Sunday, 1 July 2012

The Extraordinary Ordinary Things of Life


I am at Thomas’ wake. I have his memory box on my knee and I take out a few photos and pass them to a friend.

“He was a chubby baby!” she exclaims.

I reply, “He wasn’t really. Those photos were taken at the funeral home. He looked different at the hospital.”

I think about this. I remember how much I longed to see Thomas once more at the funeral home before his burial. He was in his coffin at the far end of the room and I hurried towards him. And then suddenly I stopped. He didn’t look like my baby. In some way he’d changed since I’d left him at the hospital. He didn’t look as I remembered. Tears rolled down my face and I wondered, “Did they get the babies muddled up? Is this really Thomas?”

My friend’s voice interrupts my thoughts. She is asking me another question and I open my mouth to reply. My lips move but the words won’t form. I try again, and again I fail to say anything. I have lost control of my speech.

My friend notices my difficulties and hurriedly says, ‘You don’t have to say anything. It’s OK.”

But it’s not OK at all. I want to tell her about my son but I can’t. I don’t want her to move off and leave me alone. But she thinks she is upsetting me. She pats me on the shoulder and hurries away. And I am helpless.

Yes, I remember the day I lost control of my speech. But it wasn’t just the ability to form words that I’d lost. I’d lost control of my whole life.

Life can go on the same, day in and day out. It is known and comfortable and we feel secure. We think we are in control. Yes, we have problems to deal with but we cope. And then one day we wake up and life has changed forever and we know there is absolutely nothing we can do about it.

I am very aware of how life can change so quickly. I travel through my comfortable days where I am seemingly in control and I wonder how long it will last. What plans has God got for me? Will He allow my world to be turned upside down again? Will I once again sink into that pit of suffering?

I remember going to town a few days after Thomas died. As I walked through the shopping centre, I noticed two happy young women. As I passed them, I wondered how they could continue to laugh and chat together about nothing of real importance. Didn’t the air around them turn cold as I walked by? Couldn’t they see I was no ordinary woman but one gripped by the arms of grief? I wondered why their lives were so normal and happy. How could they enjoy the trivial things of life?

The trivial things of life? It is strange how unimportant some things seem when we are grieving. What if my world fell apart today? Would I continue my normal routine? Would I be interested in the little things of life? No, I don’t think I would.

I think of the possibility of more suffering and my heart skips a beat. A feeling of dread and fear overcomes me that threatens to spoil the present moment. And then I tell myself not to be silly. I say: Trust. Live life to the full and don’t look ahead.  Be thankful for the joys of today. Don’t let thoughts of possible pain-to-come spoil the present. The future is God’s concern, not mine. My job is to concentrate on the little things of life.

So I get involved in the little things of life. I think about what I am going to wear for the day. I stand under the shower and enjoy the tingling of the hot water upon my skin. I spend time with God: I pray and read. I hang washing on the line and feel the warmth of the sun. Later I challenge my body to a long run. Afterwards I sit at the lunch table and devour my sandwich as I answer the girls’ eager question: “How far did you run today, Mum?” We work; we share books; we chat; we laugh; we write; we discuss what we shall cook for dinner. Then Andy arrives home. We hug. I pour a glass of wine and we exchange news. Eventually our ordinary day comes to an end.

My children arrive one by one to say goodnight. I think about how much I love my family. I love them so much it hurts and the present moment threatens to be spoilt by the question, “What if…?” But I don’t let it. I really have no cause to worry.

I think about Thomas’ death when I lost control over every aspect of my life, even my speech.  I was sure my life was over. But here I am full of joy, surrounded by love and loving… I still have no control over my life. I don’t even want control any more. Yes, I am aware that God could allow any sort of sorrow and suffering to touch me. But I also know He will always be there to bring me through it. For hasn’t He already done that before?

So I live in the present moment and I enjoy the ordinary things of life which I suddenly realise aren’t so ordinary after all. Ordinary becomes powerfully extraordinary when combined with love.

So as each child comes to say goodnight, I enfold her within my arms and I hug… I hug tightly, my eyes closed, my heart overflowing with love. This is today. This is what is important. This is an extraordinary ordinary moment.

20 comments:

  1. It must be hard to take your mind back to those sufferings after Thomas died, Sue. Thank you for sharing and bringing hope to other people.

    God bless:-)

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    1. Vicky,

      Thank you for being so sensitive. I like thinking about Thomas. Yes, all the memories of his life and death are very sad, and they stir up feelings of pain, but it's all we have. It is good however to reflect on these sufferings and bring something positive out of the experience!

      It might sometimes be hard to write about suffering but I imagine it is also difficult reading about it. I appreciate you taking the time to share my story. Thank you!

      God bless!

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  2. This is a well-written post with a very powerful message which deserves a wider audience.

    Sue, you have described so well how we go through life taking things for granted and how the "what if" could so easily change it.

    I think you should publish this on the ACF Blog. And with your permission, I'd publish it on the Community of Catholic Bloggers.

    God bless.

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    1. Victor,

      Yes, life can change so quickly. I've been pondering the value of the in between times when life just plods on uneventfully. I have another post in mind exploring this a bit more. I'll see if I am successful at putting my thoughts into words!

      You are welcome to post this on the Community of Catholic Bloggers site. I hadn't thought about posting it on the ACF blog but maybe I will. It is kind of you to think my post worthy of a wider audience. Thank you!

      God bless.

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    2. "You are welcome to post this on the Community of Catholic Bloggers site."

      Thank you. Done.

      God bless.

      Delete
  3. I love this post......I love all your posts! Living in the moment.....I've been meditating on this all week. Here it is again. Thank you for continuing to write.:)

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    1. Hi Grace!

      I am so pleased you share my posts. Thank you!

      Sometimes I also find a topic popping up in multiple places! I didn't actually read another post which spurred me to write this one. In fact, I didn't really know what I was going to write about when I started. I just wrote down the memory of losing my power of speech and thought, "What now?" Then somehow I found myself writing about living in the moment. Writing can be an adventure!

      Continuing to write? I should thank you for continuing to read my posts!

      God bless you.

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  4. Great article.
    Living in the present moment is how I got through my husband's recent illness. All I felt like I could do was put one foot in front of the other and hold on to Jesus!
    I also know what it feels like looking at others laughing and enjoying their lives and wondering how they could possibly be happy when I was suffering. I have experienced that many times. That whole thing about the world just going on like nothing happened. It can be very painful to experience that.
    And yet eventually it give us hope. Yes, life does go on and so will we. We have no idea how. So we just hold on. That is all I can do at times like that.

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    1. Colleen,

      I realise how difficult life has been for you and your husband lately. Yes, the little things in life do not seem at all important when we have sufferings to bear. All that is really important is our relationships with our family and God.

      You said, "That whole thing about the world just going on like nothing happened." You understand what I was trying to say! Yes, it hurts when we feel so alone with our pain but I agree about the hope that comes from the world continuing to go on around us. I remember watching Imogen, who was almost 5 years old, at Thomas' funeral. She smiled and danced amongst the graves and it was good to see life and beauty on a day of great suffering. Hope for the future.

      Colleen, I hope your husband is recovering and you are not having to watch him so closely with worry. Perhaps we suffer just as much as our soul mates when they are struggling. I am praying for you both.

      God bless!

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  5. I hope you realize how courageous you are to have been through this and survived. Thank you so much for taking the time to write about it!

    Wishing you the best,

    Angela.

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    1. Angela,

      I didn't feel courageous at the time. In fact at times I really wanted to lie down and give up the struggle to survive. Left to myself, I would have done this, but God is good, and everyone around me helped so much.

      Thank you so much for sharing my story. I am always so grateful when anyone stops to read one of my Thomas stories.

      God bless!

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  6. Such a heart-wrenching post, and yet such a beautiful post. None of us likes to be reminded that our life is not in our control but your story is a testament to God's goodness and His mercy that can see us through even the worst of situations. You're ability to share your feelings and your struggles is inspiring and admirable.

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    1. Kari,

      You are always so encouraging when you comment. Thank you for your kind words. It is good when heart wrenching events can be made into something beautiful. Thank you for sharing my story.

      God bless!

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  7. This was so powerful. God bless you. I am sharing this everywhere! Thank you.

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    1. Amy Caroline,

      I thought about this post for a couple of weeks or so before I actually wrote it, while I looked for the right words to express what I wanted to say. That is sometimes so difficult!

      " I am sharing this everywhere!" Thank you!! I love your weekly "Let's go visiting" posts. It is generous of you to share other bloggers' links. I enjoy reading other people's favourite posts.

      God bless!

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  8. I lost my dear baby boy Frances two months ago and am still struggling with the everyday moments. They really do seem so trivial but I know for my other two boys they are everything. I am trying so hard to concentrate on the blessings of my two boys and not on the heartache of losing my third son after struggling with secondary infertility for so long. I know there are also small blessings each and everyday that I am missing because I can't see clearly through my grief. I really appreciate your blog. You are able to articulate so much of what I am feeling. It is good to know that I am not alone. Your words give me hope that God will bring me through this too even though I can't see the light in this darkness right now.

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    1. Sarah,

      I guess nothing seems very important to you at the moment. Grief is so overwhelming. I have to admit that my other children didn't bring me comfort either. Oh I was so grateful I had them, but they didn't fill the gap left by Thomas. That was his gap. No one could fill it.

      There is a double pain after conceiving after repeated miscarriage. We have such hopes that this baby will heal the past, and this time we will experience joy. It's a long way down that ladder of hope to the grief at the bottom.

      It sounds like the present time belongs to Frances. You need to grieve, despite the blessing of having two other sons. It is still early days. Maybe you are only able to put one foot in front of the other at the moment, in order to keep moving through your days. I remember doing this, and I constantly recited the St Michael the Archangel prayer as I fought despair. It is not easy. We do wonder if we will survive. Yes, God will bring you through this. Why should He rescue me and not you? He is good. Grief just seems unending though at times...

      I am so glad you can feel a little comfort from reading my own story. Grief is very lonely and I found it does help to share with others. If it helps, please email or comment any time you'd like to talk. I've been praying for you ever since your last comment.

      May God bless you and hold you close.

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  9. "Yes, I am aware that God could allow any sort of sorrow and suffering to touch me. But I also know He will always be there to bring me through it. For hasn’t He already done that before?"

    Just beautiful, Sue. And so true. We can count on Him to get us through ANYTHING...for that is His purpose...to love and take care of us. And many times he uses other to be the angels that we are so longing for. I think YOU, sweet and beautiful Sue, have been an angel to me <3

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    1. Virginia Sue,

      Yes, God will love and take care of us whatever the situation. He does indeed use other people to help and encourage us through the difficult times. I can remember many times when I was at the bottom of a pit of grief, wondering how I was going to get out, and then the phone would ring or a friend would drop by unexpectedly. My friends' words and love pulled me back from despair. I am sure God sent me help just when I needed it the most.

      Virginia Sue, I imagine you have done your own share of loving and encouraging, and being an angel. You are full of compassion and love. Thank you so much for your beautiful comment! xx

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