Monday, July 10, 2017

Voices of Experience: The Wisdom of a 5-Year Old Picking Carrots

Credit: Dylan Parker
By Mary Beth Beck-Henderson

You can bury a lot of troubles digging in the dirt. ~ Anonymous

Mary Beth and her husband John had been married for nearly 24 years before he succumbed to complications of a superior mesenteric artery (SMA) aneurysm on November 22, 2016. They have a son who is now 20 years old and in college. Mary Beth has worked with families as a social worker and family educator for over 26 years. Acknowledging that she is "always looking for ways to make meaning out of all of this," she uses writing as a tool for healing grief, and hopes that the journal she is keeping may become a book one day. The following essay is reprinted here with her permission.

This morning at 8:10 a.m., there was a knock at the door. I was in the process of going back to sleep after my champ of a brother-in-law had arrived 5 minutes earlier to take a look at my car because it is making a concerning noise. (I am so very grateful to have family with skills and willingness to handle some of these things.) Still, sleeping late is a luxury that I rarely get. I was tired and worn out really, but I got out of bed and went to the door for the second time on this day.

This short, sweet face looked up at me and said, “Mary, will you come help me pick carrots?” Five-year-old G (my great nephew) stood there grinning ear to ear. Not many people can get me out of bed when I really want to stay there, but the littles in my family need only show up at the front door dressed in rain boots and pajamas and I am there. Of course, I quickly threw on some clothes and was out the door. What G hadn’t said was that they had already picked carrots and were actually at the tail end of Saturday morning gardening. Honestly, I would have been up and out picking beans had I known my sisters were out there in my dad's garden, but graciously they had let me sleep in this day.

On our way up the driveway, I stopped at my car to get some books I had picked up for G & A and the other kiddos. I handed them to him and then I took off running (well, trotting). He kept dropping the books as we jogged along and we would stop and pick them up. Finally, he said, “Here. Why don’t you carry this one and I will carry this one?” “Sounds like a plan,” I said. I started to resume my snail’s pace dash. Then he looked at me and said, “I think we should just walk now. It’s hard to carry books and run.”

How right he is. I have been carrying the “books” of grief of losing John for a little over 7 months now. Sometimes I try to rush through it, running if you will, and I end up dropping my “books,” or losing my balance. I have learned that it is not to be rushed. Grief is to be experienced at its own pace. In fact, it demands not to be hurried along nor swiftly torn through to find some ending point. Grief is just that – grief.

Sometimes we may even grieve the fact that we must mourn. It is hard, demanding work that inflicts distress on our minds and bodies. Trying to run when one needs to walk, crawl, or even sit still is not only counterproductive, but it can put a brake on the evolution of a new self. Sometimes I feel like I may just make it through all of this and sometimes I hold onto a thread of hope. Sometimes I lose faith altogether and feel like the likelihood of surviving is slim. During those moments, I remind my independent, self-reliant, strong-willed, “do it by myself” soul to reach out to others and ask them to help me “carry my books.” Many people are not lucky enough to have a good support system. I do and I am so very thankful for it.

Today, I am going to enjoy my two-year-old great niece's birthday party and slow down. Today, I am going to take things as they come. I have no idea when another wave is coming. Honestly, I do not know if it is predictable, but I haven’t been able to figure out how to make it unsurprising nor prepare myself for a smack of grief. Today, I will simply choose hope, but mostly, today, I am grateful for the wisdom of a five-year-old dressed in rain boots and pajamas picking carrots.

© 2017 by Mary Beth Beck-Henderson

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