Today I want to share something more intimate with you about pain and living forward. Earlier this year, my family and I we honored the 10-year anniversary of our daughter Hadley’s passing and her death in 2011. And I found myself for a couple months, just feeling the… I don’t even know if weight is the right word, but just the honoring of the reality of learning to live each of us individually and collectively as a family how to live forward. How to actually move forward. And it’s definitely become easier by the year but doesn’t mean the the pain or the loss is not there.
It’s just a new way of learning to live holding both joy and pain at the same time. So I wanna share with you a poem that I wrote. Her birthday is upcoming.
This month I always tend to be reflective as well. And our holiday seasons are always bookended by her birthday and then her anniversary of her passing. I’ll share the poem with you now and then reflect on it a little bit with you, 10 years living forward,
“Ten rings later in the oak tree. Ten rings later and the oak tree. Radius etchings tell the truth of living forward. Closer to fine. Empty bedroom, not to dinner. Quiet, deafening, disappearance. No search party assembled. Empty wheelchair affixed for helium flight. Unconvincing logic to limbic smells and sounds. Was that her shadow? Her cry? Hair clippers to mourn the reminder of not fine. Staggering, limping, walking, living again, rings seared chronicles of summers laughing. Winters ruminating, springs living. All the roots go deeper when it’s dry.”
So as I reflect back on her death in passing, I envision this trees aging rings, a cross section of a log. And as you see like in the rings, each annual etching tells a different story. Some are like thick with growth. In a tree, it’s like, “Oh wow, there must have been a lot of rain that year, was lots of moisture, easy for that tree to grow.” Others are really thin, very small amount of growth, but the tree is still standing. And as I began to reflect on that as her passing, no search party assembled, she was missing at dinner. Her bedroom was empty. But we knew why. In our mind. But our soul and our body didn’t. Our limbic brain, the part of our brain that stores meaning, and sense, and smell aroused by someone’s presence. I remember just being haunted by that for years, “Oh, it sounded like her. Oh, that’s not her. Was that her cry? No.”
And in the honoring of her passing, I had read a passage in the book of Job. And when Job’s children had died, so many tragedies had become him. But it was the last straw when the house collapsed on all of his children. And the two things he did was he shaved his head and worship God. I remember having my kids, Averi and Holden, shave my head with me. And I wore my hair clipper down to skin for a year, just to remind myself, I’m not fine, and that’s okay, but have a visceral reminder.
I would go to touch my head in the morning and it would have these, you know, scaly bumps from no hair, or I’d be cold, or I looked not attractive in the mirror. But all of those were reminders. That’s okay. I’m not supposed to be fine. And then as we progressed, moving through summers laughing, winters ruminating, and springs living, moving from staggering and limping to walking to living again, and all the roots go deeper when it’s dry.
So, friends, like you, I’ve lived long enough to know to live authentically, to become wholehearted requires us to embrace our humanities spectrum, and remind our souls that God is with us and for us, even when, even when. Friends, you can do this. It’s worth it. You’re worth it.