Tears, Held

I recently came across a poem I wrote years ago. I cannot remember if I included it in my "younger Mom" blog, theabbeyfarm@blogspot.com.

Many of us are caretakers of others. Edith Stein was the German Jewish philosopher who became Sister Teresa Benedicta of the Cross, a nun who died in the Holocaust, who wrote beautifully about spiritual motherhood. Caretaking and nurturing is a spiritual vocation regardless of gender. I’ve said before that caretaking for one who is suffering from medical issues is extremely stressful. We choose to care because we love. It is a form of self-sacrifice, which is the greatest of all gifts. The incongruity of pain and joy existing at the same time is worthy to ponder. There is truth in it.

Tears, held.
The reservoir is tremendous,
Her banks home to many,
Her waters life-giving
And re-creational.

Resolve reinforced,
Cracks patched in the dam.
Laboring unheard,
She moans as trickles of water break through
And belie her humanity.

The force intensifies,
Floodgates open-
She wails!
But no one hears her amidst the rushing waters,
Amidst their outcries of changing tides.

Yet without such release
She would shatter irreparably,
Causing devastation to all.
She knows that responsibility-
It has become her.

The floodgates close once again,
The weight of the water returns on the dam.
And the work resumes, ever silent.
All Cheer!
The waters are contained.

She is her work;
Love, with the greatest purpose-
There is deep joy in this, even in labor.
Tears, held.

Wither into Truth

Days of youth pass into memory

Though leaves are many, the root is one

Through all the lying days of my youth I swayed my leaves and flowers in the sun

Now I may wither into the truth. 

W.B. Yeats

Wisdom is attributed to the old for good reason. Our life experiences are numerous and our perspective deepens despite our weakened physical appearance. We “wither into the truth.”

Though we age, we are often called upon to continue physically caring for others. We must seek a balance in order to remain strong for those we love. Self-sacrifice that is all-draining renders us exhausted and unable to help anyone.

We are reminded of Jesus’ example but must remember that he did take time to sleep. I imagine that he ate healthy food and cared for his health, enabling him to care better for others. When the time was right and not too soon, he gave all. Most of us will not be in the position of sacrificing our lives, but we are all called to self-donation, to giving, and to some form of self-sacrifice.

Life is a juggle of self-care without self-centeredness, of self-sacrifice without self-destruction. It is at times difficult and even counterintuitive.

And then loss occurs. Tragedies visit more often or earlier in life for some: loss of health, of a partner, of a loved one, of abilities, of home, of youth…

I search for a better concept of loss. If inevitable, how does one best deal with it? I truly think it is with gratitude and acceptance. Pleasurable life experiences are easy to accept and be grateful for, but I am striving to be thankful even for premature losses and for tragedies. Certainly not that they occurred and hurt myself and others, but that life continued and God was there to comfort us with loved ones, with future life experiences, with a “peace that passes all understanding.”

It does seem counterintuitive. I have lost a dear husband early in life. It was tragic. Many people still feel the effects of the loss of him though over 20 years have passed. And yet, had he not died, Bruce and I would not have found each other, and our six children and four grandchildren would not have been born. I stagger in the profundity of emotional pain and of God’s grace.

I search to find meaning in physical pain, so hard to bear, so hard to witness. I do not believe that it is in vain. I ponder why some suffer so greatly, and feel that there is truth in the belief that their prayers and influence are profoundly powerful.

We are called to be generative in old age and thus if we are physically feeble, perhaps this is accomplished in our words, or modeling peace, or praying, or just loving. If cared for by others we become the means for their gain in grace.

“Now I may wither into the truth.”

Yeats contemplates the beguilement of his youth, and reveals to us that as we wither physically and surrender control, we have the greatest opportunity to gain in wisdom, influence and love.