Grief Walking

One way to look at our lives is to look at the stories, our lives may be nothing more than stories. Short, long, novel, novella, or in some cases a comedy in 3 acts. . . .

The single biggest part of my creating a blog was to tell my stories. Some people are diarists. I read of them, of a life time of entries. I think of the richness of Madeline L'engle's books, and a life time of her stories; but I am not that person. I am a performer. I tell my life in stories.

I woke up a few days ago, and felt compelled to write this out. I sent it out as a letter to an old teacher, but here it is.

I awoke this morning with snowshoeing on my mind. But, like all races, I really should start at the beginning.
In July of last year, after two years’ struggle, Owen and I found ourselves finally pregnant, finally about to become parents. The pregnancy progressed well, and we were thrilled. In December I fell ill, and after a week of tests and hospitalization and increasing concern, we found ourselves giving birth to our son, 15 weeks before his due date. Pre-eclampsia is a strange and sudden disease. I find it remarkable that a disease so old, can still kill a woman in our world every 6 minutes. It just doesn’t seem possible, in this day and age, where we can send men to space and deep underwater, we can map the genome, we can engineer babies in a test tube, that we can’t cure this disease except through delivery. It seems odd that in the modern world, women can still die of pregnancy.

He was a beautiful baby, just a little over a pound, with all his fingers and toes, and a full head of hair. We named and baptized him Gabriel Anton, and about 30 minutes after his birth he went home to heaven. We buried him on the 21st of December, and found ourselves trying to regain the lost traces of our lives. There are two periods in our lives now, before and after Gabriel.
So, back to this morning – I have awoken early, some hour and a half before I needed to, and I found myself thinking of snowshoeing, and how much grief is like a very long race. I have returned to work this past week, and I find myself running into colleagues, and explaining why I am not hugely pregnant. They invariably ask me “how do you do it. I’d loose my mind”. I find myself thinking of times when I have told people about 40km snowshoe races. I can hardly believe that I did that either. But the answers are strangely the same. You get up, you get dressed, you put one foot in front of the other. Breathe in, breathe out. Keep walking. At the end there is a hot shower, a meal, some comfort. But you have to keep moving forward to get there.

Grief is so much like this. I find myself changed, in ways that I don’t fully appreciate yet. And while Owen and I have both lost our son, and our families have lost a much wanted member, like all races, much of grief is a walk on your own. We may sing or play games to pass the time, whine or complain, but most of the race is on your own, in your head. I find myself thinking of Sherwood, who always maintained that there was a special place in heaven for race marshals who brought hot chocolate.

I find check stops, a period of respite here and there, where someone, often one who has walked part of this race before, can comfort me, remind me that all races have an end, and given me some strength for the miles of walking. There is much unexpected kindness. People who stop to visit, who pray for us, and who remind us that our Redeemer lives, and will stand upon the earth. I am not sure what the end will look like, right now I can’t begin to conceive of it. There are large markers – 2 months, my return to work, my due date, the tree planting ceremony we will hold, getting past mother’s day.

I have found myself thinking of the outdoors program, and the idea of creating character through adversity. I remember your words, that we build character through challenge and adventure, and I remind myself that this is what I am doing. I am different now, in ways that I am only beginning to understand. I remind myself to be thankful, that character takes courage sometimes. Mostly when we think of courage, we think of large and bold acts. Really though, I think courage is made up of small choices, made on a daily basis. The choice to put one foot in front of the other. To acknowledge the subtle changes, the adjustment to what was supposed to be, and what actually is. I lived death in Advent, and I am learning about re-birth in Lent. I remember the words of the Journey of the Magi in snatches, words about cold hard journey’s and birth and death, and I understand the birth and the passion and the resurrection in a depth I never could before.

And I think of snowshoe races, and courage, and character, and I remember that all things end, and the end of a matter is better than it’s beginning, and I think of the people I have snow shoed beside me, and I am thankful. I was reminded of you this morning.