Grief

It’s striking how many metaphors there are for grief. Storms, tossing oceans, valleys, mountains, roller coasters. One line from the Orthodox Church’s memorial services keeps coming back to mind: “You who have trod the narrow way of grief…”

You who have trod the narrow way of grief;
All you who, in life have taken upon you the Cross as a yoke,
And followed Me by faith,
Draw near, enjoy the honours and celestial crowns I have prepared for you.

After Innocent died I couldn’t help feeling rather shunted aside by the Church. Because my child had not been baptised he would not have a funeral, would not have panikhidas celebrated in church, would not be commemorated among the dead during services. I did come to terms with that and explained it here. The one thing that never failed to comfort me was the set of verses from the memorial hymn above. There have been many memorial services celebrated since Innocent died and at each one I looked forward to this verse. I felt like the Church was comforting ME specifically, acknowledging the pain that I had suffered and still suffer, granting it weight. That in some way there was purpose to the grief I suffered.

I’m feeling that once again. Next week we will lay yet another little still form in the ground. It’s not spring this time. Pascha is not just over the horizon. The only flowers I can gather from the yard are camellias which aren’t pressable (with the exception of the certifiably insane hydrangea in the side yard which has persisted in blooming this week despite weather to the contrary). Once again I will be whispering my baby’s name during the litany of the faithful when it comes time to list the departed, since my babies aren’t technically included.

God hears the cries of my heart. He weeps with me. I happened to read this the night we found out our baby had departed:

[Aslan has asked Digory if he will help rid Narnia of the evil that Digory (unwittingly) brought into it.]

“Yes,” said Digory. He had had for a second some wild idea of saying, “I’ll try to help you if you’ll promise to help my Mother,” but he realized in time that the Lion was not at all the sort of person one could try to make bargains with.  But when he had said “Yes,” he thought of his Mother, and he thought of the great hopes he had had, and how they were all dying away, and a lump came in his throat and tears in his eyes, and he blurted out:

“But please, please – won’t you – can’t you give me something that will cure Mother?”  Up till then he had been looking at the Lion’s great feet and the huge claws on them; now, in his despair, he looked up at its face. What he saw surprised him as much as anything in his whole life.  For the tawny face was bent down near his own and (wonder of wonders) great shining tears stood in the Lion’s eyes. They were such big, bright tears compared with Digory’s own that for a moment he felt as if the Lion must really be sorrier about his Mother than he was himself.

–C.S.Lewis, The Magician’s Nephew

As much as I love my babies, God loves them infinitely more. I can’t understand this, just as I can’t understand why they are in Heaven and not with me. I can’t understand lots of things. But I mostly accept that I don’t have to understand, that God doesn’t need me to understand, but to endure and trust.

8 thoughts on “Grief

  1. Thank you so much for this post, and for the link to your Crosses post. They are both beautiful, and so true. Our Luka died churched but unbaptized, and I mourned it so much. But like you, I came to see that for those already in the arms of God Himself, already warm inside the Kingdom of God, baptism is utterly unnecessary. The sacraments are for us, not for God, and He is holding our children close already. They don't need these crutches and tools to come closer to God, for they are with Him always. Thanks be to God.

    Whenever you take communion, my beautiful friend, know that you are coming into communion with your children in a very real and concrete way. We are all in communion in the Church, and your children are right there in the communion cup. The closer we enter into the presence and Kingdom of God, the more time we are spending with them. Just a tiny foretaste of the joy to come, but always there for you.

    When our little Mariana gets sick with a little fever or something, I try to smile up at God and tell Him, “your girl is sick, Lord; come heal her.” We must always remember that they belong to Him first, and we will be warmed by the comfort that He loves them and is caring for them when we cannot. Glory be to God.

    Much love to you, Matushka, and constant prayers.

    In Christ,
    Elissa

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  2. The mysteries of life and of death and the pain therein have to be a foretaste of the unspeakable mystery of eternal life in the presence of our Creator.

    God be with you, dear Matushka.

    (another) Elizabeth

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