I have just finished preparing the worship booklet we will use for the family Christmas Eve service. I have an enormously long to-do list still staring at me. I have to take it in small pieces and stop frequently along the way. Over and over again, I have to stop and allow for the sadness because if I don’t, I risk getting swamped. I am thankful for the forbearance of those of you who read my blog because being able to describe what this is like to others is an enormous help.
In a while, Sherod and I have a meeting with Maria’s support team at BARC. We are going to start working on a way to get visitation back into gear. More important, perhaps, we need to explore alternatives to school. She continues to do very poorly there—that´s where she’s engaging in self injury, that’s where many of the behavior problems are being manifested. Don’t get me wrong—the public school system will have my eternal gratitude for everything our girl has been empowered to do through the dedication and care of so many. But as has happened other times, the ‘half life’ of school is about up and we are now exploring other possibilities in the hopes that we can withdraw her from school at the end of the semester next week. There’s another finality in that alternative—another round of having to accept that this mom’s dearly-held hopes for academic progress, let alone achievement, must be put aside for the practical realities of her needs.
Yesterday I was scrambling to get everything ready for the celebration of our Lady of Guadalupe in the evening. Since Wednesday is usually a visit day, I got lunch for María and went to her school. I used to do this—drop in to have lunch with her. She was having such a bad day that I had to leave the bag of food with a staff person and leave without having gotten to be with her. They’ve put these formidable gates and fence up around the school entrance and those gates slammed behind me as too many other doors have locked her in, me out, lots of dreams away. Sherod saw her last night and all he could say about his visit with her was that she was sad. Oh God, we are all so sad.
Last year at this time the grief for my mom was mixed with the anticipation of my dad’s visit and the excitement of Christmas that was still magical with María. The best I can say about this year is that there is the gentleness of the night and paths where the light doesn’t shine harshly. I told a friend of mine today that while I have spoken before of the ways in which I have been called to host grief, right now the grief is so intense that I see things a bit differently.
On Tuesday night when I was out walking, a beautiful little owl flew by me and alighted on a pole almost at my eye level just ahead of me. I walked on slowly till I stood right in front of it. That exquisitely beautiful little creature did not move, tremble, or look away. We faced each other for several seconds and then I continued on my way. It was Presence in the most holy sense possible. It seems to me today, and this is what gives me the strength to go back and keep doing my work, that it is God who hosts my grief, sends sentinels to look out for me and receive me and the sadness into the places where God can help me carry what I must.