Saturday, February 2, 2013

Ashes and Beauty

Who knew fire could renew, not just destroy?
It’s been exactly one year since my last blog post. I figured this would be a fitting time to try and re-enter my blog; introduce myself to it again, see if I can attempt to make room for it in my life once more.
My fingertips have missed the feeling of the keys beneath them. My heart has missed the honesty it is allowed to show here. It’s like my life inside out—this blog bearing witness to my guts and innards. Ewww. I know. I get it. No one likes to look at guts and innards. Let’s just look at the pretty stuff please.
So, where did I go after my last post in 2012? What has happened to keep me so far away from this hobby I had come to love? Well…
My grandma died on this day last year. That much you know. Two weeks later (to the day) my other grandma (Grandma McCauley) died as well. And in between those two weeks, two of my chickens were eaten by hawks. I thought about writing a blog post titled, “How to lose two grandmas and two chickens in two weeks,” but that really is such a niche market I didn’t think anyone would be able to relate. And not that losing chickens is even comparable to losing two grandmothers you dearly loved, but when things start dropping dead in such a small amount of time, everything feels equally important.
I think the coffee maker shit the bed that week too. And the iron.
I had already planned a trip to Arizona later that month (originally to see my grandmothers one last time and show them my recently published book project) but instead I ended up attending both of their funerals. I guess if there has to be a benefit of dying within two weeks of each other, it was that I could go to both services in the same vacation. My Grandma McCauley would have appreciated the cost savings in that.
One evening in May, I found out that a neighbor who had lived one house away from us (their family had only just moved the previous summer) died in her sleep. She was only a couple years older than me. She just died. Went to sleep after her night shift at the hospital (she was a nurse) and didn’t wake up. Her daughter and son (good friends of my children) found her when they got home from school. Yes, she had a heart condition, yes they knew about it, but nobody knew that morning would be her last. Her daughter called my daughter that night on the phone. I listened in. “Did you hear about my mom?” she asked my daughter. “She died today and I found her.” That’s pretty rough shit for an 11-year-old to hear. And literally hours after it had happened.
On June 21st, my Aunt Debi died. She was just 10 years older than me.  I was very close to her—her amazing photographs fill my walls with close up shots of my children as babies. Our family. Their smiles. Her passing less than one year from her being diagnosed with aggressive brain tumors. The good news is that while I was in Arizona for the Grandma funerals, we spent time together: had breakfast out, did a little shopping, got pedicures. Vented. Chatted. Ran errands. We managed to squeeze in quality time before her headaches and fatigue kicked back in and I returned her home to sleep. I wasn’t able to attend her service though, which I deeply regret.
In June I also found out that I didn’t get a job that I was really, really hoping to get. I came in second to a guy with more advertising experience. Which of course is nothing really, after losing your Aunt. It’s not a brain tumor after all. It’s just a job. But I still wanted it.
At the end of August, my marriage ended. He moved out in September. In the interest of full disclosure, I’m the one that filed. I’m sure he’d want me to publicly own that, which I have no problem with.
I also lost two more chickens to hungry hawks. Fucking hawks. Not that losing chickens is the same as losing a husband you still loved, but again…things start to feel equally important when they happen so close together.
2012 was a year of losses. Of grandmothers and chickens, friends and aunts and husbands, jobs and dreams, and illusions. Depressing, I know. Who wants to read about all this shitty shit? How could I possibly blog about what was going on in my head, or my heart, or my life? Where’s the funny in the kind of year I had?
Well, I haven’t gotten to the good part yet. Hang in there. I haven’t told you about the miracle yet.
Because after a person has that kind of year, especially culminating in the loss of 13 years of marriage, you reach a point where there are two options: despair or prayer.
I tried despair and couldn’t do it. Too dark. Plus it reminded me too much of my morose teenage years except without the cool 80’s clothing.
I brought everything that’s happened in the past year; all the ache and pain and loss and yuck and questioning and worries and obsessions and dead people and marriage issues and I laid them all at the foot of the cross.
Yes, that cross.
I know. I’ve never really blogged about my faith or my religion and maybe that part of me is new to you. You weren’t ready for this turn all religious-y. That’s okay. That’s where you’re at. But if you quit reading now you’re going to miss the miracle part.
And after I laid all this stuff before the cross (quite literally, on my hands and knees in front of the blessed sacrament during adoration one day) I let it go. All of it. I gave it all back to God to take care of. I couldn't do it anymore. The weight of all those things was just too much. 
And I found something. Well, a lot of somethings.
I found myself.
The me that I buried under roles and expectations and life and worries and regrets and fear. I got her back.
I also found peace. And joy. And serenity. And Truth. And happiness. And contentment. All those things I’ve been fighting to find for so long, came to me once I let go.
2012 was quite possibly the worst year of my life to date.
2012 was also quite possibly the best year of my life to date. How is that—that such a beautiful, wondrous existence is possible even amidst the flames that have turned so much to ash?
That, my friends, is the miracle.
“Now I can trade these ashes in for beauty
and wear forgiveness like a crown
coming to kiss the feet of mercy
I lay every burden down
at the foot of the cross.”
(lyrics from At The Foot of the Cross, by Kathryn Scott)

6 comments: said...

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Taelese Lampkin said...

I count myself blessed for your friendship Rachel. Thank you for sharing your truth and your God-given talent for expressing it.

Rebecca Abrams von Heimburg said...

I don't know you but your blog on Ashes and Beauty made me tear up. Life brings us lots of lashes sometimes. As I continued to read your post I was wondering where your tale was going to take me….AND you! I was glad to read that you took all your troubles to the cross. Sometimes that is the last place we think to go…and literally the last place we actually go! When we finally arrive there we realize it was were we needed to be all along!

Many blessings,

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