Tuesday, May 19, 2015

Culminations and Arrivals

‘Tis the season of culminations, celebrations, and changes. It marks a passage for me as I begin semi-retirement and open the way for other pursuits. Walking the mourner’s path has led me to this place of uncertainty and possibility, though it doesn’t yet feel real. 

More imminent are culminations linked to the Jewish holiday of Shavuot, with symbolism that may have meaning for others in a state of flux. The holiday commemorates the Jews receiving the Torah at Mt. Sinai after years wandering in the desert. It is connected to Passover by the agricultural practice of 49 days of Counting the Omer in preparation for the wheat  harvest, which has been reinterpreted as a spiritual practice of moving from slavery to freedom. Rabbis Zimmerman and Enger suggest an intention for each stage of the seven-week journey: Waking Up; Setting Out; Entering the Wilderness; Being in the Unknown; Finding Our Way; Becoming the Vision; and Arriving. These evocative themes map onto the journey of suicide loss as we try to rebuild our lives and recover our balance.

I’m more familiar with the early stages of the journey; I hesitate to say I've arrived. I haven't reached any closure, peace, or enlightenment, nor is that clearly the goal. I'm still overcome with intense, though shorter, bouts of grief and guilt. But I may be reaping the first surprising fruit of the harvest on this journey: I have recovered my breath, and it is deeper and fuller than I remember. Many mornings, I come awake bathed in long, sustaining breath. Instead of being constricted by mourning, the breath flows free and expands. With this fuller breath comes a fuller sense of gratitude that I worried I'd never recover. I’m grateful that I knew and loved my lost child. I’m grateful for the love and support that got me through the worst of the pain so far. I’m grateful to be alive and healthy.

Next week brings another chance for arrival as I take part in an adult bar/bat mitzvah celebration. It’s the culmination of two years of study and the choice to deepen my Jewish practice and membership in community. When I hold and chant from the Torah, I will be symbolically—like my ancestors in the desert—“taking [my] place at the mountain with all of the Jewish people, . . . coming home, being whole.” With the momentousness of the occasion, with all those who are and are not present, there will be tears. The difference is that these tears will be bittersweet and shared. On Mothers Day I could focus on the affirmation I would never receive from my lost child—or affirm my love for him and my living son. At my bat mitzvah, I can choose to focus on who is not there to give me their blessing and on the mountains that Noah can no longer climb—or I can be amazed by the blessing of all those who have helped carry me on this journey and who are rooting for me to have something to celebrate.

The two years of preparation for this day coincide with the two years that we have been living with the loss of our son. For much of the first year, I couldn’t concentrate on learning and couldn’t help seeing everything through the lens of loss. I stuck with the class because I had wanted to do it for a long time and dimly thought it might give me a stake in the future, beyond loss. That it has. I thank God and lots of people for allowing me to reach this season.

To those who are suffering: may you let in a little light to be present to the joy and power of culminations. And may you honor wherever you are in your journey.

No comments:

Post a Comment