Gathering and scattering. Loss has left me gathering what is left as life scatters the rest. We gather by hospital beds and car wrecks. We gather for funerals. We gather in homes to mourn, but come morning we scatter back into our singularity.

Benjamin Alone in Solitude April 15What brings us together is the same as what sets us apart. Life mystifies me. The relationship of solitude and communal sorrow is a peculiar interplay. The push/pull of grief that I created was part of my way of working through the unbearable.

I wanted to be alone, but not completely alone. I wanted someone to sit next to me in my solitude. Who knows how to sit in silence, to hold space for my emptiness that is full of such great sorrow?

It takes a broken heart to know how to hold the brokenness of another. I sought those that did not feel the need to gather my brokenness. I am so grateful for those that simply gave presence to the pieces that were left of me.

What shattered was what scattered. I felt the pieces of my existence whirl out into space. I was not numbed in that moment of death. I was in a state of disintegration.

In the hospital, I settled Matt into the playroom before going to Bryan’s room. Bryan was resting on Lydia’s chest, his head turned towards me, eyes closed, just like countless times before when Lydia would hold our child. When my focus rose from his tranquil expression into Lydia’s swollen eyes she softly said, “He’s dead.”

We gathered. We scattered. In her eyes, in our gathered pain, Lydia and I collected beyond anything and everything that separated us. We gathered in one of the deepest places known to humankind – death and the scattering of life. We were in fragments holding on to each other when there was so little left to hold on to. I caressed the still warm head of our child as Lydia and I held each other with Bryan’s body between us.

There are less tangible gatherings that mark the nature of our separateness – funerals. We had a graveside service for Bryan. Matt was three. Everyone he knew waited on the cemetery lawn as we exited the car. Matt skipped along to the first row of metal chairs in front of Bryan’s casket. I followed him and we sat down in unison.

His cheery demeanor did not match mine. He turned to me and said, “Where’s the cake?” It was then I realized the only time he had seen all these people in one place was at birthday parties. He only knew gatherings as a celebration of life.

For years I would ask in my darkest moments, “Where’s the cake?” I had been shredded and scattered. And over and over I would gather every ounce of energy left in my anguish and whisper into the silence, “Where’s the cake?”

Benjamin Loss marks us April 15There was a funeral for Lydia, but Matt and I scattered her ashes alone. An old hippie who lived on his sailboat agreed to take us out into the bay.

We scattered her remains with ours. I collected just enough of me to be there for Matt. I knew there would come a day when I would be there again with his ashes. And I knew he knew that day would come.

We returned to shore in silence. Neither Mat nor I had any words that could fill the emptiness. He leaned against my chest as we lay on the deck scattered across a sea of sorrow of what was, what is and what would be.

Tomorrow night I will be speaking at a gathering. The Suicide Prevention organization in a town nearby has ask me to come share about living in the midst of loss. I have spoken to many groups in the past of various subjects, but this is the first occasion I will be speaking specifically and solely on loss.

I find it is more important to prepare the heart than plan the words. For gatherings such as this will have shattered and scattered hearts there. Nobody knows how many people will come. It could be two or a hundred.

It doesn’t matter to me how many are there. Whenever I speak to a group of people I look for the one. There is always at least one who lives shattered and scattered. I will look for the one with Lydia’s eyes. I will look for the one who can only whisper, “Where’s the cake?” I will find the one whose sorrow knows silence. We will gather in that moment in time, in our scattered pieces, and we will share what has become of us…and what we can become.

We gather and we scatter. We scatter and we gather. It is part of the interplay between living in the singularity of sorrow and plurality of life in the midst of loss. I am forever mystified by the nature of being and how what brings us together is what sets us apart.





Share Button