I spent some time in my rose garden yesterday afternoon, tearing away a year's worth of overgrowth and revealing the hint of gorgeous color still encased in green buds. I draped tendril up lattice and guided their climbing. I pulled away the ugliness of weeds and drew attention to the beauty planted there. And I didn't wear gloves.
I couldn't have told you why beforehand or even have told you what, but I was compelled to feel every prick and scrapy scratch those thorns could mete out. Something in me needed to feel their sting and process this whole relationship, the beauty in the rose and the prick of the thorn and their coexistence and the way that that relationship goes relatively unnoticed until I stick my hands in there to tend them, guide them, free them from entanglements.
And of course you know why. I had spent the weekend away. I had embraced a long time friend who had stood by my side from afar in my darkest hours. As is our nature, we had spent the weekend telling tales and laughing, entertaining ourselves and those around us. I had made new friends this weekend, progressing from texting across the room to locate one another to standing talking for hours about everything from kittens to poop to schooling a dyslexic child. I had shared lunch with a group of amazingly talented women whose sincerity, geniality and intelligence were refreshing and renewing to me. And I had joy. Most of these women had a peripheral awareness of all that has transpired in my life in the last eight months. I spoke my little one's name often and easily. Sweet Bryce. I accepted condolences and soft, tender embraces that spoke volumes and moved on. This weekend was a weekend of joy.
And yet in the midst of all that joy, grief lives ever-present. I have come to accept that. I have given up the faulty notion that one day I will heal and grief will be gone. I will heal. But grief is a permanent resident in my home. Like my roses and their thorns, grief and joy inhabit my soul as sisters. Each needs her moment in the sun, each needs tending, each barges in unexpectedly and catches me off guard. For the most part, I have learned to let them dance their sisterly dance with acceptance and resignation. I would not have ever wished for this reality, but it is mine, and I have always held firm to the conviction that we are happier people when we just accept that we are who we are. I am a naturally joyful, funny, thoughtful, articulate grieving mother. And all those adjectives inhabit the garden of my soul relatively peacefully. Until the gardener steps in to do His work.
I needed to feel those thorn's pricks yesterday because it gave tangible reality to my experience this weekend and everyday. I find a way to move forward each day, to take the next step, embracing who I am in the His perfect will for me. I know there are thorns. But there are roses too, and they are reason enough to keep the garden going. And then, in a most unexpected moment, there is the prick. The stabbing, intense heart pain I did not expect. And then its sting, the burn that lingers while I wipe back tears and try to refocus. And sometimes there is blood, a little piece of me, of the life within me, leaked out in the agony. These are humbling moments. They come when I don't know they are coming. They cause me to lose track of the conversation I was having or suddenly walk away from something purposeful I was doing. They leave me raw and unsteady in the midst of an ordinary activity. And they make me grieve when I want to be joyful--for someone else's pregnancy announcement or the birth of a sweet pink bundle to a momma of all boys, for someone's photographs of a gorgeous, growing babe and the siblings all smiles.
The pricks humble me. They make me realize how much grief has changed me, how much, like my experience raising siblings shows to be true, her sister joy is different because of grief's birth in my soul. And sometimes I am angry with her for her prickly ways, for the way she scratches at me for attention when I am reaching to embrace her sister. Sometimes I wish she hadn't come at all, or that she could be different from who she is.
But yesterday in that garden, in the quiet processing of the weekend and the weeks and the months and the days since grief's birth, I realized that she has been given to me, like the gift of a child. We don't get to determine the temperament of the baby we bring home. Our Heavenly Father examines us in His full knowledge and determines whether we need the baby who sleeps the day away contentedly or the one who must be held 23 1/2 of each day's 24 hours. We are all quite sure we need the former, but rarely do we get that baby. I am quite sure I'd rather the gift of joy, that she is a better companion for my soul, she who blooms in beauty and opens in color and wafts sweet scents that soothe. But the Heavenly Father, in a wisdom I cannot claim to understand, has determined that joy shall have a sister and her name shall be grief. And for the most part, she will be a quiet companion.
And then there will be those moments, when the Good Gardener reaches in to tend my soul garden, to cut away the overgrowth of fear and anxiety, to pull the weeds of sin, and to guide my growing in the right direction. And in those moments, grief's thorns prick. They sting, They tear. But yesterday reminded me that those moments, humbling as they may be, are the way the Tender One makes room. The sisters need guidance, they are small and sometimes unruly, and often unaware of whose turn it is. So the Merciful Lord reaches in, allows the thorn to prick and the beauty to bloom all at the same time, sweet sisters dancing their dance of intimacy in my soul, so that He can make way for their mother.
She comes to guide them, to show them how to take turns and be gracious and hospitable to one another. She comes to show them each their unique gift and to console the less desirable sister, dear grief, and remind her that she too is a worthy and noble gift, noble enough to inhabit the heart of the Savior, beautiful enough to live in the soul of His Most Pure Mother.
And I am grateful for her coming, this mother whose name is GRACE.