I just returned home from visiting my friend Gary, honoring the memory of his brother in-law Dan in a ritual of the Jewish faith, called sitting Shiva. Family and friends gather with the mourners to provide food, comfort and nurturing in their time of immediate grief and recite prayers that remind them that God is ever-present. Two years and four months ago, I was in the place that my friend's sister now finds herself. Although I had never met her or her husband, I felt a sense of kinship; she is now part of our non-exclusive club that no one counts on joining and all would prefer to shun.
As I sat next to her on the sofa, I watched with detached compassion as she observed normal life going on around her. People were talking about vacations and anniversary parties. Her pre-teen daughter was standing back to back with a friend, measuring their respective heights. Family and friends were enjoying the fruit and pastries that were beautifully displayed on the table. It was as if Randi was encased in glass; she could see out, others could see in, but she couldn't truly allow people in. By her description, she was numb. Her fairly young husband's ordeal with cancer was complete; hers was just changing gears. As I had more than two years ago, she had just transformed from caregiver to bereaved spouse. Her broken places were obvious, but she wasn't yet ready to feel them.
I've heard that when a bone breaks and then heals, the place where the fracture occurs becomes stronger. I believe it's true with human hearts as well. One of my favorite songs is called "In The Broken Places" by David Wilcox. A line "Maybe where the heart breaks in two...that's the only place Grace can get through and find you." speaks to the genuine healing that can take place if we allow ourselves to experience our broken-ness. It's so easy to cover over the wounds, pretending that they don't exist. Many who mourn, fear that if they allow their wounds to show, they will never cease crying. They dread abandonment by those who had been present in the beginning if they give voice to their grief. As is true with any wound, this one needs to see the light and be permitted to breathe. If we give ourselves freedom to grieve in community, we share our broken-ness and give our friends and family one of the greatest gifts we can provide; that of offering support for us and in doing so, healing our wounds and perhaps some of their own as well. In that way we can all strengthen our broken places.
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