Saturday, September 19, 2009

The Drain of Ordinary Tasks

It's amazing how much effort the ordinary things of life take these days. Bryan has been back at work full time for a week now, and he's been completely exhausted each night when he's arrived at home. He has his own stories of how hard normal stuff is when you're in the midst of grief, so I will let him share his if he so wishes. For me, it takes most of my energy just to live a day of life, so I can't even imagine how he's managing to be a functioning part of North Point's staff.

Each day when I wake up, I immediately start praying -- for the grace to make it through that day, for patience with Caleb and Joel, for peace in my heart, for God's comfort to be real and present, for me to depend on God in each moment, for courage to grieve when the waves come, for the freedom to rejoice when joy sneaks up on me, and for the strength to do whatever needs to be done in that day. Though for awhile now it's been my practice to pray as soon as I wake up, these days I do it out of sheer necessity. I am more aware of my need for God than I have ever been -- though in truth I need Him no more now than I always have. It's just that I can see it clearly now -- how incapable I am of honoring God on my own in each day. I can't possibly honor Him without His stores of grace, love, strength, patience, and kindness dwelling richly in me. I need God to honor God, and in grief I need Him to accomplish even the smallest of tasks.

The last few days have held more "to-dos" for me than the previous couple of weeks. I have been working to donate my pumped breast milk to a milk bank for sick babies since the day Samuel died, but my mom has really headed up the charge on it. There have only been a few parts of the process that I have had to do on my own. One of them was to get a blood test. So, on Thursday I headed to a lab for a blood draw. It didn't seem like that big of deal to me, but it took more energy than I expected. After getting lost for about 45 minutes (which surprisingly didn't bother me in the least -- I guess it's the little stuff staying little), I then had to endure my first bout of small talk. I had no idea how draining that would be. It was painful to listen to the woman who drew my blood talk about how she wished she could donate her milk -- how I wish I couldn't donate mine because Samuel would be drinking it! -- and about her baby and what he's up to. She didn't know my circumstances, so she wasn't being insensitive, but I felt frozen -- unable to respond in any normal kind of way. I think I just sat in silence and tried to offer a grin, which I imagine looked more like a grimace.

Then yesterday I tackled getting my haircut. You wouldn't think this would be hard, but I have been putting it off since Samuel died. What happens when you get a haircut? Either small talk (exhausting!) or personal divulgences. I haven't been up for either. Finally I decided to bite the bullet, so I could do it while Mom is still here and getting away is easy. I braced myself for what I expected to be a rough hour. And it was. Moments into sitting on the chair, I got the question I had been praying she wouldn't ask: "So, how many kids do you have?" Thankfully I had thought of my answer ahead of time. Since I didn't want to tell my sob story and end up bawling in the salon, I replied, "I have a 4 year old and 2 year old at home." Somehow answering "two" would have felt like a betrayal to Samuel, and answering "three" would have lead to more questions: "how old are they?", "you have a baby?", "who's watching him now?", etc.

Unfortunately, I wasn't able to skirt more questions about kids. "Do you want more?" came next. I don't know exactly why that question was painful because I definitely do want more -- and did even when Samuel was seconds old and his future looked promising. But something about being asked that just two and half weeks after my baby has died felt any child I would want would be in an effort to replace Samuel, who can't possibly be replaced. What I want is Samuel -- not some phantom other baby. I simply answered, "yes." Next came, "So how many do you want?" All I could think was, "when is this going to end?"

Even once we got off the topic of children, I found small talk beyond my grasp. She was asking me about books -- something I love -- and I could barely find it in me to answer. At some point, I realized I was clasping my hands in my lap so tightly that they were aching. I am sure my knuckles were bone-white under the drape. I was working so hard to hold in all the pain, all the memories, all the love I have for my son -- so that it wouldn't come spilling out in a flood of tears-- that my body was physically spent from the effort. When it finally came time for the blow dryer, I spent my energy praying fervently for one of my best friends who was in labor with her first child. (Welcome to life, little Simon Peter Lee!) I think I slumped out of there once my haircut was done.

Truly, it takes tremendous amounts of energy to do the simplest of tasks (which is one of the reasons I am so thankful for the continued meals friends are bringing us!). I have to gear up to pull together the boys' lunches -- we're talking pb&j's here!, to clean up a meal, to do laundry, to get in the car and drive somewhere, and to make any sort of phone call. Phone calls seem to be the very worst. I feel the most prone to unexpected tears when I'm on the phone (maybe because I loathe talking on the phone even under normal circumstances). In fact, I still haven't spoken to one of my best friends since Samuel was born because it seems so daunting and so likely to dissolve into sobbing (we email, never fear!).

Though each day I find I am able to do more things and care for my boys more, it still takes reserves of strength I didn't have to tap into before Samuel died. I am nervous for life once Mom leaves. It will soon be time for me to be the sole adult in the house Monday through Friday from 8am-5:30pm, but I am apprehensive about it. The Lord will have to fill in even more gaps than He already does. And I will have to depend on Him in new ways yet again. In many ways this is good for me. I have perhaps been too proud of my ability to parent my sons and enjoy them fully. I won't be able to "do life" on my own; I will need God every moment. And, oh so thankfully, He will be here every moment I think to ask for Him and every moment I don't. He has shown up again and again in these days of grieving, and He will continue to show up. How do people do this without Jesus? I have no idea.

Another of my best friends, Kiley, sent me a couple of verses from Psalm 84, and I have found great comfort and peace in them. Verses 5-6 say:

"Happy are those who are strong in the Lord,...
When they walk through the Valley of Weeping,
it will become a place of refreshing springs,
where pools of blessing collect after the rains!"

I take comfort in knowing that someday I will find that this Valley of Weeping is full of refreshing springs and pools of blessing. Though I can't see them in the depth of this grief, they are coming. I must be strong in the Lord, not in my own might, and the refreshment and blessing will abound. Many of you already are the refreshment and blessing our spirits need. Thank you! And hooray for a God who has walked His own Valley of Weeping and is showing us day by day the refreshing springs of His son Jesus and the pools of blessing we find in life with Christ!


  1. I've experienced loss before, but I've never been to the place you are at, this Valley of Weeping, not at this level, and I honestly and selfishly never want to go there. I want to give words of comfort to you two, but anything I try to say sounds so much like a cliche or a platitude that I'd rather say nothing at all, except this: that I'm reading and listening and praying, as are so many others.

  2. Hey guys, I don't know Jim, but I will say ditto. Kat, the kids are out of school this week and will be with my Mom. If it ever quits raining this week and you feel up to it, maybe you could bring the boys to the old hood and hang with Mom and the kids. I am going back to SC on Wed for work again....just a thought. As always, we are here. Love to all.....

  3. Katherine: I admire your eloquence and honesty about your grief. You are doing grief's work and that will get you to the other side...there is no escaping it. I rememeber during periods of grief in my life needing to wear sun glasses in public to shield me from the pain of public conversation...I too was unable to talk on the phone. I applaud you for listening to your insides...And I urge you to get some sun least for your trip to the Beach...tee hee.

    All my prayers and love, Marta's Kim