Dangerous Waters


I’ve wondered for months how I would feel when the next person died in the Wisconsin River. When the grip of this seemingly innocuous body of water pulled another unsuspecting human being along and under not letting go. A thief in bucolic clothing whose banks lack the human hand of life saving intervention like those seen at other shores across the nation on universal bright red and white signage.

But today as the wind howls and the rain beats down, it not the Wisconsin river swirling through my forever changed arms. Arms which at times still feel adrenaline’s pulse and pain clenching my heart as well. No, it’s the Mississippi River in Minneapolis, Minnesota where a family I do not know tries to make sense of their lives suspended in warped time. Existing in shock while at the same time warding off blows. The wait in slow motion to find their beloved. The tangle of bureaucracy and the business side of tragedy. The often inaccurate news coverage sometimes pummeling an additional blow laced with inferred blame. All the secondary traumas, some little and some large, which come as some sort of nasty package deal with any primary trauma.

Slowly the news of this family sunk in today. My brain on grief often not able to comprehend the words before me making me read and read and read again the same sentence or phrase or social media post. I reach out. We, the mother and I, are connected somehow through this seemingly small Lutheran world. I add a prayer to the growing list of prayers on social media.

Melissa, I know your wait, your pain, the fist at the pit of your stomach, and the coldness of your fear. And I pray you are surrounded by who and what you need. And I pray your beloved son feels the strength, hope, and peace of God. And I pray for the tenacity and strength of your responder team.

And as I pray for this family I know my prayers are for us as well. For we are not done with our grief. Yet as we slowly heal our thoughts and prayers mix with those in new pain because now this pain born from dangerous waters speaks to us. Speaks to me as I reach out an invisible hand over miles to strangers sending swift currents of hope, love, and peace.



A Little Easter

Peace Wreath

Every Lent a simple wreath hangs on our door. It’s a peace sign made from vines by a third world woman. Someone trying to better her life and therefore the lives of her family. Woven by fingers practicing hope.

This sign also hung on our door from the first morning of our grief. I took down our summer garland of blue and yellow flowers and hung this one instead. Attempting some way of marking us as a home in a different time now than everyone else’s. Dramatically, wanting to wrap the wreath in black ribbon but couldn’t find the energy for it. So the peace sign hung as is for months, actually until Thanksgiving or Advent, I don’t remember which. Longer however than I lasted in my all black widow’s wardrobe which began to hang heavy on my shoulders.

This morning fetching the newspaper once again at the end of the drive and in the wet, I looked at this wreath of peace and suddenly wanted to replace it being done with long dreary Iowa springs and grief and Lent. It’s color the same as the dead foliage falling against our home. Deciding to find our white flowered Eastertide wreath hanging downstairs in the storage room waiting for its turn on the door. It’s lightness signaling something good, something looked forward to and now here. Thinking its flowers bouncing off the budding daffodils along our front walk could create a cacophony of color celebrating the return of something we deem beautiful.

White Flowers

So days before Palm Sunday marks the beginning of what comes next in the Christians story, I took down our circlet of peace. Not because I have fully found peace, but maybe because I haven’t. Not yet. Not quite yet. But maybe I trust, because Tony taught me this and Aunt Linda keeps reminding me, that I can and will heal and will come to some sort of peace with what has happened.  A one time trauma not comparable to perpetuated trauma, not as complicated, a clean break in trauma speak, no emotional pins or surgery escalating matters even more. Yet still dark, occasional panic attacks creeping in from out of no where except now I know how to appease this shadow.

Breath in for five. No hold. Breath out for five.Repeat.

Breath in for five. No hold. Breath out for five. Repeat.

Breath in for five. No hold. Breath out for five. Repeat.

On and on in a circle of breath, maybe five minutes or so, until the agitated sensations running throughout my body pass away returning me to my now normal. Aligning my vagus nerve (this large wrapping living rope like nervous system soul Tony loved so much) with my beating and hurting heart. Making a peace of sorts between me and my trauma and my ongoing grief. Aligning all in this mighty breath of life. Finding Easter in my breath. Life. Resurrected from grief’s darkness. Again and again. Breath after breath. Blooming even in my muck.

Budding Daffodils