This spring I’ve been dabbling in the art of sharing stories out loud instead of just on paper. I’m currently rehearsing for Boulder’s Listen to Your Mother performance (if you live near Boulder, come see us!). Also, in honor of Good Friday, I was invited to read a piece for my dear friend Steve‘s podcast called Liturgy of the Forsaken. In case you (like me), read your phone more often than you listen with it, I thought I would share my piece here. Much love.
Liturgy of the Forsaken. Liturgy means “the work of the people.” So are we talking about the work the forsaken do to find their way back? Or is it the work the people around them do to reach the forsaken? Maybe it’s both.
Suicide is brutal in a way that has nothing to do with the method of death. When a person dies this way, there is no decrescendo, no note to resolve the music of their lives. There is only a building intensity, a kind of frenetic energy pouring out from them. It’s like their lives are interrupted mid-sentence. They’re still attending rehearsals, preparing tomato beds, making phone calls – their worlds are filled with their energy, as they go about the nuances of the projects and relationships that mark all of our days. And then, all at once, they’re just … gone.
The abrupt silence is staggering. It’s been sixteen months since my mother’s suicide, and still, the sharp quiet that marks the spot where she should be takes my breath away. It’s an ear-ringing, deafening silence and it is, as I said, brutal.
For me, months 3 and 4 into the silence were the hardest. That’s the time when you’re supposed to be okay, but you aren’t. I’d gone back to work, and mostly back into my routines, but I was nowhere close to being back to normal. Normal really doesn’t exist anymore. You can never be who you were before the silence began. But I really didn’t know how to navigate the terrain of my new life – the life I now lived without my mom – either. I was awkward, uncertain, and angry. I spent a lot of time alone.
But there were a couple of friends who just wouldn’t let me fall off their radar. About this time, my friend Lindsey invited me to meet at the park with our children. I’m not great company, I warned her. I don’t need you to be anything in particular, she replied. I’ll just be glad to see you. So we met at a playground one afternoon. I remember sitting on a bench, clutching my coffee and staring blankly while my kids played in the sandbox. Lindsey and I talked some but it was mostly quiet. At one point, I remember noticing that she wasn’t fidgeting, and she wasn’t uncomfortable when I mentioned my mom. She really did seem to be glad to see me. It dawned on me how brave she was to do this, to be willing to spend time with her awkward, tense friend. To just sit here, beside me, not offering Scripture or trying to cheer me up. She was doing the work of the people. Her own liturgy. She was reaching a hand out toward me. And by showing up, not hiding, not pretending to be okay, I was grasping for her.
Since my mother’s death, I’ve never regained my footing with God. I’m sure I will, in time, but I’m not there yet. Still, I enjoy the liturgy. Its rhythm, and predictability, soothe me. Sometimes I pray to Mary. Not because I think God isn’t listening or doesn’t care, but because I know Mary understands grief. She knows the brutal silence of a life that ended mid-sentence.
Holy Mary, Mother of God, pray for us, now and at the hour of our death. I’m not Catholic. And yet, this prayer is all I’ve got right now. Liturgy is the work of the people, and I’m doing what I can.
Lindsey’s hand toward me, my hand toward Mary. It all matters. It all helps. Each grasp leads us closer to one another, and closer to home.
Because the forsaken were never intended to stay that way.