of a God who asks the same of us. Just be. Just be broken. Just be grieving. Just be.
Upset because the bag won’t open the right way? Angry because life didn’t follow your perfectly laid plans? Scared about kindergarten? Heartbroken over loss? Let me hold you.
This summer as my family has experienced our varying levels of angst it is becoming beautifully clear to me that the God of Love is so much more than an answer, the God of Love is comfort in uncertainty. While my brain is constantly searching for a definitive — life is very often never so kind to give it to me or to my children or to you.
I cannot know the details of when or how my mom’s last days will happen. I cannot tell my son the exact members or daily schedule of his kindergarten class. Yet, I can be sure that no matter what those things are, we are held. Completely, without question, no matter what. God will be there. God will hold us. And God is here now in our uncertainty, in our angst, not asking us to calm down or feel less but rather just being with us in it. Heartbeat to heartbeat. Like waves on the shore.