Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Good and Perfect Gifts

This afternoon I drove home from a very quick visit to Big Bend National Park.  The scenery of the mountainous Chihuahuan desert restored me, as usual.  I see colors and plants and rocks I have been viewing in my mother's artwork since I was younger than Rose.  Today as I marveled at the myriad of subtle colors in the mountains and dry desert floor and flora, I saw all the colors of pottery glazes I see in the work of a dear friend and all of a sudden I understood her artwork.  I mean, I always loved it, and appreciated the design and color, but for some reason on my drive today it all came to life and I marveled at her work and the work of my mom.  Completely different media, yet they both offer something that gives honor and homage to this place I love so much. 

You would think an hour and a half drive would wear me out.  But as I cross through Persimmon Gap, head past Santiago Peak, see the cattle grazing (thank God the past rains have caused some grass to grow), rejoice in the spectacular clouds, I feel peace. 

I have so many things I want to write about grief.  Can you believe that we are afflicted with grief every day?  Still?  Maybe not every day, but most days something reminds one of the now 5 people living in our house that we have experienced loss.  I guess if you have experience your own loss you can believe it.  Sending Thomas off to school in New Mexico just about did me in.  I sobbed as I drove away from the dorm, telling Philip that it just wasn't fair at all that he was not here to be a part of this letting go. 

No one ever told me that the intense grief we experienced because of Philip's death would make small and medium-sized grief feel intense.  People like Cynthia told me it would hurt.  I thank God for her honesty, as she would say the hard things.  She had permission to, because her husband died several years before mine.  While she was still young and still had little ones at home.  She told me that while you learn to survive and thrive, the pain would erupt at the most inopportune times.  I listened, but nothing prepares you for reality like reality.

So, I am not sure why I am writing all this grief stuff right now, when I have several other topics I want to cover.  Maybe it will help prep someone else out there, since it seems like no one gets a free pass when it comes to loss.  Sooner or later we are going to grieve. 

Here's the thing, allowing myself to feel Philip's loss completely has made it possible for me to feel other things more completely.  Thomas's graduation and entry into the Occupational Services program is the best thing that could have happened.  I am thrilled about it.  Nevertheless, this child who was borne by my body, who lived in our home for nineteen years is no longer around.  I miss him.  And feel the loss.  Even though I don't want him to move back! 

Actually, I feel much better now, but the first couple of days I was rather sad.  And when people told me to think about how good it was for him to be in the program, and how I should be happy, it made me kind of mad and later I realized it was because I didn't want to be deprived of the opportunity to feel.  And giving myself permission to be sad and to honor the reality of the change in our family dynamic seemed to help me adjust more quickly.  After a couple of mopey days, I got over it and didn't feel intense pain anymore.  Just a little achey.  Then after a couple of weeks, I didn't even feel achey. 

I guess it is a bit embarrassing to write about personal things like grief.  But the experts suggest that the only way to heal from grief is to grieve.  So I embrace the moments, and thank merciful God for the ability to feel.

And remember that what I really wanted to write about today was the lovely lunch I got to share with my dear one, under the shade in his backyard.  A lunch that would make Michael Pollan proud! 

A giant chopped salad, with lemon cucumbers grown by Tony, my farmer's market neighbor, and his tomatoes.  The green ones I sliced and dipped in egg and a breading made with a mixture of chopped pecans, given to me by my church friends, harvested from their backyard and shelled!, some milk and honey bread crumbs, a bit of cornmeal and a couple of spoons of our 4-grain pancake mix, a generous dash of chili powder and garlic.  I know I hardly ever fry anything, but these green tomatoes were begging to be fried up in a cast-iron skillet, so I obliged. 

I found a little package of pork in R's freezer.  Pork we butchered with my dad, sometime this past winter.  Almost all gone.  I sliced it and quickly seared it in the cast-iron skillet.  Set it aside. 

Tried to figure out what in the world we needed to finish off the salad masterpiece.  I put the chopped romaine on the plates, added the cucumber, some chopped ripe tomatoes, slivers of onion, the chopped pork, the magnificent green tomatoes, chunks of local chevre.  Hmm.  Roasted okra, courtesy of Seiko from the market, placed on the side. 

I found a jar of apricot jam in the fridge.  We made it this summer from fruit from our tree.  I threw some in the blender with white vinegar, chili powder, a generous pinch, a dollop of grainy mustard and a bit of real mayo.  Drizzled it over our salads, had some freshly milled whole grain milk and honey bread toast on the side, iced green tea, friendship, love and joy. 

A sparrow came to light on cactus near the table.  Or was that a wren?  A butterfly lit on the table as we gave thanks and I appreciated his amazing colors.  Velvety browns on the upper part of his wings.  The dull underside was decorated with vivid eyes lined in blue.  The antennae were black and white striated with yellow bulbs at the top.  Another bird, R knew the name, but now I forget! played around the trees and the cactus and I wonder if he/she were working on the nest, or just looking at someone else's home. 

We spoke of work, his and mine.  Of memories.  Of a trip we plan to make soon to see some friends.  We spoke of the kids.  Family.  He had to get  back to work and I had to get home to kids coming home from school.  Back to paperwork and insurance and tons of miscellanea.  A bakery needing some ingredients and a new refrigerator. 

But my eeny meeny mini vacation was great!  And I can thank God that because of all this ability to feel deeply, even the lovely, beautiful things feel more intense. 

And I guess that is what I really wanted to say this evening. 

Pain and loss are brutal.  I wish none of us ever had to feel them.  But I have found that our pain has opened up my heart in such a way to be able to experience joy and love and beauty even more than I imagined I could. 

A while back a couple of friends and I were studying the book of James in the Bible.  There is a verse that says that every good and perfect gift comes from above, coming down from the Father of lights.  I am so very thankful for the many amazing good gifts in my life.  My children.  My family.  My dear boyfriend R who is a true gift, my friends, both the old ones and the new, my customers, my home, my business, the beautiful country I love so much here in the Big Bend.  Even that school in New Mexico, with professors trained to teach my son and to equip him for his next stage of life. 

I hope you will allow yourself to feel a little this week.  To see the beauty that surrounds you.  To taste and see that even in the pain there is good.  And if you someone gives you green tomatoes, I hope you will figure out a way to fry them up in a cast-iron skillet.  They sure are yummy!


Anonymous said...

a beautiful blog

Anonymous said...


I learned the same thing when Lemuel died. Deep grief allows us to feel deep joy! Only God could orchestrate such emotions. Love reading your blog. You are a gifted writer.

Cindy Fendley