where faith lodges
We spent a weekend at Faith’s Lodge on a retreat for grieving families. A place of healing tucked in Wisconsin’s woods, built by one broken-hearted couple to share with others.
We canoed, painted, and played together. Laughed around the campfire. Hiked through hills and fields. Walked the labyrinth over and over.
What caught me were the stories. They were thick around this place. Tucked into crevices of trees. Left along the lines of the labyrinth. Grouped in clusters in the garden. Every heart held a child’s story, a family’s love, a legacy reaching beyond death.
Faith lodges in the stories.
The only thing I can read lately is Scripture. That makes me sound like a holy roller, but I feel the furthest thing from it. It’s all I can do to put one foot in front of the other.
After our daughters died, I poured through more death-and-dying memoirs in six months than any sane person should safely read. (Short list of reviews? This is amazing. This is overrated. This is stark but well-written. This is funny but tiring. This is poetic perfection.) Then I tried a novel or two. But fiction can’t find me right now. Reality is enough on its own.
So I came back to Scripture. It’s the only word that makes sense.
I read the day’s readings. I wait till a word or phrase leaps off the page and catches in my throat. Then I know it is the one. I sit quietly and let it speak to me. (Lectio divina for the lost.)
I picture centuries of broken people bringing their stories to these stories, crying out in anguish “how can this life be?” and trying to find something – compassion and consolation, if not answers – in the words on the page.
The Word in the heart.
Maggie and Abby were born seven months ago tomorrow. This week we will make our monthly pilgrimage through the three days. Birth, death, death. Part of me dies each time we do this. Part of me is born.
Is it getting easier? Grief is more familiar. But not lighter to bear. For the rest of my life I will wince at unexpected tender moments, a sharp corner to a soft bruise.
“Were you disappointed when your last one was a boy?” a mom winks me at school pick-up, smiling in search of solidarity as she gathers her two boys into her minivan. I open my mouth to speak and cannot find a single word to start to explain.
“So are you trying again?” the dental hygienist probes after I calmly explain what happened after I was pregnant for my last checkup. I dig my nails into my palms and marvel at how humans cannot sit with pain for two seconds without lunging to fix it.
My life has leapt beyond small talk and simple sentences. It is a complicated story. A story that most people do not want to hear. A story of trauma and death, the kind of story that people declare “the worst,” shudder away with “I can’t imagine,” turn away from before they have to hear the end.
But this is my life. I had no choice in the matter.
So I go back to the only stories strong enough to bear my own.
Stay close to the stories. I heard this once, and I know it saved my life. It still is.
Because faith lodges in the stories. Like heart stones placed on holy ground, love notes to children from grieving parents, every single one a story.
All of them together could break your heart. Or build it into something stronger.
This is the power of stories, writing them and reading them. The possibility of creation. The whisper of redemption. The solidarity of suffering. The humility of mystery. The hope of salvation.
I see the stories everywhere now. Tucked into the corners of people’s mouths. Written into the wrinkles of their eyes. Held in the palms of their hands.
The whole human story is love + loss, staggering in its grief and goodness.
I find it here. And there. Everywhere. Stories are where faith lodges.
I can do nothing but keep reading, keep writing.
This is how you save – and live – a life.
Hey, I wanted to let you know how your blog has sustained me through the loss of my own pregnancy a little over a month ago and through a year of infertility before that. Your grief is unimaginable but you always have a real and Christian center to turn to. You don’t sugarcoat the pain in trite Scripture quotations or tie it all up in a neat little bow. I really appreciate your story.
Sarah, this might be the best affirmation that anyone’s ever left here of what I try to write. Thank you for your words. And I am so deeply sorry to hear of the loss of your baby. Infertility & pregnancy loss are such hard burdens to bear. I will keep you in my prayers. The road is long and dark, but there are many of us here together. Peace to you tonight.
I just found your blog and Facebook page. My son had a brain tumor at 7 that he survived, but left him with some disabilities. At age 26 he had another one he wouldn’t survive. It’s been two years, but grief is my constant companion. Trying to hang on to God and take a step at a time, but it’s been a very lonely journey. I wish I could relate to the post above about those that come alongside you.
Thank you for your blog. I’m so sorry for your loss
It will be 4 yrs in Jan that we lost our 9 yr old special need son. We have been supporting them for three yrs by having fundraisers and donating different stuff to them,from toys to food. Faith Lodge is a nice place to go to and get away from people asking questions or telling you how sorry they are for your lost. It’s a place where families can go to to relax and the kids can have fun with other kids that have lost a sibling.
Thank you Faith Lodge staff everything that you do to make it a little easier for families that are grieving.
Thinking of you. How special you were able to be at Faith’s Lodge.
When we lost our daughter, an acquaintance who had also suffered a loss told us, “Welcome to the club that no one wants to belong to.” She was right…but I’ve discovered that there are many, many people who belong to this club and strangely, beautifully, “grace” fully, God works there, at this club. You realize that you are not alone in your suffering. You are not alone in your sorrow. You are simply, not alone. So when you can’t feel God’s presence, He sends you someone to share in your grief, who can console with understanding and hugs and love, just so you remember, you are not alone. And then you can see, He IS there, every step of the way. May He continue to bless you with the strength and peace and grace and comfort and the love that you need.
Such a good place for heart and soul and family! I hesitate now when people ask “those” questions, because being truthful means being brave and living life deeply. Prayers for you, for healing and peace!
That sounds like an amazing place. What a great idea. I’m so sorry about the hygenist asking you if you were going to try again. I’m sure her intentions were good, but it’s not like babies are interchangeable. Again, I apologize if I ever said “I can’t imagine” in response to your situation.
Claire, you’ve been one of my most faithful readers (and commenters!) from the start. You never need to apologize for anything! I continue to keep you and your family in my thoughts and prayers. I know you have suffered much, too.
Thank you Laura. That means a lot.