If healing comes, what will it be like?

In the days before Christmas, my sister, Patricia, who knows me inside and out, posted this for my benefit:  “Do not be dismayed by the brokenness of the world. All things break and all things can be mended. Not with time, as they say, but with intention. So go, love intentionally, extravagantly, unconditionally. The broken world waits in darkness for the light that is you. ” L.R. Knost

Marge on Rons bench from Julia_LI
Ephemeral twilight moment captured at Ron’s bench, Lorimer Park by our granddaughter Julia.

Our son, Ron, died on December 25, 2015, Christmas morning. Tuesday, December 26, 2017, was Day 1 of Year 3. That Christmas Eve and Christmas morning of 2015 run through my mind like an old newsreel. I am at once remembering everything I did, every conversation I had that Christmas Eve, while simultaneously imagining every step Ron was taking in planning to end his life. I contrast my Christmas Eve joy to his Christmas Eve sorrow, my Christmas morning happiness to his Christmas morning resignation of his fate and ultimately his death.

When your child dies, they take an almost unnatural place in the heart and the psyche of the parents. Perhaps the shock and pain of a sudden, tragic death exacerbates the intensity of the sorrow, which may seem to border on obsession at times. What is the way forward? Is true healing even possible? We love our other children and grandchildren very dearly. We love the place they hold in our lives. But the one whose death was so sudden and crushing has, at once, opened a hole in our hearts and our lives while, at the same time, taking up more spiritual, emotional and psychic space than the others.

As to our other children and grandchildren, not one day goes by that we don’t talk about them, laugh about them, wonder or worry about them. While they make us laugh, confuse or baffle us, their lives are their own and we are happy to bless them in that. We treasure each one and we are grateful for any real conversation with them, especially in those precious times when they open their hearts and their lives to us.

Our child who left us, however, has in some ways become a mystery to us. The one we thought we knew best, we knew least when it mattered the most. The one who lived with awareness of our day-to-day life, loved us deeply, the one so often at our side, the one we thought would accompany us on our journey to the end of our lives, is the one who left us behind, confused and grieving.


mother tears icicles
Vale of Tears  (def. “The the sorrows felt through life”) – Lorimer Park

My grief therapist asked what I hope to be the outcome of my therapy. I told her that I hope to carry my grief a bit more lightly on my heart. Even as I said that, I was not sure exactly what I meant. Will healing mean that tears will no longer spring to my eyes at the small cruelties that people so carelessly inflict on one another? There are so many cruelties, large and small, I never really observed until I lost Ron.

My grief has made me far more vulnerable than I ever expected or wanted to be. At the same time, I don’t think I want to return to being less vulnerable. I have a deepened awareness now of the pain inside others that I never had before and feel empathy for people others hate and think are monsters. Such vulnerability sometimes makes me dizzy.

On Christmas morning this year, Tom and I, along with Ron’s brother, Joe and our priest friend, Tim, provided a joyous celebration for people who suffer from traumatic brain injury. We arrived there at exactly 9:30 AM. In my Ron timeline, that was the moment I believe he crossed into his next life. In that very moment I was being greeted with welcoming hugs and the brightest smiles imaginable. There was no time for me to run my newsreel of the events of two years ago. During the service we told our little congregation that Joe’s brother, Ron, died two years ago this very morning.  With these folks, their emotional and psychological makeup only allows for love and empathy and they overflow with both. In return, that is what they call forth from us. Their generous outpouring of love deeply touched our hearts on Christmas morning of 2017 and Jesus was born among us, right in that otherwise institutional setting.

My niece, Shannon, wrote in a Christmas card that Ron is even closer to us in these days because he knows we need him the most. How deeply profound and comforting I found that.  As we shared our Christmas morning service with our sweet friends, telling the story of the shepherds and the angels, singing the Glorias and weeping during Silent Night, Ron stood there in our midst in some way we cannot possibly understand.  But he was there with us.

The prayer that is in my heart and on my lips every day since Ron left is this: “God, help me. I am brokenhearted. I don’t know how to do this.” In the days before Christmas, my sister, Patricia, who knows me inside and out, posted this for my benefit:  Do not be dismayed by the brokenness of the world. All things break and all things can be mended. Not with time, as they say, but with intention. So go, love intentionally, extravagantly, unconditionally. The broken world waits in darkness for the light that is you.  L.R. Knost, Author:

When I say, “I don’t know how to do this” I suppose the answer is that there is no way to do this but to do it – step by step, day by day, never denying my grief or the pain of others but, with love and intention, finding some way to transform it. Then, with God’s grace and the love that Ron had for us in this life and has for us now, healing will come when it will and as it will, to us, Ron’s parents for always.

Blessed be.

2017-05-31 05.37.18
Sunrise at the Grand Canyon, May, 2017 – A stone from Ron’s house remains inside the rim of the Canyon so that every sunrise shines on something of his.

19 thoughts on “If healing comes, what will it be like?”

  1. Marge, you may not feel like you “know how” to do it, but by simply doing it day after day, you are touching so many hearts and extending that healing to everyone around you. Your words feel, to me, like a laying on of hands – as if your experience of healing through grief is infusing me with healing and love. The generous way you share your journey is helping others to grow in sensitivity and awareness. That is truly a blessing to all of us who know you.


    1. Oh, Loretta, thank you so much. In the fog that is grief I never really know the way forward. Sharing it helps and knowing that such tender people are hearing it and feeling it with me and in your own lives helps me immeasurably.


  2. Dear Marge, Your sister Patricia’s post resounded in me how your intention to live the grief you feel for Ron so extravagantly inspires me and others to live that light that is in us. And your day to day healing reminds us of how showing our own vulnerability will contribute to healing our broken world. A world we will feel better about leaving to our children and grandchildren. With love and good wishes to you and Tom, Cassie


  3. Dearest Marge, Thank you for sharing the hard wrought wisdom and compassion that has been birthed in you because of Ron’s death. You and Tom have had to walk this dark and difficult path to understanding and healing… you are each remarkable for your courage. Thank you for being the light to those of us who have not yet sorted it out for ourselves …

    Peace and blessings to both of you for Year 3.


  4. Thank you for this, Marge. As I read the prayers you mentioned I told myself to remember to go back someday and read them again. This Christmas I felt could possibly be the last with my mother still with us. I know I can’t second guess what losing her will feel like, whenever that may happen. But your daily prayer, I think, may help someday, as well as the quote from your dear sister Pat. I am so touched that you have placed something of Ron’s in a place where the sunrise will shine on it every day. Only a mother’s love. Your strength is beyond my comprehension.


      1. Marge, I meant to suggest that in some respects you are finding a better place for yourself with your broader view of things and that maybe Ron is helping you get there.


  5. I just read this today: “Grief hurts. So it is totally counterintuitive to move toward it and into it. But what if we all just fell to our knees in mourning? …What if we laid our grief—about what we’ve already lost and what we will eventually lose—out upon the tabletop of our lives? What if love is any space in which this kind of lament is allowed?” Thank you, dearest Marge, for your transparency always, for doing the impossible with such vulnerability and generosity and allowing us into your inner sanctum of grief…That quote your sister Patricia shared is what you do beautifully, what you’ve always done.


  6. Marge, your beautiful and honest account of your grief journey touches me on such a deep level. Your words, so full of grace and compassion, help to light my way on this unwanted path. Thank you for being a beacon and for loving with such intention.


  7. Marge, my thoughts continue to be with you. I hope that this year, each year, brings less pain, more peace for you, and your family. Warmest and most sincere wishes, Merle


  8. Hi Merle, thank you for your tender response. Less pain, more peace. That’s a good mantra! Writing helps to keep me balanced. I find the most comfort in bringing comfort to others. Have a happy and a healthy 2018.


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