love notes tucked in lunches are only the start
‘round about dinner time the other night, the email slipped in. a note under the door, unnoticed. for a while. but then, i must have tiptoed back, glanced at the flat black box that these days brings me most of my news.
there it was, marked simply, starkly: “sad news.”
oh, no, i gulped, afraid to peek inside.
when i clicked, i read, and heard my heart break too. there’s a little girl in my little one’s second-grade class. her name is alice. and her mama had just died.
now i don’t know alice. and i’ve never met her mama. maybe i’ve seen her here or there, but she’s not someone i would’ve pointed to, said, oh, there’s alice’s lovely blessed mama.
but nonetheless i swallowed back a tear.
the news came home, crept beneath my door. told me once again what i know–what we all know–but what we lose track of when one zany day melds into the next. when what we worry about is getting dinner on the table, and children into bed. when we worry for our jobs. and mutter frazzled sounds when the crayon goes through the wash. or the gas tank’s left on empty, and we’re late for where we’re due.
i read the words and remembered once again that every day, every hour, there is a child, there are children, who lose a holy blessed mama. who, if they’re lucky, kiss her on the cheek as it drains of all its warmth, or don’t let go.
there are children, little ones, who don’t get one more bedtime to squeeze their mama’s hand, to watch her shadow slip from the bedroom, count her footsteps as they fade down the stairs.
that there was–is–a little girl, one born the very year that my little one was born, a year that seems so not-so-long ago, that there is a little girl who is absorbing the wholeness of what it means to lose her mama, well that’s a ghost that haunts me.
i carried the news back into the kitchen, where i’d been stirring. i ladled dinner onto plates. we sat, held hands and prayed. i prayed for alice, of course. i’d asked my little one all about her; he showed me her picture in his yearbook. blonde and sweet and big-eyed. i could barely grasp that never again would her mama see that face.
i carried the news with me as i climbed the stairs to tuck my boy in bed. but then, somewhere in the brushing of his baby teeth, and the inside-out pajamas that took some untwisting to set things right, i lost track.
i put my little one to bed, with prayers and kiss and tucking in of sheets. then, i walked downstairs and set about making his peanut-butter-extra-jelly (hold the grape, double the strawberry-peach preserves) for the next day’s lunch. i’d be gone at work by the time he woke, so i grabbed a pen and did what i’ve done a hundred thousand times: i penned a little love note and tucked it in his lunch bag.
that’s when i felt my heart twist and tug, and wince at once.
i thought of little alice, whose mama wouldn’t write another note. i wanted with all my heart to pack a lunch for alice and stuff it fat with love notes. i wanted to sit by her bedside and be her mama, whenever she needed one. whenever she cried out. i wanted to waft into the room and be the mama she cried out for.
i sometimes wish i could sop up all the hurt that makes this world so deeply broken.
instead i started to tick off the many moments in my little one’s life that no one else might notice if i were gone. but the moments when he alone would feel the gaping hole, the absence, would feel the skip of his mama’s heartbeat.
love notes tucked in lunches, i realized, are only the start.
there is the way we say our prayers. the way we always start and end, and wind around the middle in a particular order, with a particular rhythm and a certain sing-song way we end it every time.
there’s the way i rub the lotion on his cheeks, in little circles, ears to nose, each morning, and oh-so-gently tug the brush–the pink brush by the way, the only one whose bristles do the job–through his ringlet curls.
there’s the way he likes his cereal, a way he needn’t ever tell me, because i’m the one who’s almost always there to pour it out. and i would know–as would he–how upside-down it would start the day if the raisin bran was on the bottom and the cheerios, dumped on top. because, well, that’s not the way it’s ever done.
mothers and children–and all of those whose lives are intertwined–flow seamlessly through much of time. except of course for the fits and starts and assorted flare-ups in, say, the target check-out line, when we lose our place and our footing (and a good teaspoon of patience, too) and must shake it off and find our groove again.
but often, and surely when it counts, we begin and end each other’s thoughts and whims, with barely an instruction. it is love, mostly, that fills in all the blanks. we so know each other’s hearts, we’ve memorized the lines unspoken.
it all began, i’m certain, when i first brought my little one to my breast. and there began between the two of us a poetry, a rhythm and a rhyme that would be unbroken through the years. he would know, before words ever came to him, that in my arms he rocked a certain way. and in the sounds from my throat a soothing came that came from nowhere else.
i ache for all the children, all around the world, who wake up today, go to sleep tonight, without the mama they have come to count on.
i ache, deeply, for alice, who came back to school today, and who i’m told spoke not a word all day.
i wish, i pray, that in our deepest heartbeat we could pump out double-time for the children among us who cry themselves to sleep. for the children whose dreams are shattered and their daytimes too.
i pray with all my might that the Great God of Unending Arms, and Hand That Won’t Let Go, embraces all those children, sweeps away their ache, brushes back their tears.
i pray with all my might that the Great God of Laughter fills their hearts and throats again.
and in the meantime, i wish with all my might that i could pen a love note and tuck it there in alice’s lunch bag.
just the way i do for the little one who is mine, so deeply sweetly mine.
are you sometimes struck by news that brushes close to home? does it jostle you from complacency, remind you just how many little moments we forget are so priceless? what are the little things your loved ones would miss, if you slipped away from their everyday? please say a prayer for alice, and her fourth-grade brother. and everyone who loves them, the children now without a mother….
p.s. sorry this is late again. that ol’ new job barely gives me time to breathe, let alone tap out a meander. but i’ll be damned if i give up the one chance to let my fingers unspool what flows from my heart.
The piece of news that choked me up is of the medical helicopter that crashed en route to the Chicago Children’s Hospital–killing the pilot, paramedic, nurse and 13-month-old baby patient. I immediately ached for the parents of that one year old who must have felt relief from worry as the baby boarded the helicopter–help at last, coming fast. But, the helicopter hit wires, dropped and burned up. No words can express the sadness and loss to the families of the heroic helpers doing their job for that small child.One other thought: The loss of one’s parent informs a person as much or more than having that parent in the flesh. I see Obama trying to be the father he never had. He was abandoned by a father who didn’t support the family, and who tried to be a political reformer in Kenya, but was marginalized, dying impoverished, alcoholic, missing limbs from a car crash. Obama is a supportive and supporting spouse and parent, and he is trying to be a political reformer in the US–running for president within the system (his father agitated from without to dire results). As sad as it was and is, his loss of father informed his drive and direction–and he has made more of it than lots of us with the luxury to have two doting parents until the end of our dottering days. May Alice find peace, but also direction from her mother’s meaning to her.
yes, news that strikes close to home…it has happened to me, twice in the past two weeks. If you are in the flying biz, like I am, it will happen sooner or later, unfortunately. And this week, it hit really close to home….as I lost a good friend in a freak sky diving accident….Harry and I were good friends….and we were all stunned on Saturday to learn of his death when both of his parachutes did not open…he was killed on impact. he was a professional sky diver, among other things….as well as pilot and instructor, and a good friend to many of us. It has put a damper on my week….the other accident involved the Learjet that crashed on takeoff recently, in North Carolina, carrying the rock stars….turns out another friend of mine was engaged to the woman who was the captain on the Lear…its a small world in the flying business….from the west coast
..and today I talked with a mom whose little guy’s leukemia is back in full force and discussed how might I help…so I am thinking about what it is like to lose a child, again, as I have two very dear friends who have already walked this journey. So my note says “hello sweet world and every one I hold dear.” I wish I could write a GIANT note tonight. Instead I look at the moon, the wistful dark blue sky over the lake with clouds scuttling around, and give thanks for the moment of fullness I have in my heart. XXXOOOXXX to all of you that pull up a chair. My new favorite quote is “never say never, say maybe” – seems just right somehow.
lamcal, i saw that moon last night, and the scuttling clouds. that moon played peek-a-boo, and all through the night bathed the landscape in the bright blue moonbeams. i love that all of us, with all of our hearts so full, can poke our heads out the window, draw sustenance from that same whole moon, wherever we are, whatever weighs us down. a mama whose little one is racked with wretched cells, a friend who crashes to the ground, a little girl now left alone. i thank God, i really do, that we are porous enough to let in the stories that shake us, remind us, wake us up again to the soft still moments that make up the whole cloth of our lives. these days i find myself sinking deeply into all the little graces–stroking lotion on my baby’s cheeks, stirring soup in a kettle all throughout the afternoon, poking trowel into earth to lay down a sleeping bulb. carol, i found some solace in your hopeful thought, that there is perhaps as much inspiration drawn from the someone we have lost as from having the someone always there. i know i breathed in my papa’s essence the moment he died, and i found from deep within me a courage and a mission i might not otherwise have found. i can only pray the same for a little girl of 7, or at least that some day that charge will come. jsm, so very sorry for the wrenching of your heart this week. tonight, when i turn to the moon in the october sky, i will lift up all of you and your aching hearts. love, bam
Oh Bam….Ifor two weeks I have been thinking about you and Joan Borysenko’s Book – The Ways of The Mystic keeps tickling my mind. She delineates 7 paths a mystic might follow. Your last two meanderings spark the thought that you are quintessentially following Path 1 – Earth and Home….”the everyday mystic who sees the Creator in every bush and tree, in the gifts of food and shelter, in nurturing and in the fufillment of the every day needs of life. It is the path of gratitude and caretaking of the earth and all her creatures.” You probably are Path 2 also – Creativity and Abundance as you spill forth with creative ways of enriching our worlds. Happy Harvest season…..
dear dear friends at the tablethere are so many of you that I have been thinking of lately, knowing that you are holding the hands of family, neighbors and figurativly holding the hands of those who grieve around this world. my life has been so so full of wedding invitations, unpacking boxes and creating a new position at work that I haven’t stopped by the table that much and I haven’t made everyday soup in almost a month. I ache for the opportunity to delve deep with all of you, because the human experience of loving, laughing, grieving and hurting confronts us as often as our hearts beat. In my new work as bereavement coordinator I hear the stories that break open our hearts and I am reminded that a broken and grieving heart still beats. May we stand with one another when it’s hard to remember that our hearts do still beat.I share with you two quotes that I shared earlier this morning with some colleagues at work.”The expectation that we can be immersed in suffering and loss daily and not be touched by it is as unrealistic as expecting to be able to walk through water without getting wet. This sort of denial is no small matter. The way we deal with loss shapes our capacity to be present to life more than anything else. The way we protect ourselves from loss may be the way in which we distance ourselves from life.” Excerpts from “Kitchen Table Wisdom” by Dr. Rachel Naomi Remen”WHen the community joins a suffering person or family in lamenting, there is “consensual validation’ that the suffering means something. The community votes with its tears that there is suffering worth weeping over. Community participation counters “the threat of dehumanization to which all pain exposes us,” sanctions the expression of emotion and places that suffering before God in common prayer.”excerpt from “Rachel’s Cry – Prayer of Lament and Rebirth of Hope” Kathleen Billman and Daniel Miglioreand so I vote with my tears in solidarity with those who grieve. thanks for the invitation to pull up a chair and I promise that I will offer some soup on monday
I remember my children’s grief at their own loss…for them, it was especially difficult I thik, because in a sense- they had lost their mom, this writer- to grief and they surely felt so alone. I wrote this a bit for them, and now will share for Alice too..perhaps her own family is in such a state of grief that little Alice does not speak because there is no one to listen like her mama did. Grief is all encompassing, it blankets every one- though children need some kind, somewhat detatched soul to soothe them, I’m hoping Alice finds an angel in a neighbor or teacher.(Though I suspect she already has….) “What are you but a child of stone-A statue that most hold up under the weight of your sorrow.Speak the name, whisper if you must-I am here, I am listening, I remember too…”I’ll pray too for this sweet family and child. Blessings to you for feeding us again. Be well- you are enough dear Bam, always your best is given. I bet if sweet Teddy had the opportunity to write a bit about his mom…well, baseball and dinosaurs would pale in comparison.
Oh True…your words are beautiful…..and “true” like you. Thank you for sharing your hard earned wisdom and planting it so it may grow in us.
holy blessed circle. amen amen….xoxoxoso many poets, so much poetry, pours at this ol table….
This is a deeply moving site, bam…
as of this year my kids don’t bring a lunch…I NEED A NEW SYSTEM!! Know what else I hate? The end of Halloween. No pizza for the family who come to see the munchkins and no peers having pizza after a boatload of candy. I really really hate that. I love the driving and the teenageriness. I hate hate hate no Halloween.xo