What is it about kindness that can reduce us to honesty and vulnerability? There is still the occasional day my emotions feel so raw that I pray nobody will talk to me as I wander the aisles of the grocery store, getting a few extras for supper. Calvin can’t sit in a cart so I push him in his wheelchair which makes us objects of curiosity and sympathy. Not that I’m not grateful, it’s comforting that people care but it is hard to be reminded everywhere I go that something is causing people to stare at my son. Whenever I’m with him we can never float in oblivion, instead we are watched in every aisle.
I’d wandered all the aisles going about my business, trying not to be sensitive to other’s eyes and avoiding eyes so I didn’t have to make conversation. Normally I don’t mind but there’s times when the grasp on my emotions is too thin. We were waiting in the checkout line. Calvin had been fussing so I was holding him although with his lack of muscle tone he more or less just drapes over me. An older woman ahead of me looked compassionately at us and I smiled back as if everything in the world was just right.
“Honey, what’s wrong with him?” she asked curiously and with concern. Words always fail me. I feel like saying the unpolished truth, “He has massive brain damage,” and see if she has as much trouble as I digesting it. But labels make us feel safer, they draw the lines more clearly between ‘us’ and ‘them’. He has that and she has this, it seems how society packages our brokenness in neat little packages and tidy diagnoses. And so I caved and gave the safe and acceptable answer, “He has a neurological problem.”
“Can you do therapy to fix that? Will he be okay?” she asked. I stared incomprehensibly at her. It’s not her fault, we always want a happy ending don’t we? It’s hard to end a story without the silver lining. But some days I don’t want to think about the silver lining. Some days I want to just bury my head in his crazy hair and hold him tight and dream of him reaching for me.
“No, he’s not going to be okay,” was all I could say. By this time all attempts to wall in grief were crumbled and the woman and cashier stared dumbly at me a mess of tears and tissues. They said nothing and proceeded to finish their transaction.
There’s a time to let grief linger in our souls. A time to taste the bitterness of brokenness. A time to acknowledge our inability to beat the sorrow. A time for letting others see our grief instead of presenting it in a way that glosses the deep crevices in the heart. Grief makes Jesus and His salvation all the more healing and hopeful for our broken souls. Are you overwhelmed by grief this season? Don’t hide your grief, run to Jesus with it. Again and again.