Our beautiful neighbor passed away shortly after the new year.
There wasn’t a funeral.
There wasn’t a memorial.
…another tragedy in the heartbeat that is generational poverty.
Everyday I walk outside and I pause and look at the porch hoping maybe I got it wrong somehow. Maybe she’d be there calling me honey and asking why my kids weren’t in modeling (she was convinced they should be) or giving me some tomatoes or apples she didn’t need. But I’m wrong. Everyday. I’m wrong.
I’ve been to three funerals in little over a year. I hate funerals. The heartbreak. The swollen eyes and tear-stained kleenexes. Walking passed the beloved ones they leave behind. Wanting your presence to someone help them even though you know it can’t. The ritualistic tone of the sequence of events. And don’t even get me started on my feelings of visitations.
But now that I’m faced with grieving without a funeral I finally see the reason humanity needs them.
We need the marker. The signpost. A moment in our memory to refer back to….
…something that reminds us of a time and space where all that were touched by this person are together in a room to recognize their life AND their passing.
We need to hold the space of the death. The passing.
We need the marker.
I would surmise that we need markers in all the other passing in life too. Maybe overt grief is obvious but what about the subtle ones that aren’t recognized?
The job that didn’t work out.
How can we hold space, put down a marker, and recognize the passing of that death of a dream moment before we are forced by time to continue on in our journey?
Some things don’t get a ceremony.
But what if they could? What if humanity could do better? What if the friend facing life without her partner through divorce was granted the permission to have more than divorce papers as her marker? What if her friends circled her with a ceremony, a signpost marker. What if they didn’t let the moment pass without their hand on her speaking truth and love. What if that’s the moment she could look back on when she travels down the road navigating her new journey?
What if the person struggling to let go of a failed business, a job, a career gave himself space to light a candle and speak it out loud? What if he honored the space of the moment and was vulnerability enough to love himself fully by embracing something inside him that he wishes wasn’t there? What if it wasn’t “weird” to ask friends to help him in that moment to speak openly about the dream that wasn’t and instead of advice, we were just there to witness it?
What if the couple struggling with infertility didn’t have to be silent through their pain. And let me be really clear about this. Foster care and adoption aren’t markers for infertility. The are completely different things. So please don’t unintentionally get this mixed up…Yes they can bring children into your home and start you on a path of family but it’s not a signpost that the journey of infertility is over. Infertility needs a marker. It needs a ceremony. It deserves one. It needs a signpost of recognition that the death of a dream happened. What could that look like if they were allowed the freedom to write a letter to the child that isn’t without feeling like society would judge them for it or to have some friends over to pray and cry and honor that space with them just as we would any other incredibility traumatic experience?
When I was a kid I would run to a certain tree at recess time back in the wooded area of our school. I’d sit under it, bring my friends there, and convinced most people (including myself) that it was something really special. But sometimes I couldn’t find it in the “forest” of other trees nearby.
So one day I put down a few stones to make a trail leading up to it.
Markers to help me recognize where to go.
Something that lead me but also reminded me of the time I decided to put them down.
In Hebrew, the word Ebenezer means “stone of help.”
I got coffee with a friend of mine last month, someone who I hadn’t seen since our foster care journey began. I was in a season of feeling a bit weary of the unknown of it all and she explained to me about the Ebenezers…the stones of help.
She said, “When you look back over your journey in this season of unknown, where are the Ebenezers you can point to as a reminder, of a clear moment in your journey, that help you along the way… especially in the season of something being unresolved?” Markers can remind you of a joy OR a death. And the awareness of them can help you as you set out…
…like my trail of stones leading up to the recess tree.
Where are the moments that you can mark as something that helped you in your journey, something where God revealed to you…yes this, this is why. My provision is here in this moment. For me one moment was the day I picked up our foster daughter. I’ll never be able to get that memory out of my head as a time where God confirmed that we were on the right path.
But also can you lay down a stone that can help you mark the hard ones, the unrecognized deaths, so you can look back and hold its space of grief?
Maybe it’s a physical moment, conversation, ritual, or experience that you can use to hold the space of the life AND a death. If there isn’t a ceremony, a ritual of some kind for it…do one anyway. Let yourself have a clear marker in your path.
I’m going to call my friend today, I’m going to embrace their season and help them put down a marker and dammit, I’m not going to allow generational poverty stop me from saying good-bye to Ms. Connie. I’m going to lay down a Ebenezer right on her porch…
Today may you find your Ebenezers.
those markers along the journey.
Your stones of help.