Saturday, August 20, 2005

Of Sawdust and Icons

I keep thinking that I am going to be an old lady sitting in a rocking chair, living in a room full of icons, written off as someone who is super religious but has nothing of substance in her heart. Can't get that picture out of my mind. Maybe because my friend, who passed away three weeks ago today, had a room full of icons, was never without her rosary in her hand, and we never talked about our faith. I had written her off in the faith department long before her dementia settled in and our faith journeys took on some of the same hues. There are things about my journey that are so private and words are so inadequate to express them. Sometimes I find it ironic to be a lover of the Word and a lover of words and yet find myself so thankful that what cannot be expressed God understands anyway. My friend was a person of few words. She rarely started a conversation.

I am still haunted by the memory of hearing her pray the rosary amidst her pain. I think about my father in law, whose only lament at her impending passing was that it was too bad she wasn't ready spiritually. I remember how pissed off I was at him that he had the gall to think he knew her spiritual status. Then I remembered that I was guilty of the same thing. Sometimes being honest on here is a bit like eating sawdust. It's hard to swallow. I so badly want to be in some other place on the journey than smack dab in the midst of where I am. All week I kept getting this message to simply be where I was. "You try it!!" I wanted to yell at God. Then I remembered God is nothing if not Present in every moment.

We have always been pretty upfront in our home about everything and anything. No question or topic has been taboo. I grew up in a house of secrets and determined to have a home free of them. As a result I had to try to continue doing my cross stitch, without jabbing a needle in my finger, when my 11 year old daughter asked me, "Is sex is enjoyable?" - "Why , yes it is," I replied. The conversation that abounded in my head after that question was not quite so calm. So when my(now)adult daughter asked me the other day what my worst fear was, I was just relieved the question was one I could answer without my cross stitch being in jeopardy.

I told her it was being in pain. In the past 5 years I've developed an allergy to all the major pain killers and I hate pain. This week when I broke my toe and wouldn't let my husband examine it very closely she said, "Wow, you really are afraid of pain, aren't you?" I shot back rather loudly, "Listen hear I had three babies with no pain meds, so there." And in a quieter voice I said, "I just can't do toes." I don't understand why the doctor would give me all kinds of medication to bring a baby into the world but no pain medication to bring a toe back into alignment.

A few nights ago my youngest son started telling me about trying to make a car fishtail down our gravel road. He thought it made a cool story. Every one else in my house feels this is a skill building exercise. I freaked out before he even was done telling me. Ever-honest daughter tells me that I better get a handle on my fears. "Save them for when they are needed, not for after the fact that said son is just fine and the car didn't roll down the ditch and flip, never mind all the horrors her mom could imagine" was the gist of her opinion. I told her I just can't handle that kind of stress anymore. She tells me my reaction to him will guarantee that he will never again tell me some stuff and I tell her I am just fine with that. She gives me a look that says dementia is making a comfy nest in my brain already, then tells me that nothing has ever been taboo to talk about and none of them are used to not telling me it all. "Just put me in the room with my icons already, ok?" I wanted to yell at her.

When I looked at the icons in my friend's room they meant nothing to me. Nice statues but that's it. Nothing that connected with my heart. So I assumed that because I saw it that way, that's the way it was. But I look at what are already icons to me in my own home and each has a story. My rock that is split into 4 pieces reminds me I am broken and in need of a saviour. My hoola hoop reminds me to be childlike and not be ashamed of it. My hand held drum reminds me that I came from the earth and to the earth I will return. I dream of having a wall of rosaries - each one significant to a place on my journey - not unlike the altars that they built in the Old Testament as memorials of encounters with God. Even in writing this post I can see myself having a nice glass holder of sawdust - a reminder of the honesty of the journey. And you readers would be the only ones who could recognize the significance of it. Oh, the infinite number of times I have thought that what I saw, was the way it was.

For a moment the other day when my daughter asked me what my biggest fear was I was so tempted to lie and say, "Oh, I don't have any fears, I just have Jesus." The reality is that I have a multitude of fears and I have Jesus. I keep expecting that because I continue to be open about the journey that my honesty will morph into something more palatable than sawdust.

"Oh taste and see that the Lord is good." - Psalm 34:8a

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