I went to mass on Monday night, and the readings were tough.
I will praise thee O Lord, with my whole heart.
I will show forth all thy marvelous works.
I will be glad and rejoice in thee
I will sing praises to thy name, O thou Most High.
Psalm 9: 1-2
I went to mass and lit a candle and knelt and prayed, and then those verses. I wasn’t so into showing forth praise. There was little singing and utterly no rejoicing. Hard stuff.
The point of reciting the psalms in the daily offices is not and never was to find psalms that appeal to your particular mood. Sometimes things will resonate, and sometimes they won’t. The point is the liturgical tradition of a group of people gathering to recite the word of God – participating in a centuries old tradition. The point is in the connection to something larger than yourself, something that transcends present circumstances and moves us into the universal.
I have been thinking a lot of continuity for the last few weeks, perhaps without realizing that I am thinking of continuity. As I struggle to defend the notion I am a new person, not the same person I was right after my son died – as I struggle with my ever present and very real grief, especially on days like Monday when it consumes me. When I sit by the water and sob, when I sit in my bathtub and sob, the words in my heart are exactly the same as they were 5 years ago. Nothing has changed.
Oh God, this hurts so much. Oh God, just why? Why did this happen? Why couldn’t he stay? It hurts, it hurts, it hurts.
I realized, sitting in that pew, I was mistaken. I thought if I could make the case that I was new, a new person, a new creation, forged in the smithy of tragedy, I could say that I was stronger, more resilient, all better and not weak and mewling. I thought I could run from the hurt.
Perhaps more importantly, I will not.
These moments of pain and sorrow, that one day a year it eclipses and engulfs me, it is the cost I pay for giving Gabriel my heart. It is the cost I pay for whispering to the universe my fondest wish – that I wanted to be a mother. It was the cost of falling in love with another human being even before I met him.
When your child dies before you – you perpetually live with your heart in 2 places. And one of those places is hidden from you. I do not know if my son is warm, if he is safe. I don’t even know if he knows I am his mother, if on some existential level he really exists.
That woman who grieves, who sobs, who would still lay down her life to have her son back, she is me. She is the same me that kicks ass in heels and laughs at stupid things and geeks out over Star Wars. She’s the same me that tries to be a good friend and a great wife.
She’s me. All of it. I am still her.
Tragedy may refine, but I no longer think it can create anew.