Walking on Eggshells
“I could never do that.”
“You are so strong.”
We’ve heard those words in response to the news that our babies have died. As we stumble through the early days of grief, one breath at a time, one step at a time, we hear the words speaking of our unbelievable strength. The stamp of approval for our performance…”You’re doing so well.” Or the judgment when we fall short, “Honey, I’m concerned about you.”
We laugh to ourselves. Strong. Ha, we’re just trying to survive the day. I have quite a bit to say on the subject of what it really looks like to be strong. And, perhaps that should be saved for another post. But, as for “I could never do that” – I’m pretty sure most of us would reply….
“No one gave us a choice.”
No one asked us if we wanted to face everyday on planet earth for the rest of our time here without our children. It seems obvious that we don’t know what we could do until we’re faced with a situation. What we can endure. Because, is there really an option to “doing that” when “that” suddenly becomes your reality?
Your baby died.
There are so many platitudes, and we’ve heard them all.
“This was God’s will. You can have more children. Everything happens for a reason. God needed another angel. Time heals all wounds. And, Christians don’t grieve without hope…they count it all joy when trials come calling.”
So, at first, I thought I had to perform. To plaster a smile on my face. To hide the bitter tears, the endless pain. So that no one else was uncomfortable. Because to others, the pain looked like a lack of hope. A lack of faith. Slowly, something rose in me…a birth that began when I said goodbye to my daughters Faith and Grace and grew again when we buried our son, Thomas. Over time, I felt it rising…a rebellion of sorts. I continued to tiptoe on the eggshells for years, while the rebellion rose fiery within my depths. Because that’s what we do. We walk carefully, quietly, avoiding the eggshells or walking so lightly over them so as not to disturb their pristine fragility.
And, then my mother suffered and died a terrible death to cancer when I was barely 30 and she was 50. On the floor of the hospice center, wailing the cries of grief from all the deaths of those I’d loved wrapped into a crescendo of agony…
She died. And, I was born. Suddenly, all that had been stirring within my depths broke free with a force that could no longer be contained. I didn’t want to spend another moment doing the things that won’t matter in eternity. You know, the mundane things. Like small talk. Or going to gatherings with people who aren’t really part of your life. I was free from the unspoken rules that had bound me for so long. Free from the restraints that had defined me. I would no longer apologize for being…for feeling…for missing..for living.
Being flawed, imperfect, broken.
Feeling pain, sorrow, grief, joy…all of it.
For missing my people, the pieces of my heart that had once lived here.
And, for living fully, freely, unapologetically as the person I was created to be.
Because I am the mother of Faith, Grace, and Thomas. The daughter of Kathy. And, I am also a woman filled with fiery passion, an endless dreamer, a weaver of words, a teller of stories, a singer of songs, a woman who loves from her depths, who dances in her kitchen. I’m a thousand other amazing things…and I didn’t want to waste another minute being afraid to live.
Because they lived, I want to fully be that amazing woman. I want to embrace the person I was meant to be, instead of spending one more moment being someone I’m not, someone that makes everyone else comfortable.
So, I stopped being quiet. And, I started living…fully living. Because they lived, I didn’t want to squander the life I breathed. I walked on the eggshells, tentatively at first…then firmly, purposefully I stepped. I stomped. I danced as they spewed the yellow ooze messy and raw and real. The shells crunching beneath my feet with abandon.
Free. Messy. Raw. Real. No apologies. That’s the way life looks to me now as I live my own broken-shell covered mess and enter into the glorious mess of others walking along their own grief path.
So do it. Just step on the shells. Let them break beneath you. Let the mess ooze beautiful. Because once they’re broken, what is there left to fear? Once they’re broken, you can dance on what remains with freedom.
*Note to the editor: Thank you to Lori Ennis for the word picture in our recent conversations…and for so eloquently speaking of life after walking on the broken eggshells. Your words haven’t left me.