I had all intentions of blogging Tuesday on my four day trip to North Carolina, the land of sweet tea, biscuits and gravy, and Cookout milkshakes. I even took some photos of my meals along the way and was prepared to confess that it started well (by well I mean written down and “counted” and ended in a biscuit sandwich with egg, cheese, and bologna with a side of fries and who cares. And then my week happend.
Monday night my hard drive crashed, so Tuesday when I took my baby to the doctor, they told me, it’s gone. Everything. And I need to order a new hard drive. I’m trying not to think too much about how much was on the hard drive that hasn’t been backed up on the server due to a. my laziness, off-site work, and frustration at the complexity of getting things to the actual server and b. the fact that our back up hasn’t been backing up for quite awhile, and I haven’t pursued it. So, needless to say, my post was delayed. And now I can no longer write about the journey into the land of Carbohydrate Temptation. I have to write about stuff I don’t want to look at or think about. I need to come clean about some of my struggle with other challenges…namely disability, abuse, and death. Talk about a serious turn for a blog that usually focuses on my weekly weigh-ins. So, look at this as a long two paragraph disclaimer and warning. If you don’t want to read about the previous three things–DON”T GO HERE! Look away and come back next week.
Why these three things? Well, I suppose the death of my hard drive, the fact that it’s Disabities Awareness Week at the school I work at, and the reality that next week is Holy Week might play into it. And much as I like to avoid the reality of the end of Holy Week, and let me tell you, I do, this year I can’t. Though I love Lent, the contemplation, the introspection, the journey, I always seem to want to skip over Good Friday. (Why we call it good still baffles me.) Spending a whole week preparing for a day of death–and not a pretty, die in your sleep at age 80 mind you, we’re talking painful, crushing, soul-killing death–there have been years where this was too much. I couldn’t go there because I lived there. And that’s why I needed to write about this. You see, there are people sitting in the pews, walking on the street, standing in the pulpit who have lived a year or a lifetime on the cross . What are you talking about? Year on the cross–surely no one has experienced the kind of pain of Jesus. Some might be thinking. That’s true. No one can experience another person’s pain exactly. But I think the thing that makes the story of Christ so very powerful is the fact that human life is filled not only with joy, not only with laughter, not only with mistakes, not only with betrayal, but also with suffering. Sometimes so much so, it’s hard to bear witness.
This week has been a week of bearing witness to this kind of suffering. Tuesday night I had long phone conversations with both my parents. Both lamented about my niece (We’ll call her Ophelia.) You see, we knew before Ophelia was born this past June that it wasn’t going to be easy. She had a heart condition that was going to necessitate open heart surgey at birth, six months, and two years. So, we prayed for a miracle, and when Ophelia arrived, she had more complications than the doctors thought. And my sister and brother-in-law made the courageous decision to take Ophelia home and forego surgery, and we were all told Ophelia would not live past a month. And we prayed for a miracle. Well, we got our miracle. Ophelia lives. No heart surgery and no heart change, she lives. Like Lazarus, Ophelia continues to live. Like the Lazarus in Carrie Newcomer’s song, the life isn’t exactly the miracle I thought. You see, touch no longer comforts her, eating appears to give her tremendous pain and provokes horrific cries, and her body, fists, and face contort in what looks like rage. Now, don’t get me wrong, there are also many moments of grace with Ophelia, and she is loved beyond measure by us all. But to watch a 10 month old cry in agony day after day and be able to offer no more than a crib, well that’s hard for an auntie. I can only imagine how hard it is for her mom and her dad. To have spent 10 sleepless months. That’s rough. To have spent 1o sleepless months with no real sense of what’s next, how to proceed, or how to alleviate the situation, that my friends is suffering. And so as we approach Good Friday, it seems it’s been a year of the cross for them. In a house holding what many have named the miracle baby lives a family who may not see it that way. And I can’t help but wonder what really witnessing this suffering would mean rather than trying to move Ophelia to resurrection to ease a community’s (and my own) anxiety.
And it’s not just Ophelia’s suffering that’s been on my mind. You see yesterday was one of those days. I couldn’t escape it. I was also asked to share a poem at F&M’s Take Back the Night. An evening to bear witness to the crucifixtion of persons sexually assualted. It had been several years since I’d been to a Take Back the Night, and honestly, yesterday I wasn’t really feeling like going much less reading a poem. These nights are long. Painful. Exhausting. Telling my story hurts. Especially looking in faces of women and men who understand me without my saying a word. But I said yes. And in the finding of the poem, preparing for the night, listening to the stories, sharing mine, and sitting with a young woman afterward, I realized that something miraculous has indeed happened. You see for many, many years I tried to ignore the pain and suffering of sexual abuse. And then for many years, I lived with the feelings, in what I think of as “years of the cross” where I lived as if I was who I was inspite of what happened. Over the last year, I’ve started to tell people I am who I am because of what happened. For me this is the resurrection moment. As I read my poem last night, I realized the poem is a eulogy to myself. To the death of a little girl. It is a huge loss and one that needed to be grieved and mourned. I needed to live through my own Good Friday experience before I could ever live in the joy of Easter.
And here’s the thing about Good Friday experiences. They suck! There’s no glory in it. They are painful. They mean living through the thoughts and feelings we’re not supposed to have–you know the “my God why have you foresaken me” thoughts the “I’m pissed these people can’t even stay awake with me” feelings, the “Please take this away from me” moments. It’s got all of those. And getting to resurrection means naming and claiming them. Now folks, that is hard work. It is not for the faint of heart. But here’s the other piece. It’s not only hard on the person suffering. It is also hard work for the community. It means pat answers, spiritual platitudes, and a desire to live Holy Week like someone else’s story won’t do. No, bearing witness to the crucifixtions in your community means living Holy Week. It is not about shame, blame, or calling someone else a name. It’s about having courage. To bear witness. To stand at the foot of one another’s crosses. To annoint one another’s wounds. To seek our place in the story. It is what makes us pilgrims and not tourists on life’s journey. How else can we hope to taste resurrection if we have not had the courage to hold one another’s cups of suffering or to take a sip of our own?
Quotations for the week;
I aught to be grateful to drink from the grail / But I don’t be belong on either side of this veil.–Carrie Newcomer
I mourn for her death / because no one else will / for he left an unmarked grave and no witnesses to tell.–Megan Malick