Grief is a River

Grief is a river that now runs through my life.  Sometimes it is slow and steady, passing gently over rocks of remembrance, pooling up in beautiful, idyllic scenes where the late afternoon sun brushes through the trees and paints the waters and the riverbank in bright splashes of quivering light.  The aching beauty of having loved.

The memory of my Mother’s elegant hands–folding laundry, soothing a fever, throwing a snowball, washing dishes, painting with watercolors, brushing her hair, playing hymns on the piano, drinking a coke, pulling up a blanket, driving a car, signing a permission slip, putting on lipstick, playing cards, waving in her singsong way, washing my hair in the kitchen sink, scrubbing the floor, holding my hand in a parking lot, animating her speech, making a birthday cake, turning the pages of a children’s book, touching my shoulder, wiping my tears…  These are the little rocks that it rolls over, slow and steady, calm and bitterly sweet.

Sometimes the waters run like a flood–a dam broken, a waterfall of sorrow.  The tragedy of having deeply loved and lost.

The empty spaces in photographs and at the Christmas table.  The phone call that didn’t come this year on my birthday.  Old home videos and text messages and the finality of death in this life.  Mothering while grieving and feeling wrong for not having time to let myself properly mourn.  But the gift of grace I feel grace while grieving my Mother’s life!  She understood more than anyone what it means to allow children to work on every part of you–your joys and sorrows, your hopes and plans, every sleeping and waking moment of your whole life.  I feel her presence profoundly in her absence.

And so I sit in the beauty of the day and watch the light reflecting off the moving waters. I let my children splash in it when I can.  I do my best to pull them up out of the current before the rapids take us all under.  There is beauty here and danger and a reckoning with the wild ways of nature.  Things will never be the same now that we know waters have this kind of power.

So we lean in close together and whisper a prayer of thanks for the gift of breath in our lungs and hearts that are beating.  We cling to the hope that there is another side to life.  One we can’t see yet but that is more familiar to us now that the face of someone we dearly love is waiting for us there.  We breathe.  We breathe.  We breathe.  We hold as tightly as we can to those we love while trying to hold them loosely, knowing that they belong, not to us, but to our tender, ever-loving and gracious God.

It is such a gift to be alive.  To have loved and to love and to walk the banks of the sweet and wild river hand in hand.

Hazel Creek Mill.jpeg
This is an image of my Mother’s watercolor print of Hazel Creek Mill, signed by her beautiful hand in her beautiful handwriting.  I will continue to love and miss her deeply.
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4 Comments Add yours

  1. Michelle says:

    When I see you have posted a blog, I SAVE it for that quiet time when I can drink it in and savor it. It is such a beautiful treat.
    Your mother’s watercolor of the Hazel Creek Mill is lovely. Did you know that the boys and I had the privilege of living in the home across from that mill? It was another one of God’s miraculous provisions for us in our wandering time.

  2. Adrienne says:

    This is so beautiful, Mack. I love how you invoke the visceral, intimate presence of your mama’s hands. Memories of scenes are one thing, but memories of touch and of watching such a distinct and expressive part of your mother’s body (her hands) do the intimate, daily work of living, nurturing, creating, adorning, and expressing…that is a different and much more specific thing entirely. And I love how you say these memories are the stones that the river of your grief flows over. You have such an amazing gift for using beautiful, vivid imagery to express these very elusive thoughts and feelings, or thoughts and feelings that could seem common and non-specific if described in less detail. You make everything so vivid and heightened and poignant, and I feel, as a reader, what *you* are feeling so very deeply and intimately. Thank you for sharing this. It makes me happy to know you are writing through this difficult season of difficult feelings, since I know this is one of the ways you will continue to heal and to adapt to this new reality of a mortal world where your mom no longer exists. Thank God you know you will be reunited with her in the next one. I love you. And I love your voice. And I love this painting of your mama’s. I feel the grace of her spirit in the elegance and light touch of her brush strokes.

    1. Thank you so much for these beautiful thoughts, Adrienne. I love you.