Saint Anthony of Padua is for Roman Catholic Christians the patron saint of lost or stolen things. I wonder today while walking, spying the blooming orange day lilies in the ravine’s ditch, touching the bulbous flowers of the milk weed plant, if this Saint can help me find myself again now amidst the many layers of my muck. Or if my own saint Anthony can from where ever he now resides.
Tony heard for years about the Lutheran Christian belief of saints and sinners. That we are both held in opposition, a paradox catapulting between one to the other minute by minute in our daily lives. One loving act quickly followed by shaming words. One promise kept while another not. Our humanness embraced and forgiven by an understanding, compassionate, and loving God without one request from us. Grace we call this incomprehensible mysteriousness.
But at almost eleven months I still feel lost. Not like at first when I could barely move or think. But lost yet. Steeling myself each day for come what may. Still making phone call after phone call tying up Tony’s affairs. Still supporting both boys through tragic grief compounded by medical issues compounded by feelings of unsuccessfulness as school for both of them this past year tenuous, arduous, hazy. Still weeping at odd moments.
I think somewhere in Tony’s things lies a St. Anthony medal. I wonder if I should pull it out. Even though I don’t believe in Saintly elevation. Rather preferring taking my worries and dreams right to the Trinity. But over the years understanding why many want and cling to faith mediators. Thinking maybe at the end of the day it does not really matter where we fall in embracing Saints or saints.Wondering too if Tony’s medal has the symbolic capability of showing me I will find myself again.
A friend reminds me of Erik Erikson’s famous and lovely and ringing true Eight Stages. Death flings me back into the adolescent stage of identity versus role confusion. I struggle again and with great emotion figuring out who I am alone. No longer attached on every living level possible to another person except in memory and in two tall, young almost men sleeping soundly right now. Moving differently in grief, my body betraying my state. One not associated with a partner. Alone. Misplaced. Confused.
Stay focused I tell myself since grief makes me more aware of others’ attention issues and my own ability to get side tracked. Remember your strength my braceleted wrist reminds me. Remain curious Tony in my memory reiterates. All that glitters is not gold I say to the boys. And in a remembered haze from the early days of this hell I think a pastor friend told me to keep my eyes on the cross and not in a sin salvation kind of a way. But in a there is life after death both for the living and the deceased kind of a way. Or the salvation of the cross frees me from my living bondages, grief able to overtake me. Own me without something bigger to focus on, believe in. Or maybe that’s just what I want to think he meant.
Slowly and on better days than this one, I find I still love a good dress, sharing a finely prepared meal, the obtuse humor of friends and family, chocolate colored dogs, my extended family strewn across the world, dark chocolate for breakfast, my boys even when they are goofing off or leaving trails of stinky socks around the house, the fragrance of laundry hung on the line, pulling onions out of my garden with a pop(!), the smell of freshly brewed coffee, the seasons in our little corner of Iowa, Minnesotan Scandinavian idiosyncrasies, Spirit-filled worship services, the close knit chords of hymnody, meeting a friend for lunch, and a whole host of other joys embraced before and now after.
Somewhere in this mix of loves and grief is me. Not so lost as I sometimes think. A saint in my own right, Lutheran Christian style. Forgiving my own sins of omission and otherwise during this time of keeping grief. Focusing on healing trauma, walking with and through sudden loss, noticing my emotions whether they be feelings of abandonment, guilt, loss, or being untethered. At the same time entering fully into an unfolding future looking hope straight in the face. Living on with joy flowing from sorrow in another of life’s many paradoxes.