Sunday, September 16, 2012

Getting up after the fall

In my previous post, I shared a picture of my 22-year-old self with a boyfriend, at "The Great Waltz" in Austin, TX in the Spring of 1987.  And lately, I've been thinking about that dance again, and something that happened that night.

Here's the photo, in case you don't want to back-track.  This was taken at the beginning of the evening, before The Fall. That evening was full of the dizziness of a new romance and that might be why, during a particularly giddy waltz, Scott's foot caught in the hem of my dress, and I felt my feet go out from under me.  The next thing I knew, I was on my back on the floor, with Scott on top of me, utterly mortified.  Getting up, I felt an odd breeze at my back that hadn't been there before.  But after Scott and I had apologized to each other, and assured the other couples watching that we were ok, we continued dancing.  Nothing was going to stop us from dancing every dance together, except for the one or two dances on my card with someone else's signature on them.  (Yes, this was an "authentic" evening--dance cards and all.)  But there was this matter of the "breeze" at my back.

Yup, my dress had ripped, at the zipper seam down the middle of my back.  There was no way to pin it back together that night.

I was devastated that my regal gown was ripped and ruined, but I was even more devastated at the thought of missing the rest of the dances that evening.  I don't quite remember how it happened, but I do know that I ended up with someone's lacy shawl draped across my back and over my shoulders, and we danced until the ball was over.  A fairly happy ending to that fairy tale of an evening.
But lately, I've been working on getting back up after another fall, this one much more serious, and repairing the gaping rip in my life.

Many of you, my "in real life" friends, know that this summer, on July 13, my husband, Andre, suddenly and unexpectedly took his own life.  He had struggled most of his life, and certainly all of our marriage, with mental illness.  He had refused to seek help, and no matter how hard we worked on perfecting our steps together, his demons won.

Our dance together has ended, but I am trusting that somehow, the music will go on.  I even have a hope for much farther down the dance-card, that I will dance again.

But for now, as the kids and I work on clearing the emotional and financial chaos left by Andre's death, I am reflecting on all the people who stepped up to pick me up from the floor and offer me something to help cover the rip.

There were friends who came right away and helped me deal with the first responders, wash the blood off my hands and feet, make a plan for telling my kids.  Friends who came and kept vigil in my house that night, comforting my nervous dog and starting the process of notifying others who could help.  Someone took me and my kids to her house that night, put us in clean, cozy beds, prayed the rosary aloud to help me sleep, and fed my kids Pop-tarts and silly breakfast cereal in the morning.

My church's youth staff arrived within an hour to be with my kids that night and stayed well into the wee hours of the morning, and then returned by mid-day the next day to  take them out for frisbee-throwing, walks, and slurpees, and to let them cry as needed.  One brave staffer even braved the jungle of my son's room to help dig out some items that needed to disappear for a while.

Friends arrived to do my dishes, wash the laundry, put away Andre's things, and fill the fridge with groceries.  One friend set up a website to schedule meals brought in, while another friend set up another website to notify our larger community and collect memorial donations. A team of fearless women (with strong backs and wonderful humor) helped me reclaim the master bedroom by moving all the furniture, re-arranging the pictures on the walls, sprinkling holy water and prayers, with a generous dose of sitting and listening to me cry.

And that was just in the first two days !

After that, people (well, they might be people, but I'm pretty sure they are angels):

  • made funeral arrangements, notified people near and far, and protected me from the kinds of people who might not understand my boundaries.
  • got in touch with my husband's employer, helped me fill out forms, and helped me figure out the immediate financial picture.
  • cried with me, prayed with me, made sure I ate occasionally and stayed in my house at night so that I would not be alone if I woke in the night with a need to talk.
  • took my kids to Six Flags, to the movies, to Waterworld, and to the mall for appropriate funeral clothes.
Over the next two weeks, there were dear generous ones who prayed outside my house at night, who brought meals, flowers, and fresh fruit, 
and dear practical ones who froze the un-eaten fruit, and the un-touched meals, who fielded questions from neighbors, watered my roses, and cut my lawn.  

Some of my oldest and dearest friends came from across the country to clean-out my husband's closet, to glue me back together each time I fell apart, and to offer their glorious musical gifts at my husband's memorial service.   My local friends drew my long-distance friends into the embrace of our community and made me feel like I was wrapped in a quilt of love that stretches from coast to coast.  

Recovering after this fall has required something larger and more substantial than a lacy shawl.  That "quilt" of love and support from friends far and near seems to be keeping the worst of the cold breeze out for now.  

I am so grateful to all my angels who seem intent on making sure that the music will go on, and for all their help as I learn totally new steps. I've always loved the verse in the Old Testament book of Jeremiah: "For I know the plans I have for you," says the Lord, "plans to prosper and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future."   My angels seem determined to hold God to that promise.  


  1. And hold God to that promise all of us who love you will most certainly do!

    The beauty you write of - so eloquently, friend - is a reflection of God's grace and care for you. And, often the same care you have poured as Love's Vessel on others, like us, who've been in your/God's beam.

    I love the next verses in that passage from Jeremiah: "...I will listen to will seek Me and find Me....I will be found by you..." Basically, you may be surrounded by "angels" on this earth, but, even better, you're held in much bigger arms. How wonderful.

    Thanks again for this beautiful post,

  2. bj, Thank you. (Sweetheart, your halo is showing. :-)