Amid the Dark and Ugly; Part 2

Part 2
on When Hard Things Happen

I said yesterday that  I can’t compare when speaking of tragic circumstances – but I will admit, I do. I remember sitting in class and relating situations as I watched my science teacher’s young family.

A boy, a girl, a boy. Each under 8.

“That was my family. That’s how old my dad was when he died.” I thought.

I see young Rylee, the daughter of the friend with stomach cancer; the one given the number. She’s in grade 10. A year older than me with my mom’s diagnosis. Older than the day I was pulled from math class to the Intensive Care Unit to watch my friend say good-bye.

But my mom wasn’t given a number. And Rylee isn’t so young anymore. Or was I really that young too?

Maybe it has less to do with comparison and more to do with perspective. I don’t know; I’m still learning. As ICU and a mom’s bald head are part of my history, this number is a part of Rylee’s.

I think of my mom’s words, too, the spring of Grade 12:

“You will go to that funeral.”

She was referring to a family at our school whose dad passed away. (Incidentally, to the same type of cancer as my dad.) We didn’t really know him, but my youngest brother was friends with their middle son. My parents  would be out of town that weekend but us kids had strict instructions to go.

“You know funerals aren’t for the dead – they’re for the living. You go for the family; the ones who are left. You go to show support. You go to show they are not alone.

And this time, you three represent more:

YOU are a reminder that there are those who get it, who have been there before. Those who have made it and that life does go on. You are a reminder that God hears prayers. You go for those boys’ mom. 

You represent hope, whether you know it or like it or not.”

And so I’ve come back from Mongolia, but the mission field is not behind me. Maybe nobody died while I was there, but it is a time of mourning now. Maybe that was just the beginning, the prologue to this chapter, this chunk.

It’s interesting I’m not in the middle of the yucky, dizzying circles this time. This time it’s in arms’ reach, and I see I have a choice. God knows just how long my arms are, so maybe I’m back to reach out a little. I’m not in the centre – and I don’t have to be –

But I can reach.

Maybe I’m here to listen.

Maybe I sat on cold concrete on windy days in UlaanBaatar because I needed to practice for listening with tea in my hands at kitchen tables and living room couches and standing in doorways.

Maybe I’m still a sucky comforter and maybe I don’t often have the words to say, but sometimes your presence is enough.

And maybe I’m back now
because amid the dark and ugly,

I can show hope.

And that’s a way better four-letter word, in my opinion.

Some Four-letter Words: The Dark and Ugly

I remember coming back from Mongolia and being glad nobody died while I was away. Before I left my mom did frequently bring up the question of what to do if I died  – sorry – “passed away” over there; and I may be the youngest person I know to have a list of pallbearers ready.

Odd thoughts? Perhaps.

Sometimes I think I’m warped.
My mom just says “Experienced.”

Anyways, I came back from Mongolia. And nobody had died.

Now, however…

Now it’s a different story. Another season. Another chapter, another chunk. A season that will be darkly coloured in several lives I know.

However, this time circumstances are not mine. It’s other families, in outer circles. A few steps away but not out of reach. You may have heard about Kris, and that’s not been the only event since I got back.

I don’t believe in tragedy lists, for life and death is not a competition. Therefore, I’m not listing the hard stories I’ve observed since getting back. Let’s just say there’s been a few. If life hasn’t been fair to me, it hasn’t been fair to anyone else either. Our lists may look different and our pain comes at different times and different pictures and I cannot judge, sneer, or compare.

Nobody knows what’s going on inside a life for not all battles come with chemo and a bald head, or take place at the ICU. If you know my family, you’ll know that some of my family’s hard things have just happened to be a little more public than others’.

That aside, I will tell you that I’m listening to Tenth Avenue North’s  song “Worn” tonight. It’s one of those nights. One where you’re looking at hurt. Hard. Maybe looking at some pain too, I don’t know.

A friend was given a number, you see. The number of months expected to live.

That’s ugly.

And yet, I’m okay. I don’t know if it’s because it’s not in my family and I’m awful for even considering that for why I’m not in shock (or maybe I am), or maybe I’m in denial and shutting it out to avoid the hurt that news like this brings. or if I’m just too tired to allow the familiar feelings of grief wash over me. I am reminded that grief is exhausting.

I always thought my Mom coined the term ‘Pre Grieving’, but a quick google tells me it really is a ‘thing’. Of course it is; I have a smart mama!

And I think that’s where I’m at. I am subtly grieving as I listen to this song and absorb it all, rather realistically. Looking at the hard news from a few steps away, deciding where I stand on this one. Half way between processing and shutting it out. Halfway between hurting and ignoring.

I’m half way between calloused heart and empathetic neighbour,
because I know what grief is, and that means something.

It is far enough removed that I could very well block it out and choose not to go there, not to touch it, the dark and ugly.

 But I get it.

I don’t want to, but I do. I could think of what’s next for this family, but I don’t want to. Not so much denial as resistance through apathy. I don’t want to be involved. I’m screaming between “Yup. That’s life and it sucks. See y’all in heaven.” and wondering how they’re doing. Wondering if anyone has gone to drop off chocolate milk for the kids…