“Mingling Belief and Dispair”

Regulars may recall that I’m part of a three Tuesday evening program at Wisdom Ways, Storying & Re-Storying.  Last evening was our second gathering, the one I was most eagerly anticipating because of our topic: Finding Words for Grieving, Dying and Death.  No, I am not frozen in grief.  But, I have had my share.  As Ruth Coughlin so aptly put it, “All you need to do is go through it once, just once, to get it.”  Julian of Norwich suggests “we stand in the mingling of belief and despair” all our lives.

My sister, Karen died of a horrific sinus cancer at 58 in 2005.  She is one of five siblings to have died.  My parents are gone.  Surely, life has dealt me my fair share of other hurts and losses which I have had to grieve.  But none is as lingering, persistent and deep as the loss of Karen.  I do not know why.  I no longer try to explain it.  I live with it.  Even last night, my eyes welled with tears.

In the first writing exercise I fumbled around with the conundrum that is grief…

Ponderous absence
Dense hole
Smothering nothingness
Fulsome emptiness
Glaring void
Impenetrable hollowness

If only I could pack enough imagery around the experience it would take shape – meaning, perhaps.  That is my unrequited hope. “All you need to do is go through it once, just once, to get it.”

I was given the beginnings of two poems.  The first…

Stays with you.
Doesn’t go.

Stay with it.

The most profound gift of the evening was the second poem.  I am certain it will be ruminating with me throughout Lent.  Here is a first flush:

The angel said, “He will save his people from their sins.”
Greatly troubled, she replied, “A childless mother?”
Demanding: “How can this be?”

“NO!” she shrieked, quaking.

And the curtain in the temple was rent.

I dedicate the second poem to Katherine, who gave me the image of the “childless mother.”

Julian of Norwich: “The mingling of both well-being and distress in us is so astonishing that can hardly tell what state we are in.  But the fact is, that is part of being whole.  We stand in this mingling all our life.”

Cited: Grieving: A Love Story (1993) by Ruth Coughlin.  New York: HarperPerennial, pp 8-9.

2 thoughts on ““Mingling Belief and Dispair”

  1. I have always found the idea of “closure” incredulous… We just learn to live through the waves of breath-taking sorrow that engulf us..and the sharp hit becomes more blunt with time, but it can still bring us to our knees.. The joy of love is to be the sorrow of loss.. That’s the deal..

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