Tag Archives: grief

Passion: Windows of Agates

Cincinnati Death Record

Cincinnati Death Record

Sunday morning

During the passing of the sacrament I decided to prep myself for Sunday School by reading the scriptural passage we’d be studying. Isaiah 54. That first verse caught my attention in a visceral way:

“Sing, O barren, thou that didst not bear; break forth into singing, and cry aloud, thou that didst not travail with child: for more are the children of the desolate than the children of the married wife, saith the Lord.”

I know many women for whom fertility issues are a great source of anxiety and grief. My own three children were hard to come by, but relative to those who want children but can never have them or lose them early I can only imagine the heartbreak. And, given Isaiah’s setting where being barren (even though it may have been the guy’s problem!) was deemed “shameful”, the problem was exacerbated by that unjust layer of societal disrespect. Continue reading

The Grief Linebacker

Jack Lambert

He hits me blindside, like an unprotected quarterback.  Pinned to the floor by a 400-lb wall of angry flesh, I am cracked, broken, concussed.  Everything was going so well.  The day was progressing normally; I was functional, productive even.  As a final insult, he gives me one more push as he arises, sauntering off into the mist while lay there, awash in tears, my chest crushed from sobbing, my head reeling.  It takes me a day to recover.

In her book, “On Loss and Loving Onward,” Melissa Dalton-Bradford describes her Grief Beast:

“The Grief Beast is enormous – a hybrid of Jabba the Hutt, Sasquatch, and Grendel.  His head scratches any twenty-foot ceiling, and he doesn’t speak; he transudes.  He is warted and hairy and lumpy – a shaggy, slate-khaki thing with hair balls and sodden patches of a matted, grimy pelt from sitting for long stretches in pools of tears and mucus.”

Melissa is a dear friend of many years, and I can see her Grief Beast vividly.  As she has shared her experiences with me, and as we have wept together, I have imagined her with this “blubbery, slavering mass” following her around everywhere she goes.  I see her lying on the cold tile of her bathroom floor as he sits there next to her, a “hulking, stinking, unwelcome sidekick.”  In the years before Ethan passed, I knew his death was coming – his health was fragile and deteriorated year by year, and  I mourned this horrifying fact together with my dear friend.  She, mourning the loss of her beautiful son, Parker.  I, mourning the child that never was, that never would be, whom I would inevitably lose.  She, dragging around her Grief Beast, becoming accustomed to its presence while my Grief Linebacker stayed on the sidelines, waiting patiently to be called up by the coach.

And now, nearly six months after Ethan’s passing, my Grief Linebacker hits with semi-regularity.  Some days, he comes out of nowhere, but others, I see him coming, barreling down the field, gaining speed and momentum.  On the seventh of every month, the anniversary of Ethan’s death, I stand at midfield, my feet planted, my body relaxed and waiting for the hit.  I look him in the face, see the beads of sweat on his brow, smell the foul odor of pain and loss emanating from his hulking frame, and feel his powerful arms in a vise grip around my chest as we hit the turf together and I am crushed under his weight.  I lay there on my back, gasping, tears flowing into my ears, waiting for him to retreat to his regular position on the field so that I can roll over into a fetal position, a pulpy mass of mucus, tears, and pain.

The other day, I went to the science center with my two sons.  As we entered one of the exhibit areas, I spotted a woman sitting next to a little boy with spastic cerebral palsy in a wheelchair.  I smiled at her, and she smiled back, looking away.  Knowing all too well the smiles of well-meaning strangers as I have sat with my similarly disabled child in his wheelchair, I have used the same deflection technique.  Acknowledge, look away, engage in something else to avoid uncomfortable conversation.  Undaunted, I bravely walked up to her and said, “That’s a great wheelchair!  Is it a Quickie?  My son had a Quickie (brand) wheelchair.”  Instantly her face relaxed and she smiled, realizing that I spoke her language.  We chatted a bit about her grandson as I knelt down next to the wheelchair and smiled at him.  The grandmother was in town with this sweet boy and his two siblings while their parents were away on business.  An indoor activity away from the blistering Florida heat and humidity was the perfect way to pass the afternoon.  “What is your name, sweetheart?” I said to the little boy.

“Ethan,” his grandmother responded.

This time, the Grief Linebacker was kind.  He picked me up and carried me to the other side of the exhibit hall, as I managed to sputter out, “Oh!  My son was named Ethan too.  Have a fun day!”  It was only then, behind one of the brightly colored exhibits, in a quiet, private space that he threw me to the ground and pounced.

[Image of Jack Lambert courtesy of Best Athletes by the Numbers]

On Loss and Living Onward, by Melissa Dalton-Bradford

Loss: noun: failure to keep or to continue to have something

: the experience of having something taken from you or destroyed

Grief: noun: deep sadness caused especially by someone’s death

: a cause of deep sadness

: trouble or annoyance

There is no dictionary-wrapped definition which fully conveys or explains loss or grief. For all who have lost, who have mourned, who have been wracked by pain, every ache and stab, every fresh realisation and memory is a unique, isolating event. For those who stand near or beside those who have lost and grieve, there is so much pain to bear witness to, let alone wade through to be with those we love.

We all know the echo of empty words, the stinging reassurances that “[insert fatuous/well-meaning/faithful/condescending/hopeful/comfort-intending phrase here]”. But what is there to say or do when sorrow drags us to the floor, or leaves us standing distant from the mourner, unsure of what would be best?

Melissa Dalton-Bradford’s second and latest book, On Loss and Living Onward, is a balm to the grieving heart, the sodden eyes of – as the subtitle shares – ‘for the grieving and those who would mourn with them’. Melissa begins chapters with experiences from her own journey with loss, following the death of her eldest son Parker. Then there are quotes, excerpts, poems and scriptures in collections: ‘Life at death’, ‘Love at death’, ‘Living after death’, ‘Learning from death’, and ‘Light, love, and life over death’. Continue reading

The Crossing, by B. Michael Radburn

There are questions and recommendation-seeking after the review – please join in the discussion!

It was the first snow Taylor had seen since his transfer to Tasmania, and he didn’t much care for it. After seven years on the mainland with National Parks & Wildlife, he’d spent the last three in the snowfields and high country of Victoria. It was a dream job for any ranger, but that was before losing Claire. She was eight years old then. It was a year ago to the day. Taylor clenched his jaw as something trembled deep within him. Something more than grief. Something more than heartache, like a treasured memory dying.

Life can turn on a penny, his father used to say.

‘Amen, Dad,’ Taylor whispered, the sound of his voice loud in the silent cottage.

The Crossing (Australian author B. Michael Radburn’s debut) is a moody, painful exploration into a father’s grief, and his sudden determination to find a little girl gone missing in his small isolated town – a town slowly being swallowed by a newly built dam.

While reading The Crossing, I found myself gripping the pages tightly (sorry, local library!) in parts of the tale, my hope and anxiety matching those of Taylor, the sorrow ridden father, as he fought his own exhaustion and nightmares to search for the missing girl. At other times, the portrayal of mourning was communicated so painfully it had me holding the book carefully to my chest as I tried to slow my breathing and dry my eyes. The Crossing evokes not only the Tasmanian country beautifully, but also the dense, lonely inner world of Taylor and the intricacies of other characters. Radburn deftly combines the changing landscape, the residents’ own shadows, secrets and Taylor’s mourning into a tale as haunting, fascinating and deep as the approaching watery quiet. There is humour, love and loyalty in The Crossing as well, leading the reader into considering things lost, found, and still hoped for.

(The Crossing is available in hard-copy through Australian stores – many of which post internationally- or electronically through Amazon or Apple. Go here for the first chapter sample).

Which works of fiction have captured grieving, sorrow or sadness perfectly heartwrenchingly for you? 

Do you avoid certain themes – such as in this book, missing children – in your reading? If so, which themes, and why?

Does a book being set in a different country increase or quell your interest?

GLOBAL MOM a memoir by Melissa Dalton-Bradford

First, our book reviews tend to meet with resounding silence, so I’m posing questions at the beginning for you to think about as you read.

How has living (or visiting) in different places changed your view of the world?

As emissaries of Christ, do we have a responsibility to understand other cultures?

Where would you choose to live– for a few years or forever– if given a chance?

How can those of us who are planted in one city gain a world view?

Also, if you have any questions for Melissa, she’ll be checking the comments.

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This is NOT an unbiased review.

Contributing to Segullah since 2007, Melissa Dalton-Bradford is one of our OWN. In fact the acknowledgments read, “…Segullah aided in the development of my voice and the telling of this story.” If you search her name on our blog or literary site you’ll find her gorgeous poems, essays and musings. And personally, I love and adore Melissa Dalton-Bradford around the globe and back. Continue reading