One thing I didn’t expect about grief is that my memory is terrible. I woke up this morning and for the life of me couldn’t remember what I was planning to do today after lunch. It wasn’t until Tim reminded me we had a sitter tonight, in order that I could go to our Women’s night at church, that I remembered. Yesterday, I tried to start the car with the vacuum remote. Twice. Friday, I went to our friends’ wedding and left my car running for 2 hours. Now, I also had the keys with me, so that feels more like the cars fault, but I digress.
The point: I can’t remember anything.
This fall, I was really struck by all the times that God commands the Israelites to memorialize something. Of course, I can’t remember all the instances, but you can read about what I was learning in Exodus here. The basic point: we are forgetful people and we need PHYSICAL REMINDERS. They’re very biblical.
For the first time, I understand why we used to observe an official mourning period. In fact, not too long ago Tim had mentioned he almost wished we still wore black armbands for that reason. Though it became legalistic and not always healthy due to the strict rules and regulations, I can see its benefits.
When you’re grieving you are not your normal self. You can be in a room of people and feel completely alone. You can be merrily walking along and suddenly a bird lands on a low hanging branch to feed its babies and you are now undone. Some days, work feels hard, and some days it feels so good. Some days laughter is all you need and other days you can’t find that fun-loving part of you. Now, I understand that mourning clothes can remind you that you’re wounded. They can communicate with others, “I’m hurting, please be gentle.”
Now to be clear, I don’t mean pity. Pity feels weak and sorrowful. Yet understanding, now that is the thing we all most desire.
Most importantly though, I think we need the physical reminder to be gentle with ourselves. I can’t tell you how many times someone has told me this in the past two months, but I’ve now begun to grasp it for myself. I’ve come to realize that we have much higher expectations of ourselves than anyone else has of us. It’s ok that I can’t remember what I’m supposed to do tomorrow. My brain is foggy because I’m carrying around a weight that I’m so accustomed to I forget it’s even there.
You may be thinking, alright, Mary Margaret, are you going to start wearing a black veil now?
(At the very least, that’s what my mom’s thinking.)
It might be a physical reminder, but it also might be… a nuisance? unpractical? depressing? kind of ridiculous?
So, no. You can breathe a sigh of relief now, no traditional mourning clothes for me, but I have created my newest, and now favorite, piece of jewelry. And it only cost a dollar fifty. (Sorry, Tim)
A simple ring made of three strands of string:
MAUVE. Helen was a real person. I carried her in me for eight months. She lived and died. I held her and kissed her. I gave her body over.
BLACK. I am grieving. I can’t expect anything from myself or my husband.
WHITE. There is hope. This season won’t last forever. His light shines in the darkness.
If you’re wondering, Tim will be sporting something soon. Rings and bracelets aren’t quite “up to code” in the food world, so if you have any ideas, let us know.
Meanwhile, if you’re looking for me, I’ll be on a walk, fighting off all of my goal-setting, go get ’em tendencies.
(Or studying the history of mourning clothes. Who’s to say?)