At my father’s funeral my mother leaned over to me and asked me if I wanted her to say anything on my behalf.
I said, “Tell them he was a really great dad. And that he loved me very much.”
I wanted folks in the room to know my dad was a great dad. At 10 I didn’t understand everything. But I felt shame in the room. I knew my father was an alcoholic. I knew he went to AA. I knew he struggled with other addictions. I didn’t understand the depths of those things though, I just knew that I wanted folks to know that my dad wasn’t a label. He wasn’t an addict. He wasn’t an alcoholic. He was my dad and he made me feel precious and loved.
She made it to the podium alright (holding her breath the whole way), but as she started to speak her chest began to heave. It was like each word was a ten ton weight on her heart. Her voice cracked, the tears began to rush, and by “he loved Bree very much” she practically collapsed. Friends and family helped her back to her seat next to me. With tears pouring down her face she looked at me and began apologizing profusely, “I’m sorry Bree. I’m sorry I couldn’t keep it together. I hope I said that right for you. I love you so much.”
There is no torture worse than watching your children in pain. Especially from ‘grown-up pain’, the kind of pain that destroys innocence. It is aware, it knows it’s going to get worse before it gets better, it knows fear. My mother feared for my heart, she knew his death would hurt me for a long time. I saw my mother’s spirit nearly break under the immense weight and burden of trying to carry my grief. An impossible task because my grief belonged to me. It was my weight to carry.
Fast forward 15 years later. I’m in my twenties waiting tables on a Friday afternoon in a busy restaurant in Manhattan. While wiping up some crumbs my elbow hit a man’s iced tea. I tried to catch it but it hit the table. The top of the glass broke off and it bounced towards my hand like the open mouth of a dragon. I don’t remember feeling any pain but I do remember seeing my blood splash on the shirt of the guest and then tracing the gush back to my hand. I saw inside parts of my hand I have NEVER wanted to see. We’re talking surgery-channel nasty here. Look at your left hand. The ‘valley’ in between your thumb and pointer finger- the jagged glass hit that and literally sliced it like butter all the way to the bone. Thankfully I had that crumb filled towel in my other hand so I used that to hold my thumb on and ran ‘library-style-screaming’ into the kitchen, “I need help! I need help please!! Table 53 has a lot of blood on it!!”
I severed the nerve completely and 80% of the tendon. I had to have surgery or I wouldn’t regain full use of my thumb. I also needed a tetanus shot ‘cause my thumb was still being held together by a crumb filled kitchen towel. So nasty.
I was devastated. I had moved to NYC fresh out of college with big dreams and hopes and now I was listening to a Doctor tell me, “You can live a very full life without use of both thumbs, so if you’d rather not repair the tendon blah blah blah…..”
“Ummmmmm. NOT repair my thumb?! What kinda crazy train did you take to work today Doc? Not an option dude. Not. An. Option.” I screamed in my mind. Surgery was scheduled for the following Tuesday.
When I called my mom she asked me, “Well, what did you learn from this?”
Which I found pretty insensitive and dumb so I said, “um, glass is sharp?”
Calmly, she said, "No. Let falling things fall."
At the time this was NOT what I wanted to hear and I was pretty irritated. I wanted gushing sympathy
not just for my thumb but for my plans! My glorious hope filled, high reaching plans of great success! I was going to be a great stage actress on Broadway! It wasn’t just my thumb that was bleeding profusely- it was my PLAN FOR MY LIFE. A severed thumb was NOT a part of the plan. I was unraveling inside. How would I work…? What about my dreams…?
She was right, though. The harder I tried to cling to my plans the worse it got. All my life I had watched my mother cling to and carry things that were far too heavy for any person to carry. I’ve also seen her learn to let things go. To let toxic relationships go. To set healthy boundaries. To prioritize self-care. To let falling things fall. My mother taught me what it means to fight and endure for myself and family. More importantly, though, she taught me to let things, people, relationships, plans, and responsibilities that don’t belong to me fall.
When it comes to my son, there is nothing easy about letting him ‘fall’. It goes against every mama bone in my body. But before we belong to each other we belong to God. And when we let falling things that don’t belong to us fall, we give God’s grace space to work.