Normal

16 06 2014

There was a big shift in normal last week – somewhat for me, but definitely more major for my son and the woman in his life.  She found out that her father was very ill, the kind of ill that has >90% mortality within five years.  It’s the kind of ill that takes the wheels off of the world.  My son loves her.  Her grief and fear go straight to his heart.  And he gets to experience – again! – the truth that big new grief wakes up big old grief.  He is hurting for her.  She is hurting on her own and worried for him.  And they turn to each other to hold on and love through it.

Yesterday I was blessed to be included in her family’s Father’s Day brunch.  And she’s in one of those families where nearly anything will serve as an excuse to get a lot of people together, so I met what seemed like everyone.  And I now I know where this lovely young woman finds her ability to hurt and love and hold on all at the same time.

There are as many ways of responding to this kind of diagnosis as there are people.  Denial is common for a reason – it works, at least in the short term.  But yesterday I watched a whole family open up to it so that they could embrace each other more tightly.  It is nearly miraculous to witness this kind of love in action.  I have been swept into this encompassing embrace – “Genetics don’t matter much to us.  You’re family.”  And now I can hold on to them, as they have held on to both my son and me.

It is like sensory overload in the best sense – where it is so much to take in that you have to experience it in a different way.  You feel songs, you hear colors.  They opened up, they folded me in… not because of anything I ever did, not because I had earned it, but because this is the way their world works and now I’m part of it.

It is…astonishing.  Overwhelming.  Exalted.

At least three people that I had just met yesterday told me, as we were spending the hour (for real, a literal hour) that it takes to hug everyone goodbye (I’m not exaggerating) “You have to come to ALL the things!”  I hope to return that embrace with every bit of joy they offered me.

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