The Weight of Tears

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My Spiritual Director recently asked me how I was doing. And I started to cry.

Not because I was sad. Or even depressed. It had been a difficult couple of months, personally and professionally, and I felt the weight of others’ tears added to my own. I have never doubted the cumulative effect of loss, but on that particular evening, things were very heavy indeed.

Later in the week, we had an ice storm. I sat mesmerized, watching the freezing rain collect on every bare branch and twig. They looked like those hard-to-cry tears that we all have from time to time. The ice dripped longer and thicker, and then would break off onto the grass below. Eventually, the storm passed, and the temperature rose.

That’s when it hit me – grief, like many other emotions, is framed in seasons. Sometimes it is overwhelming, and you can see the physical frame of a mourner bend over in sorrow. Sometimes the sadness breaks and scatters all around in a fragile mess. Sometimes the sunshine casts a brilliant prism of hope. Grief is expressed differently by each soul who bears it, I think. And it does pass. It truly does.

These same branches that were caked in ice will bud and green up in about 3 months. I hope that, when I see the leaves unfurl, I will remember to go back and take another photo. Because every one of us needs a picture of growth and joy in the back of our minds when the icy heart of grief holds us.

Growth, light, life: all of these are places where the love breaks in. Or perhaps, as Leonard Cohen said in his song, Anthem, 

Ring the bells that still can ring.
Forget your perfect offering.
There is a crack in everything.
That’s how the light gets in.

So here’s to tears. And promises of a spring thaw. And the light getting in through the tiniest, smallest cracks of hope you can imagine. And tissues. Lots and lots of tissues.

On-call musing…

It started like any other shift… Take report, prioritize call-backs, round through critical care areas and Emergency… The pager has been constantly going off. The incidents I’m responding to are full of emotion and pain and loss. And the house is pretty full tonight, so there’s lots of stressed and grumpy staff to boot. All in all, I guess it’s a pretty normal night.

I handed out all my tissues well before 8 pm and came back to re-stock my pockets… And I just wasn’t ready to go back up on the floor. At first, I wasn’t sure why, until I reflected on the stories that were shared and the prayers that were offered in response. Tonight the pain and loss are very deep and the shock to the families so real, so raw that you can see the lines of pain and anguish on the faces of the staff and the visitors. I stopped to regroup and pray. I wasn’t ready to get back in the dance yet. It’s the way it works sometimes…

As I sat and stared at my cubicle wall, refilling my quota of tissues (and procrastinating) a couple of nurses came by with ice cream treats for Nurses Week. No, I’m not a nurse… But that little gift lifted my Spirits. Ice cream… What’s not to like? 😉 And then they asked that, in return, if I could give them a blessing… Which of course, I could.

In a quiet space I stopped to thank God with my sisters, remembering that if God is present in the Bread and Cup, then when we invite the Spirit’s Presence, is there in ice cream treats too.

Thanks be to God…

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God is always coming to you in the Sacrament of the Present Moment. Meet and receive God there with gratitude in that Sacrament.
(Evelyn Underhill)