Tuesday, August 26, 2014

Mother Stewards

My brain folks, it is a busy place to live, and sometimes an exceptionally melancholy one.

Our friend and neighbor Connor died this last week, as has been widely publicized.  I have been worried sick about his family, as well as exceptionally contemplative.  This is just where my mind goes.  How would I feel, what would I think, if I had that mother's burden?  To have sent a delightful, exuberant son of my womb out into the world as a free gift, hoping that his service would be a blessing, and already fighting a sense of loss at his believed-to-be-temporary absence because I believed in the work he was leaving to do?  But then to find that he'd passed away quietly, continents away, in an utterly preventable tragedy of errors?  To know cognizantly what had happened, but to have to wait days and days to deal with the physical reality of the body I birthed coming off of a plane without my son inside of it?  I'm unavoidably spending time in this hypothetical space.  I'm worrying a lot about how to help people grieve in my grief-illiterate culture.

I'm also pondering the control a mother does and does not have.  We mothers figure out pretty quickly that we cannot make horses drink, and that leading them to water often requires running in a lot of elaborate circles round them.  There is an unspoken, overwhelming need felt to be in control, to protect and prevent all types of harm. Conversely, there's a child's will and all the entropy in the whole wide world working to show the mother how little control she has.   Mothers slowly trade in their delusions of control for a hope of influence, and come to accept the limits of their stewardship.  If we are wise, we realize more every day how much of it we have to turn over to God.

So what then, if all of those factors outside of our control manage to concoct a nightmare for us?  What, when a mother has to fight off the "what ifs" and "if onlys" for the rest of her life?  How powerless to save her children can a mother feel before she implodes from the awfulness? How vulnerable is every mother every time her child is out of her sight?

This year Mr Renn's grandparents - who are in their 80s, have been dealt the blow of a child with a terminal cancer diagnosis. This son of theirs is probably around 60, but his mother is still devastated at the thought that her child will not outlive her.  That mother vulnerability is a life sentence, our hearts walking around outside of ourselves in bodies with unknown expiration dates.

It takes tremendous faith, I find, to manage motherhood at all; to not be overwhelmed by the fragility of life and well-being from the the very nascent stages on.  There has to be, for me at least, some negotiation of the cost of mortality. Part of what makes the birth of my children so poignant for me is the understanding that I've marked the start of a bright, fragile, impermanent union of body and soul.  When juggling the utter lack of rationality in my short people, I have to keep that perspective in my line of sight.  This is only temporary.  They are only temporary. I am only temporary.  God is the only thing that lasts, and the only being with enough information to know what needs to happen.   I rarely understand it and I often don't like it.  I've had a lot of experiences this year where I've had to fight the feeling that God is indifferent toward the tenderest and more vulnerable chinks in my heart.  Usually my way out is a sobbing admission: "I don't understand, I can't understand.  Help me to feel it is okay anyway."  "Okay"- being a relative term, but for me implying that God is in His heaven, and all is (ultimately) right with the world, even if I don't like it.  Even if I hate it.

And this, lately, I hate it.


Cheryl Libutti said...

Beautiful thoughts, Em. Because my kids are a little older, I have begun the awful task of teaching them that I as their mom cannot always protect them as they get older, and sometimes terrible things happen to perfectly wonderful people... And we will never know why, but can only lean on faith. You are facing real, painful situations but I get the feeling that this processing will only lead you to a stronger position as a mother and as a human. Growth is hard. The world is hard. God is sovereign, for sure, but he is always, always good. You are in my prayers.

...life, the way of the hummingbird said...

i love your words, for they speak from my heart as well.

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