Letting the Field Lie Fallow

15 Jul

In farming there is the tradition of letting fields lie fallow so the soil can replenish itself before planting crops again. It’s a nice analogy for when we too need to take a rest before having to “produce” again.

Summer for me is often a time when I slow down a little. I read more; lounge more; do less. Right now, as the anniversary of my mom’s death approaches this weekend I am making a particular point of doing less. If I make a “to do” list, I try to cut it in half and only do what is absolutely necessary. When coming home from work, I’m making certain I lie down or sit on my porch and read before jumping in on chores, mail and email. And if I need to go to bed at 8:00 pm, so be it. I’m lying fallow. Letting myself replenish and fill my soul with the process – however it might unfold. 

When someone dies, after the initial trauma (and sometimes during it), ordinary time stops. While there is an extraordinary amount that needs to be done in terms of funeral arrangements, notifying people, etc., there is also much that just goes on hold. Every day life suddenly doesn’t really matter. Work waits; bills wait. Issues of life and death take precedence. Things like the basics – i.e. getting meals and grocery shopping are often taken care of for you by friends. When my mom died, I was so overwhelmed and busy, people brought food and because I didn’t trust myself driving the first few days, friends taxied me places. Someone drove me to the church where I made the service arrangements; another person took me to view my mom’s body. One friend drove me to the swimming pool in the hopes that exercise would soothe and help me sleep; another person picked me up. 

As I slow down and reflect on that time, two things come to mind. One, is how hard the news of my mom’s suicide hit me (even though I’d always expected a call that my mom had taken her life). My body felt ripped open – like a hand grenade exploded inside me, my emotions spewing out with the aftermath. Psalm 6:6-7 describes my state. “I am worn out from sobbing. All night I flood my bed weeping, drenching it with my tears. My vision is blurred with grief…” Indeed I cried so much I developed a stye on my eye, which ironically returned last week I think symbolic of last year. 

But the other thing I remember is how after Wednesday – the midpoint of the week before the service – created a shift in the mourning. I had accomplished most of the tough stuff – signing the death certificate paperwork, paying for the death process, contacting relatives and choosing the service date, time, songs and readings. Now it was time for the final details. Making the service programs, ordering flowers, going through photos and making collages to take to the church. And in this process, a sort of creative peace came over me as I made way to HONOR my mom. My best friend (and vocalist in the service) spent precious time with me as we saw to details and remembered my mom. I remember one night, stepping out on my porch, exhausted but delighted to see a rare cactus in bloom with a yellow flower – my mom’s favorite color. Behind, I saw a telephone pole take on the shape of a cross. God spoke to me in that moment and I felt my mom’s sweet presence ever strong. 

And then the relatives started to arrive and take up camp in a dear family friend’s house on Lake Murray. The perfect setting for reflecting on my mother. We spent hours on the patio of Chuck and Cindy’s house looking out at the Lake and talking about my mom. The house hosted the after-service reception and became an oasis during a very sad time. And a quiet serenity descended as we moved into the weekend of the service and an extraordinarily beautiful memorial. In that period, I realized, “The Lord will comfort Israel again and have pity on her ruins. Her desert will blossom like Eden, her barren wilderness like the garden of the Lord. Joy and gladness will be found there. Songs of thanksgiving will fill the air.” Isaiah 51:3. In this period, I remember His grace and the sad beauty that came after my mother’s death.

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