I Die A Hundred Deaths (Halloween and the Grouchy Ladybug)

This post from 2012 is one of my favorites.  The twins were just over a year old, Solomon was four and Sophia was in first grade.  I can't find the pictures that go with that Halloween, they're on an old computer, but the story should suffice.  I hope you enjoy it and find some grace for your own moments of surrender and resurrection.  Happy Halloween!

It’s rainy and cold and we’re all keyed up and worn out from being trapped indoors for two days by Hurricane Sandy.  I wake up late and squeeze in a shower while the twins, still in dirty diapers from the night before, wander around the living room.  Their whining amplifies to full pitch as my shower cues them in to the possibility that I’ll be (gasp!) leaving for the morning.  The preemptive separation anxiety continues through breakfast and packing everyone into the van to take my oldest to school. 

After drop-off I cart the remaining three kids back into the house.  We mull around, waiting anxiously for the babysitter who'll stay with the twins while the four year old and I head to his Halloween party at a local nursing home.   
The twins settle for a few minutes, their anxiety lulled by the fact that I haven’t left yet and simultaneously my son's anxiety about the party rises.  He peppers me with questions, 
“Will there be people from the nursing home in the party?”
“Um, I’m not sure, honey.”

“Will they see me in my costume?”

“Are you going to dress up?”

“I don’t want to wear a costume.”

I've been dreading this party from moment it was first mentioned, knowing that my son, so robust and cheerful at home, will be shy and clingy in a new place.  Committed to accompanying him, I hired a babysitter for the twins, despite my own teeth-clenching, foot-dragging antagonism toward it all. 
“Solomon,” I say, “what if I wear a costume too?”  I emerge from the back room wearing the fuzzy black antennae from my daughter’s ladybug costume.

“Ok,” he says, brightening, “you can be a black beetle.”
Then, I can feel myself giving in, letting go a little more as the idea strikes and I say, “What if I’m a ladybug?  I can steal Sophia’s costume.”

He approves and I have just enough time to gather the red and black-dotted wings and my camera as the babysitter arrives and the oldest twin dissolves into a raging stream of tears, protesting my impending departure.  I run in circles grabbing things, carrying the littlest one and nearly run out the door with him, before the sitter stops me and grabs him saying, “This one’s staying.”
Then we’re off to a party I don’t want to go to, but also don’t want my son to miss.  We drive through the rain and find his friends in a large room coloring at a table while elderly people in wheelchairs are set in a wide circle around them.  The residents watch, their eyes hungrily absorbing the beauty and innocence, the luxury of so much youth in one small space. 

My son is clingy, shy and tired, overwhelmed by the noise, the crafts, the games and I do my best to get into the spirit of things.  I help with glue and tear bits of tissue paper, I assure another child that it doesn’t matter where he puts the eyes on his pumpkin.  I laugh with the other Moms over the resident who rides in on a wheelchair, pretending to scare the kids with a mask, all the while giving a growing peep show as his robe slides further and further open.  I take a smiling picture with my son, a little Iron Man snuggled up on a ladybug's lap. 
By the time we get home, though, I’m over-stimulated and frustrated at my inability to love Halloween, to love loud parties and candy.  The twins are exhausted and hungry when we walk in and they’re drawn to me like magnets, pressing their tiny bodies onto me in desperation.   

It’s all I can do to untangle myself, causing more tears and desperation, as I head to the kitchen to make lunch.  Solomon is sorting and dumping candy, dancing and singing and blowing the whistle from his party bag and the twins are screaming in their highchairs, desperate to make it clear how deeply my absence has wronged them.   

Then I’m yelling, “Stop it” and throwing an apple-peel all the way across the kitchen til it bounces off of one twin and they both sit staring, shocked into silence and my son, that sweet four year old boy, offers to play his whistle to settle them down.  
There are days when being a mother feels like dying a hundred tiny deaths.   A hundred letting-gos, a thousand surrenders to more noise, more movement, more demands than I feel capable of handling. I’m not complaining, I simply want to be honest about the stretch of motherhood and how quickly, how fiercely, I shrink back from it.  
I died a hundred little deaths this morning and will surely die a hundred more before nightfall on this, the day of the dead.  But I know, thank God, that this dying, this surrender, makes me new again.   
I may die a hundred times a day, but I'm just as often made new, reborn in the face of a chubby, gap-toothed grin, a gentle hand seeking mine for reassurance.  Just today I was resurrected by the voice of my son calling cheerfully from the back of the van as we made our way home, “I can’t wait to be old so I can go to the nursing home to live.”
Later in the day as I'm making chili for friends who're coming to trick-or-treat with us, as the twins again stand whining at the gate that divides them from me, my Dad calls with the news that my maternal grandmother has died in the nursing home where she's lived for years now in North Carolina.  
Standing over the stove, stirring the chili, I find myself surprisingly grateful.  Grateful that, athough I couldn't be there with her, I was here, at a nursing home with my son, the very same morning.  I think of my Grandmother's life and the many little and big deaths she endured.  I think of the ways I get so focused on what I'm giving up, that I nearly miss what I have right here, right now in front of me.  It occurs to me that I live such a grace-filled life, full of opportunities for surrender, continually pressing me toward the edge.  
Dinner is finished, the kids and husband are home and the poor older twin, who just can't pull himself together, sits crying on the floor.  I scoop him up and settle in the rocker and watch as he drifts into a heavy sleep.  I love the moment - the rocking, the sleeping child so sweet.  
Then he lifts his head and looks around, disoriented, before throwing up all over both of us.  Leaning forward, exhausted, he lays his head back on my chest with that pile of warm, smelly goo spread like a layer of glue between us.  I died again in that moment and rose again to hug him tight until my husband came to help us both get cleaned up.  
Every day of the dead, every Halloween, gives way to all saints day and I wonder if we too, dying in our little and big ways, aren't also being moved, continually, from death to new life.  This dying is a surrender, a stripping bare by letting-go until all that remains is love.  
 This is the whole gang this year.  Aren't I a lucky Mama?!

The Night Will Hold You

(This picture was taken by my husband - the night sky over the corn field 
across the street from us - isn't he amazing?) 

When the grief you carry 
wears your face into a thousand 
heavy lines, when the sadness 
feels like a knife splitting 
your very body in two, 
night will come at last. 

With the children tucked safe 
in their beds, you will stand 
in the doorway of your own 
darkened room and the night 
will welcome you with its wide, 
and gentle embrace.  

How can I explain that this 
is what you need, what you 
have waited for, this knowing 
that the darkness is nothing 
to fear?  You will lie down 
on your bed, half curled 
around the old, old wound, 
with your face turned toward 
the windows.  Weeping, 
your eyes will search 
outlines of trees, the few 
bright stars captured in your 
window’s frame.  

Now that you are no longer afraid, 
the night will hold you with its velvet 
love, the emptiness of the darkness 
sidling up against you as the well 
of grief pours out. 

“There's something comforting 
about the darkness,” you will tell 
your husband when he finds you there. 
Instinctively, like the night, he will curl 
himself around you offering not words, 
but himself to hold you, his flesh 
echoing in physicality the sweet 
silent night that draws you close.   

This post is linked with Playdates with God and Unforced Rhythms.

When Speaking Life Requires Silence

I met Kimberly Ann Coyle though an online (in) courage discussion group for writers.  She and a host of other writers are in the long haul of blogging for 31 days straight through the month of October.  Every blogger chooses a topic of focus and digs in.  This year, Kimberly is writing on the topic of Speaking Life. 

I've grown to appreciate Kimberly's writing for its honesty and humor.  Although painfully honest writing is en vogue right now, Kimberly's writing draws me because her honesty is not merely for the thrill of self-revelation; within, beneath and behind her honesty I get the sense of a heart that is drawn toward and always seeking the more.  This is what keeps me coming back to her posts.  I was grateful when Kimberly asked me to help fill some space in her 31 day journey by writing about the practice of Speaking Life from the perspective of Spiritual Direction.  You can start reading the post here and then pop over to Kimberly's blog to read the rest.  To learn more about the ministry of spiritual companioning, click on the Spiritual Direction tab at the top of this page. 
 * * *
After a few simple pleasantries, the offering of a cup of hot tea or cool water, we begin, almost always, with silence. Sitting in chairs not quite facing each other, we sit quietly waiting, shedding the many moments, worries and demands of the day until a space opens within and around us and we are together at home in ourselves, in the moment, in God.

Then the sharing begins and I listen and work hard to continue to hold open the space between words, between questions and answers, to hold open the silence that surrounds. This is quiet work, gentle and slow, drawing out the many questions that lead, most often, to a deeper place of longing and need. When, at last, that place is reached and the question of one’s heart’s desire rises, I have a choice – what now?

Too often the temptation arises in me to play the expert, advice-giver, wise counsel, or to speak conspiratorially of my own similar experiences, in order to draw an allegiance between the directee and myself. Often there’s pressure (spoken or unspoken) to do just that – the directee arrives in need, wanting answers and too often I’m tempted to give them.

But here’s the truth . . . 

Won't you follow me over to  Kimberly Ann Coyle's place. to continue reading?  And, while you're there, check out some other other posts in her 31 days series and, if you have a moment, leave me a little comment love (it's awfully quiet over there!) . . . 

To Mend a Broken Heart

Flowers help, cut or wild
blooms of vibrant hue,
also time rolled out in long
stretches like bolts of cloth.

Air is essential, as well as stories
that name in some way the sharp
corners of your pain.

You will want to lay down
on the floor, to feel something
solid beneath your brokenness,
like a hand holding the pieces
of a shattered vase. 

Be gentle: offer yourself 
a cup of tea, a book, a candle lit
in silence. Tuck small 
moments of beauty and joy
into your heart like a poultice 
to draw out the pain.

If you're able, wake up
before the sun rises.  Allow
your day to begin and end
in the quiet dark.  Then watch
for the way the light breaks
through differently each day; 
witness the miracle
of night’s passing until 
you believe it's true.  

(Photo Source: Here. ) Linking today with Playdates With God.

To Love What is Passing

I watch the sunrise each morning.  Reading, writing, I pause to turn toward the window.  At first all is black, night’s heavy velvet stretched.  With every glance the scene changes, like clicking through slides in a view finder.  Fog shifts, blue spreads wide one day, then purple or even green the next.  Mist rises off the river I cannot see from here, ghostly lines of white revealing the river’s path.

In the evening I bend and twist while washing dishes, watching the light change again through the kitchen windows.  The sun sets out one side of the house morphing clouds into relief, filling spaces with yellow, etching outlines in gold or pink.  On the other side of the house the light also changes.  

“Rainbow, rainbow,” my son shouts and we all run out the closest door like a crowd fleeing a burning building.  Scurrying around the yard, we search for openings between the tall pines, the out buildings, where the biggest arcs of red, yellow, indigo and all the rest can be seen running like a road through layers of clouds and light.  

The sky’s show changes quickly, morphing like trees in fall.

None of this lasts for long. 


My little boy gives me twelve kisses at bed time each night, rapid-fire smacks one right after the other, an exertion of pure love on his part.  He lays his claim of love on me, pressing lips to my cheek and I count to hold them close, these kisses like shafts of light buried in my heart, memories of this passing season of such open love and affection.

The other night, he woke to go to the bathroom and sat waiting for me on the hallway floor, cross-legged, his head bobbing and weaving like a sleepy kitten.  Standing in the bathroom, unsteady, he makes it known, “Me love everyone.”

His heart is open wide like the sky, filled with light and shifting colors that wash across his face with every changing emotion.  This boy of mine moves so quickly soaking in the joy and light of each moment, no matter the shade. 

Last night he marched happy through the kitchen with a giant bowl of plain rigatoni tucked under his arm.  He didn’t get to go to the Halloween parade with Daddy and his older siblings and when his twin brother asked about the plan, he replied, “Me stay home with Mommy . . . and the noodles.” 

When I asked what he loved more – Mommy or the noodles – “Me love noodles,” was his smiling reply. 

To love what is passing, to open one’s heart to what is in each moment, is to live deeply, fully.  No one pleasure or delight lasts for long and in its passing we expose ourselves to potential loss and grief.  But to live closed off from each moment for fear of its passing is to rob ourselves of much that is truly precious in this life.

Knowing this, I bend my cheek to receive the kisses, I turn my head toward the window, I run toward the rainbow, toward each passing moment to embrace it with arms open wide as I teach my heart to say, "Me love," over and over again. 

This post is linked with Five Minute Friday on the prompt "long."