Thursday, September 10, 2009

HE Has Been Good to Me

“For happiness one needs security, but joy can spring like a flower even from the cliffs of despair.”  -Anne Morrow Lindbergh
…and she would know. Anne Morrow Lindbergh’s young son was kidnapped and murdered in 1932, when he was less than two years old.

"Happiness" is a good way to describe many of the years we enjoyed as a family, before Katie was diagnosed with cancer. Gregg, David, Katie and I were a foursome, and we were very happy with that. We had a kind of security, in our family life, our love for each other and our community.

I’ve been suffering from sadness more than usual, this month. It feels as if I've been scaling "the cliffs of despair." If you are a regular reader of my blog, you will know that we scattered some of Katie’s ashes near our family home recently. I was blindsided by how much this event depressed me.
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We’ve been living without Katie for two years now. It’s fair to say that I have “made progress” in my grief during that time. By that, I mean that I am now able to function better in the world, two years later, than I was able to do immediately after her passing. I am not the same as I was before her passing, by any stretch of the imagination, but nowadays, I can put dinner together, get through the grocery store, go to a social function, write a letter to the school board and volunteer my services, all with some degree of competence. But after we scattered Katie’s ashes, I had trouble getting dressed and out of the house.

To give you a little perspective, my husband has his career outside of the home; my career is here, in the home. I have lost my job future. I am supposed to be raising Katie and David now. I am supposed to spend the three years after David leaves for college (next autumn) helping Katie move through high school and prepare for college. I have lost my female companion in our home, the feminine “take” on things, the person who could discuss “How do I look in this outfit?,” the girl who I wanted to support, from what to do when you get your first period to “Is this guy worth it?” to marriage and motherhood. I have lost every single day as a stay-at-home mother with her. It’s not just my broken heart we are talking about…it’s also my calling and career path.

During Katie's illness and shortly after her passing, my church imploded, and my closest girlfriend moved to another state. It's fair to say that my entire paradigm and much of my support system has been dismantled. What I have left is my marriage, our son & extended family, our home, a much smaller bank account, a few friends and God. It sounds like a lot to be thankful for, but lately I have been feeling deeply bereft. It's a good enough life, but it's not the life I had, and loved.

Scattering Katie's ashes made the grief for her, and for all that has been lost, fresh and sharp again. I thought it would bring the feeling that we had set her free, because it is the completion of a part of our promise to her. I thought I’d feel hope, because my ashes (and my parents’ ashes) will eventually be scattered in the same place, a place that Katie has loved and visited, literally from her birth, as I have. But it didn’t feel like freedom or hope; it felt like loss, letting go and tearing apart, and it took me back to a depth of sorrow that I haven’t suffered in over a year. I was devastated, almost as if I was watching her die again.

So I went to the funeral home and bought a new, small, heart-shaped urn. I will have some of Katie’s ashes put in it, and I will keep them. I am also going to buy a beautiful box for some of them. We will scatter most of her ashes at Camp Goodtimes, as she requested, but I now know that I have to prepare myself better for the event. It’s much bigger than I thought it would be, and it hurts more than I ever thought it would.

One of the things that helped me through this space was attending the funeral mass of our great-niece, Signe Katherine. Signe passed away on the day she was born, from a massive cerebral hemorrhage.
Signe Katherine 8-30-09
She was a beautiful and much-loved baby, and I was blessed to be able to hold her, kiss her and witness her baptism on the one day she lived in this world. Though I am not Catholic, Signe's mass gave me great comfort. It brought forth the tears that have been threatening to drown me;  releasing those tears freed me, somehow. I wept for Signe, for her parents - Andrea & Mike, for our extended family, and for Katie. It hurt, but the hurt was held in comfort and prayer, and was presided over with tenderness by the priest who also held and blessed Signe before she passed away. He didn’t offer banalities; he acknowledged the presence of mystery, loss and pain. But he also prayed with us, and for us, and it brought solace to my heart. There was sharing of love and of sorrow. I can see why traditions like these are powerful, meaningful and worthwhile.

This morning, as I sat with delicious coffee in my cup, and the sound of the furnace blowing warm air through our home, I was able to feel thankful, instead of just sad.

Ps. 13: 6    Let me sing of the LORD, “He has been good to me.”
It’s a hard road, but I have hope.  Joy is springing “from the cliffs of despair,” as Anne Morrow Lindbergh said. He has indeed been good to me, and I am grateful.

You can also read this over at Hopeful Parents today.


Elizabeth said...

I have no words. Only deep, deep feeling.

Anonymous said...

What a beautiful, heartfelt post . I am so very sorry . Please keep writing because you have readers out there who have not met you or your family but care very deeply about your pain and heartbreak .
You are in my thoughts today.

Anonymous said...

I've just had a thought , could you sadness right now be associated with the start of a new school year beginnings but without your beloved daughter ? I can't even begin to imagine how difficult it must have been to have seen some of the kids from your daughters year starting off all fresh and new at high school unbearably sad for you all .

karengberger said...

Yes, Anonymous, I'm sure that contributed to it. Thank you for your kind thoughts and words.

Smileygirl said...

I concur with Elizabeth. Just no words. Tears.
Love to you all.

Busy Bee Suz said...

No words could help you..but I do hope that writing down your thoughts and feelings somehow lighten the load you are carrying in your heart.
You are in my toughts and prayers.

Thank you for your kind birthday words too.
Hugs, Suz

Renee said...

Karen another meaning filled story of you and your family and your Kate.

I am without words as you have said them best.

Love Renee xoxo

Anonymous said...

Oh Karen, I'm so sorry that things are so difficult for you. Keeping you close in my thoughts - and I have said a special prayer for Signe, Andrea and Mike,

I hope the act of writing here helps you.


Clippy Mat said...

as always when i come here i am moved by your words and your faith and your love. i feel so, so sad for you, yet so inspired by your strength and faith.
sending you the biggest, warmest, heartfelt hug and a prayer.

Karen and Joe said...

Very thoughtful, beautiful post. I am so sorry you lost your mom
job and your future and your female sidekick and all the dreams you had for her. The death of a child covers such a wider scope than people know. Do you find that the mourning goes underground, like a tamped down fire, only to rise up again when something new happens to disturb the cinders?
It is lovely that you can praise God even on the cliffs. I am still working on that, though I know He has been merciful in spite of our loss.
Thanks for writing. I love your beautiful heart.

Mary said...

There is so much pressure out there to "get over it", "move through it", but grief comes in cycles, laying us down over and over. With each post I get a better of your connection and love for Katie and the scope of your grief. Thank you for sharing it. Thinking about you and sending love.

Gannet Girl said...

Such a beautiful and powerful post.

The loss of a child brings with it so many other losses, most of them invisible, never occuring to others.

Karla said...

Thankyou for all you share. You do so in such a lovely manner. Signe Katherine looks like such a dear little angel in the photograph. I am so sorry.

Michelle Council said...

Beautiful words. Only a mom would know who has lost a child to cancer. My Sarah went to heaven this year on May 21. She is so missed by us all but no more than myself. Its so hard most days to get up and get going to accomplish anything. I believe in God and I know that he is on my side. I am blessed to have found your spot and look forward to sharing in your journey.

God bless you,
Michelle Council

Kay said...

What a beautiful post! I'm sorry there has been so much renewed, raw pain of late. But I'm glad the mass allowed you to let some of it out. Also thankful for the priest's kind words. Glad he was so caring to you all.

JennyMac said...

Wow...this is so touching and poignant...made me smile..and made me want to cry.

Teresa @ Grammy Girlfriend said...

My heart hurts for you...I just went back and read most of Katies story...actually your families story...This was a beautiful post....Hope you will stop by and see me. Visit my new Christmas blog.

Anonymous said...

Love to you & your family, Karen :)

AnnDeO said...

Anne Morrow Lindbergh's writing has a way of soothing me in times of sorrow. My son Land is actually named after her son Land... She wrote once about how time doesn't necessarily heal but the grief and memories are like pearls on a necklace and they come back just as real and easily as touching them. Of course, she was much more eloquent. Thankyou for sharing your truest feelings.