READER POST: Every year when she comes back from Arizona for the summer, my neighbor puts out an American flag. She grew up in Germany at the end of World War II, and her family had nothing when she was little.
“We tried to eat the grass, but Russian soldiers pointed their guns and told us to leave,” she said once, her blue eyes moving away from mine. I sat there, my neighbor’s hand in mine, while she cried. What does one say, when told that a little girl with one dress, a dead father, and no food, had guns pointed at her so she wouldn’t eat grass? I have a lot of words in my head, but I have no words for that. Still. I had a hand, and that hand held hers for as long as it was needed.
My father died last year. We cremated him and put the TV remote in his urn because, while he was alive, my stepmom promised to bury him with his best friend and that blasted remote was always in his hand. When my stepmom dies, I’m going to put a remote in her urn, too, but I’ll include batteries so she can finally have control. When I told her that, she laughed until she cried.
We sat on the couch together for a long time, my stepmom and I, tears coming at unexpected times. Maybe it would be better to say the tears stopped at unexpected times. Mostly, they flowed. But we were together, and being with her was the promised balm in Gilead.
Her church community crocheted a shawl for each of us. They prayed over the shawls, this gathering of women, and then offered them to the congregation for their prayers. Our shawls came filled with power and light; mine was vibrant blue and metallic rose and it held me during those dark days of missing my dad. It holds me still.
When my mom died, my friend painted a watercolor butterfly, framed it, and quietly placed it in my hands. Butterflies, a symbol of resurrection, life, hope. Even now, 23 years later, I cry to remember my friend’s tenderness with my grief-torn soul.
Last week, my sister sent a photo. She was visiting mom, or rather, the small headstone that reads “Paula.” Sometimes she leaves half a Milky Way where flowers should go. Mom would like that. For years after her death, my sisters found half-eaten Milky Way bars hidden around the house: in the pocket of a dress, the china sugar bowl we weren’t allowed to touch, the back of her nightstand. The picture made my eyes fill and my heart sing.
They say God weeps for us. I think God must be a woman. Or, at least, God must be man and woman combined. I believe men are capable of comforting; Jesus administered to Mary and Martha while they mourned Lazarus, and my own husband holds me when my shoulders are too narrow for the weight on them. It’s just that, in times of deep sorrow, when a chasm separates me from joy and the thought of putting one foot in front of the other overwhelms me, it’s been women who wrapped their arms around my sobbing frame, who sat with me through all the tears, and then, when I can stand, we walk, together, hand in hand, toward joy.
Bryn Brody lives in Colorado, where Mother Earth encircles her with mountains. She’s currently going back to school for a Social Justice degree so she can learn how to create circles of healing for more people. Bryn is a repeat contributor to Sisters Quorum. To read her articles, use our search bar to locate her work by name.
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