Low Grade Depression

Jesus’ hand pressed on my chest.

I woke and made eye contact.

Sweat saturated my neck and shoulders.

He performed CPR.

The breath of life at all angles.

 

“Listen, are you listening?”

 

I nodded.

 

“You aren’t dying.

Your heart is strong.

This deep press on your heart

is waiting for a response.

I am acquainted with grief.

I am a man of sorrows.”

 

I could feel heat in my eyes.

 

“I wept

over Jerusalem

over Lazarus.”

 

I blinked tears that burned down.

 

“Things do get complicated

and the sorting out and attempts

of nailing those things down wearies you.”

 

I looked away.

 

“They tried to nail me down too.

I was too complicated.

I still Am to many.

Even you try to secure Me with nails.”

 

Eye contact.

 

“Yes, even now you try to manage Me.

You aren’t the only one.

But you are the one I am talking to now.”

 

His hand kept pressing in intervals

and pushed blood through the chambers.

 

“I am.”

 

I nodded.

 

“I Am.”

 

Tears flowed unhindered

and drenched His hand

while the compressions continued.

I so wanted to nail His hand

to my heart.

Return of the Prodigal by Rembrant

Pink Teddy Bear

She had flushed pink cheeks and her eyebrows wouldn’t sit still. Emily’s eyes, fixed on mine, wore anxiety and a shade of sad. Their teddy bear was dead, the one that connected my dying mother to my living six year old child. She couldn’t look at it. The bear she had covered with some of my work uniforms in our walk-in-closet. Emily’s guilt and grief were bound tight. Emily had forgotten to put the bear back up on her bed and Charlie our dog mangled it. Another loss.

The bear had been in the care of my mother until she passed away last year. The shaggy pink bear was looked after quite nicely by my mother. She made sure to send messages through me to Emily about how the bear was behaving. I told my mother how Emily was behaving.

IMG_0005

There is an album on my desk filled with written thoughts and poems and stories about my mother. On the cover is my mother holding the bear. It is one of my favorite photos of her. Emily sees the photo whenever she passes my desk. I reassured Emily that it was going to be okay. Her sadness awakened in me a sleeping grief. We shared it for a while.

I sat on the edge of our bed as Barbara spoke tenderly to Emily.

“I’m sorry you are so sad. It hurts doesn’t it? You know what? Grandma is babysitting the bear now. They are together.” Barbara, mother, kept speaking comfort and assurance to a little fractured heart. Mine.

Her words came from a mother place. Emily was comforted and I was too.

*

A year has passed since my mother died. It was early on a Monday morning. The all night vigil had taken its toll and I had fallen asleep. My head rested on the edge of the bed next to her womb. I woke to find her birthed into a greater light. One day I will awake and see her again, but not yet.

Siloam. We can’t see through the tears. Prayer poem for those affected in Conneticut.

Siloam

 

Lay these tears

over each other.

 

Let them roll

and fall on down

like a five year old.

 

May they collect

and form a pool of Siloam

while we wait for angels to stir.

 

Lay these tears

over each other.

 

Let them magnify

our crippled hearts

in the reflection.

 

May Jesus help

us into the salt water

of our own weeping.

I Picked Up My Mom. The last time was a month ago.

She was in a thick Tupperware like container.  Black.  The black box.  I thought of the NTSB.  Was this the size of the unit found after an accident?  If I were to plug it in would it give the reasons surrounding her death?

I reached to pull her out of the funeral home gift bag.  There was no crinkly paper sticking out of the top.   How heavy are ashes?  The box was heavier than I imagined. The thought must have been the influence of too many movies.  I remember scenes where ashes were dusted on gardens, into oceans, and over cliffs where particles spread in the breeze.  It took both my hands to lift her.

In the end a full hug embrace helped her stand.  I felt bones under her skin.  Now she was contained.  Were these the remnants of the skeletal frame which was once upon in time?

Marge asked me how I was “doing.”

The black box sat between us like a punctuation mark.

I asked Marge how she was “doing.”

She showed me the giraffe material.  It was the spotty skin of a giraffe like the spots I counted on my mother’s arm.  Her ashes would be poured into cloth skin.  No Tupperware.

I thought of all the tears.  It was a small room that couldn’t contain them.  Now, a month later, I regret not sealing those drops in Tupperware. They have since evaporated.  Oh, to pour them in over top of my mother’s remains.  All our salt water sprinkled to help preserve her memory a bit longer.

 

“You have seen me tossing and turning through the night.  You have collected all my tears and preserved them in your bottle! You have recorded every one in your book.”  Psalm 56:8  The Living Bible.

“Sorrow, like the river, must be given vent lest it erode its bank.”  Earl A. Grollman

 

When Sleep Came

Your eyelashes moved the

air between us.

The lids which carried them

would swing open and shut…

open and shut.

 

And there, soft blue would

circle the light within you.

That little light of yours

that did shine…

did shine on us.

 

When we were with you

lower loves were called up

to the higher one.

Agape’ would surface…

it would surface in us.

 

Your family would see

your smiles spread across.

Sometimes you would

lend them to the rest of us…

to rest on us.

 

A language from above

you would speak.

A coo of your own tongue

would rise with our questions…

rise above our questions.

 

Without a first step,

without a framed embrace,

without a formed word,

you spoke to our lives…

spoke into our lives.

 

And we slowed down

down to our being

where the still small voice is

that voice you heard

that voice we hear.

 

And when sleep came,

it came so sweetly and

air slipped in and out and

God held our breath…

God held our breath.

 

For the Webb family

in honor of Aiden Josiah Webb

April 1st 2011

 

 

© Gerald Allen Barrett and parentheticallyspeakingin3d, 2012.

“I feel so selfish.” A mother post.

“I feel so selfish.” I said it to two of my sisters outside of the assisted living home where my mother is spending her last few days of life.  I was so glad to hear my oldest sister say, “Me too.”

I remembered back to when my younger brother Peter was saying a very long goodbye to his first wife.  He had spent 20 years of his marriage going out on dates and such with a third wheel; cancer.  They were never alone.  She carried in her body an alien which reminded them constantly of the gift of life.  Near the final days he said to me, “It seems like the world should be stopping.”  Now I understand just a bit better what he meant.  I want to pick up a New York accent and yell at all the busy people, “Hey! Stop! Can’t you see my motha is dyin’ over heeah?”

My older brother John lost his first wife years back and I remember his words at a family reunion.  “Jerry, I am just so lonely.”  The Bible says that because of the finished work of the Lord Jesus Christ death has lost its sting (1Corinthians chapter 15).  I get that, and yet that doesn’t mean it won’t hurt like a bugger.   Those who hold faith in these verses and the work of Jesus will mourn, but not without hope.

So I say again, “I feel so selfish.”

There is a tree on my delivery route whose wound is slowly healing up.  In the first few days of being a senior in high school, her car veered off the road and struck a tree not a quarter mile from her house.  That was several years ago.  The ribbons and teddy bears and flowers are long gone.  Soon the bark will seal up with only a linear scar left.  I see her father once in a great while with a package in hand.  He looks all healed up too and yet…

“I feel so selfish.”

Within a year I watched two mothers care for their medically fragile boys.  One was seven, the other younger still.  The devotion of a mother is like no other on earth.  Near the end of each of these short lives the mother’s exhaustion was evident.  Their love was not exhausted though.  Hearts were broken open and spilling all over the boys they loved.

“I feel…”

Sixty two years ago, Marilee Barrett, daughter, sister, and wife added on another essence of womanhood…mother.  She never looked back.  Mothers usually don’t.  Ten children later she hung her heart out on the line like cloth diapers.  Again and again her love ruffled in the wind of time like white linen under cobalt skies.  Then, yesterday all of her children, whether there in spirit or in time and space, gathered.  We all stood, kneeled, and sat around her basinet beholding her as she beheld us.  My older sister wrote an e-mail that describes it so well.

“About 3 p.m., Carol (my mother’s youngest child) was with Mom, and asked to hold Mom’s hand. Mom smiled and said yes, and they both agreed that it was comforting.  Carol then told her that she would be going home (to S. Carolina) tomorrow, and Carol started crying. Mom then said to her “Then we should probably get this show on the road” – which led to more tears, and then Mom started praying. “Lord, take me” – several times.  At that point, several of the sibs came into the room, and we gathered around her.  It was a “God-blessed” awesome moment.  Here are Barb, Rob, Pat, Mary, Margaret, Jerry, and Carol (seven of my mother’s ten children) all surrounding her with love, and tears, and she says “I’m just ready for it to be done.  But I don’t know how!”  And she was crying.  Jerry read from John 14, and then prayed with everything in his heart to God to give her mercy, to give her comfort, to give us comfort, and to help her through this transition. John, Ellen, and Pete, (my mother’s other 3 children, who were unable to be there) we know that your hearts were there with us, but oh, how I wish you could have seen the power of love happening in that moment.  Not just our love for her, and her love for us, but God’s love working all the way through that room.  We shared memories then, and just little tidbits of our relationship with her, and there was some levity in our conversation.  But most of all, I think God worked His peace into all our hearts – which we all hope that you feel as well.”

Just before that blessed time I had finished a poem. It was for my siblings that had been gestating in my heart over the past few weeks.  I was going to read it to them at a family meeting last night (which I ended up doing).  The words I had written were underlined around that bed before I uttered one of them.  God hovered over all of us.  Every kind of tear was shed.  Bitter-sweet ones, joy filled ones, sad ones, happy ones, silly ones, and pear shaped ones of love were falling like rain.  Even Jesus wept.  I couldn’t help but think we were in a birthing room.

 

Our cries separate us

as broken water.

So we draw closer,

like contractions.

 

We bear down in grief

and our labor pains

begin to push her

toward the light.

 

As she endured the pains

of childbirth, we will too.

All ten of us have come

to breathe a rhythm over her.

 

Oh, time will dilate

for her safe passage,

and our prayers

will carry her.

 

God knows when she

will birth from our womb.

For now, she floats in our love.

Suspended but for a moment.

 

 

“I feel so selfish, but not guilty.”

 

 

© Gerald Allen Barrett and parentheticallyspeakingin3d, 2012.