Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Major Surgery

I feel like I'm in the hospital after major surgery, too sick and too tired to have visitors. And maybe that is true.

Let's face it: I have never been good at letting go. I don't like parting with those I love; I don't like leaving places where I've been happy. So now, since Katie's passing, it seems as if I've had "major surgery," as Father Rohr says, and I am not liking the way I feel. I don't like parting with someone I love, and with a life that I enjoyed fully.

I'm mad. I'm sad. I don't like hurting every day. I don't want to let bitterness creep in. I don't want to turn into someone I don't like or recognize. That's a lot of negativity, right there in one short paragraph. Pretty shocking from a positive, cheerful woman.

Listen: can you imagine, for even a moment, how it feels to be one of the "different" ones? We are different from everyone else whose children are all alive. Different, because we have what I call "the big owie." The booby prize, the one that every parent fears, the one that will never go away. We have had to say goodbye, permanently, and my friends, she is not ever coming back here. Not for Thanksgiving, for prom, for graduation, for college, for marriage, for birthdays, for Christmas, for babies, for vacation, for growing together. "Never in this life" is a very long time. You might call it "a life sentence." That is how it feels to me.

Back a couple of hundred, or even one hundred years ago, having a child die before she reached adulthood was not all that uncommon. People had stillbirths, miscarriages and the so-called childhood diseases to contend with. Many of the drugs that we have nowadays didn't exist, nor vaccinations to protect children against illnesses that we rarely even hear named anymore. We wouldn't have been so very "different" then. But now, it's rare to have a child die, at 12 years of age, in America.

Maybe some of you also have a feeling of being different, with suffering due to death, infertility, miscarriage, stillbirth, abuse, alcohol or something else that makes you feel "other" than those around you. If so, you have my deep empathy and compassion. Maybe we are not as much alone as we think, since I can sense your presence as I write this. Our humanity, our brokenness, links us together, but we spend so much time hiding our wounds that we forget that we are brothers and sisters to all.

The paradox is that I want, I choose, to wrap myself in solitude right now, instead of surrounding myself with people. Here is why I choose it:

I don't want to dump on you.
I don't want to infect you with our sorrow.
I don't want to deal with your fear of our reality, your shock and your dismay. I have plenty of my own.
I don't want you to pity me.
I don't want to horrify and frighten you with what really can, does, and did happen.
I don't want to risk trusting you.
I don't want to place the steaming, flaming icy/hot brick of my grief into your hands and watch you drop it.
I don't want any more loss or goodbyes.
I'm not as tolerant, patient or compassionate as I used to be.
I'm not willing to deal with bullsh*t anymore. NOT. WILLING.

It's easier to be alone, these days, than it is to deal with the emotions of others, and frankly, my boundaries are not as strong as they need to be. So if I avoid you, it's not about YOU; it's what I need. And because of Katie's instructions to me, I am not going to apologize for it. It's just the way things are.

My husband and I (and our son) are closer than ever. We laugh harder, and more often; we enjoy the small things in life more. But we live every single day with a pain that is shocking in its intensity, shocking in its tenacity and in its reality. It is draining, because it is there every day when we wake up and every night when we go to sleep.

I wish I was nicer & sweeter. I liked that about myself, before the sh*tstorm hit us. But I am tougher, stronger, and - paradoxically - more loving now, than I ever was before; I know it. So I will just have to accept what this is, and what it makes of me, as I ask God to help me through it every day.

The photos are of me (the littlest one), my brother and sister, on Bainbridge Island.


catperry said...

Holding you close in my thoughts and prayers. I too enjoy my time alone, searching for the way we are to go, trying hard to see or hear it.
"Dear God, PLEASE wrap your arms around all of us who have lost a child, grant us peace in our hearts and minds, guide us now through and to the life you have planned for us. Giving you THANKS for our childrens lives and the joy they brought us. They will live forever because of you."
In Jesus name, AMEN

amanda said...

I am thinking of you and keeping you in my prayers... I am praying for peace in your heart, soul, and mind...

KBL 2 ORD 2 SAN 2 LUV said...

'Round here in Blogistan, we welcome searing, icy hot bricks.

We want to feel their burdensome weight.

In that way, we hope the bricks don't feel as heavy as they can for you.

It is an honor to share in carrying your grief's weight. We come here to your corner willingly, remember that. Each time we know that we may be asked to carry just one more seathing, simmering, throbbing brick.

And like I said, we welcome it. This is as humanity should be Karen.

My prayers are with you.

Mary Jo said...

You don't know me, but I have been traveling with you on your journey for quite some time. Karen, you have been a blessing in my life. I pray for you and your family every day. I don't have the "right" words to say to you, but we are together in God's arms. Isn't it amazing that God's arms are wide enough to encompass both you and me and Katie, all at the same time? That brings me such comfort at night......I rest in God's arms....and then I remember all those who are also resting in His arms.....and I realize that means we are all TOGETHER in His arms. Wow.......all together.......all as one. Katie is playing with Teresa....and all is well....all is well.

A said...

Thank you kbl2 ord 2 san 2 luv...yes, Karen, those of us who come to your corner...love you. I know I can't carry the bricks, but what you wrote is so profound, I sit here, lighting a candle, sending you all my love...loving you - Angela

Busy Bee Suz said...

Get it all out. That is why you write. Nothing will ever fill the void of Katie, but you can dump your bad feelings here. I hope you feel a bit, maybe even a tinge of relief when you get something off your chest, out of your heart. take care, Suz

Kay said...

Yes, this is why you write. To get it out. And this *is* a safe place for you. I think of you all the time and I'm praying for you!

Contemplative Photographer said...

Thank you for trusting us with your grief and your fury. Those bricks are building something new and amazing within each of us.

Dawn~^i^Brandon^i^, Jordan, and Seth's mom said...

Hi Karen,

Yes I too, take on and off that same "mask" that you probably wear at times. And yes I too, have become different than the person I was, but I am slowly getting back to her. It's that "filter" that I will always hate, this side of Heaven. You know....everything, every smell, every action and actvity, every emotion, and every breath and heartbeat goes through the filter of "before" and "after".

Keep pressing on, and I know in those moments of solitude ~ those are times that are needed (atleast they were and still can be for me).

Praying for you, and TOTALLY understanding!


Smileygirl said...

You are soooo REAL Karen. And you feel so much and express and share your feelings with the rest of the world in a raw, genuine nature. I admire you so much.

You are real because you feel and day by day, you will heal.

Loving you and your guys.

Jennifer said...

Wrenching, pensive, thoughtful, raw post. I stand with you in your pain and cry out with you in all the manifestations of the sorrow. Keep writing. Keep on. Your honesty about the pain/hole in your life has a terrible beauty in how "it is what it is." And you look at it squarely. So many try to ignore, bypass or cover up their pain ... try to arrange themselves so they're "presenting well." You don't. And right on with staying in keeping with Katie's words to you by not apologizing for your choices. Wise advice on her part. And good on you for sticking with it.
I have been dealing recently with choosing solitude, for many of the reasons you cited for yourself, from sensing others' pity for me -- which I reject -- to watching people drop my hot brick of deep sadness to having to handle OTHERS' emotions about my situation, on top of my own. (Sometimes I just want to say, "Dude, do I LOOK like a therapist? Does it seem anywhere in the realm of cool that I am pouring out and comforting YOU about MY painful situation?!") And, yes, your words about the struggle of "I'm not as patient/compassionate as I used to be." Indeed. I seem to have a much more expansive compassion for those who are deeply suffering, and, unfortunately, much LESS compassion for those who are very upset over minor issues. Part of the fallout, I guess.
Finally, your words at the end -- of accepting what THIS is and what it makes of you -- were a true balm to me. A hard truth that is not spoken as much as it should be. Instead, one often gets empty words of false cheer or a weirdly chipper framework of what life "should" be, that isn't truly the reality. I am so weary of that. Keep speaking your truth, Karen. We are here with you.

Deep peace and strength to you,

Maggie said...

Take all the time you need to yourself Karen. You will never be alone. We will always be here for you quietly lifting you and your family in thoughts and prayers.