Sunday, February 2, 2014

I've Been Broken, Willing or Not

I came to a shocking realization Saturday on my way home from Zumba.

I'm a better person than I would have been if I had not lost my son.

Even writing that and refreshing my realization of that hard truth brings a tear to my eye,

From the first time I heard the song "Keep Making Me" by the Sidewalk Prophets, it sent chills through me. It was not a song -- in fact a prayer -- that I could pray. I shied from it. By the time I really listened to the words I was already as broken as I felt I could be.

Make me broken
So I can be healed
‘Cause I'm so calloused
And now I can't feel
I want to run to You
With heart wide open
Make me broken

Make me empty
So I can be filled
‘Cause I'm still holding
Onto my will
And I'm completed
When You are with me
Make me empty

During Zumba I hugged sweaty women that I previously didn't know, and may still only know as the person who dances in a certain spot each week. If I'm lucky, I know their first names. After class I spent 30 minutes standing in the warm January sun in the parking lot talking to someone I would never have met.

Nowadays I pray for, encourage, and cry over people I've never met, and people I've come to know in the last two months. Sometimes, I've met them face to face and sometimes they are just voices on the telephone and perhaps pictures on Facebook. Some exist for me only on Facebook or Google+. They are people who I know because we share a fear or a pain that often cripples us. It has drawn us together like children together while a storm rages. There is nothing we can do for one another but share our stories, hold one another, and pray that we and, sometimes, those we love, survive.

Before losing Ethan, although I had more empathy for the families struggling with addiction and the young people who had lost their way, I didn't feel this.

I was so damn independent and self-sufficient. I didn't worry about anyone else. Zumba class was just a place where I showed up and burned some calories and left. I didn't really care about the other people there, not in the way I should, because I didn't know them and didn't take time to know them. I didn't need to know them. They didn't need to know me.

I could handle life and whatever it threw at me because I always had -- even Ethan's addiction. Sure, I realized I needed to pray, because that was how I had coped with a lot of things, but I had never been broken. I could still separate myself from the rest of the world because my pain and their's didn't overlap.

Then Dec. 15 came and my world changed.

I was not only broken, I was shattered.

No, I didn't crawl in bed with a bottle of wine, photo albums and Ethan's old sweat shirt (although some days that's still an option), but the tough shell that kept the world out was gone.

When I broke, I did it in the most public way that I knew how. Isolated in my little corner of the world with my little circle of friends, I posted it on Facebook and then, struggling to wrap my head around what had happened, I wrote about it in my seldom read blog. I invited my little world into my pain because I just didn't know how to cope any more.

What I found out was that my little world suddenly expanded and the shell that held me together had also held everyone out. I hadn't just been taking care of myself, I had been making sure I didn't have to take care of anyone else.

My world now is a far different place and not just because Ethan is not in it. I'm a different person. Grief, this particular kind of grief tied to so many things that no one wants to talk about in drug addiction and death of a child, has changed me in ways I would never have expected that go far beyond loss.

Instead of feeling like a diamond, something intact on its own, beautiful and hard, I'm a sponge. I'm soft and open to the world and I soak up the hurt, the hopes, and the worries of so many people who share any part of what I've gone through. I think of them. I wonder about their days. I pray for them. Many of them do the same for me.

I struggle with writing, with saying what needs to be said instead of the right thing. I'm prayerfully trying to understand if this is what God wants me to do and if I'm doing it correctly. I'm stumbling through my days looking for light, waiting for the touch of angel wings or the sense of my son's nearness, looking for understanding not just of what happened, but of life and death and what comes next and why.

I wish there had been an easier way to become this person, this woman who really, genuinely cares and reaches out and who may have something to offer. I wish there had been an easier way to realize down to my bones that this life, as all consuming as it feels, is just a small part of who we are and what we do. I wish there had been an easier way to let God really touch me and know what He needed me to know for the moments in time that it has happened.

But I had to be broken. And I've come to understand that healing doesn't mean going back to what I was before, it means being better. Even if it's only because I take the time to care.

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