When Life Hits Hard

I learned today that a friend of mine has been diagnosed with ALS.  She and her husband are writers and have been chronicling this experience for several months, though today was the day they announced it out in the world.  Their journal entries, which they have shared with friends, are so full of love, pain, and down-to-the-guts honesty that I feel not only privileged to be allowed such access but also awe-struck at their bravery as they face this passage in their lives. I know the whole family and we have all cooked breakfast together for the homeless at our “Breakfast Club” on more than one occasion in years past. They are special people, each of them, and they certainly deserve any kind thought or small prayer you may have to offer up.

At a time like this, my inclination is to turn to Mary Oliver, who sometimes says the words that help express how I feel.

Heavy by Mary Oliver

That time
I thought I could not
go any closer to grief
without dying

I went closer,
and I did not die.
Surely God
had his hand in this,

as well as friends.
Still, I was bent,
and my laughter,
as the poet said,

was nowhere to be found.
Then said my friend Daniel,
(brave even among lions),
“It’s not the weight you carry

but how you carry it –
books, bricks, grief –
it’s all in the way
you embrace it, balance it, carry it

when you cannot, and would not,
put it down.”
So I went practicing.
Have you noticed?

Have you heard
the laughter
that comes, now and again,
out of my startled mouth?

How I linger
to admire, admire, admire
the things of this world
that are kind, and maybe

also troubled –
roses in the wind,
the sea geese on the steep waves,
a love
to which there is no reply?

— “Heavy” by Mary Oliver from Thirst.


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