You are so Beautiful

The flame in our centre wobbles with our breath, but perseveres. The faces in the room begin to soften, skin and eyes seem clearer than when we began an hour ago—breath and focus and careful quiet words must be exfoliating and clarifying agents, I decide, capable of clearing away the detritus, permitting light to pass through, creating an environment in which buried pain and fear might surface, in which color and story might take shape.

Lying in bed afterwards, the memory of the tapestry we’ve begun to weave fresh in my mind, listening to January rain melt chunks of ice and snow off the roof, I felt strength and joy pulsing in my core. It’s a tapestry taking shape from thick rough scratchy charcoal and brown threads, thinner and brighter and smoother gold and purple and red ones, threads of grief and joy and love brought with us into that sacred space.

We had candles lit for each of us present, and for those powerfully on our minds. Your good friend, gone now, forever and far too soon from her babies, your own grief fresh on your face. The grand-baby that was supposed to arrive in this world this Christmas and didn’t. The baby lost at birth all those many years ago, and still somehow present now. The child struck down by a car, the parents and friends laying down their torch to illness or old age, the ordinary women living with the ghosts of common cancers. The fierce love and protection mothers feel for their babies, and the fear and denial it can give birth to. The strength it can also give birth to, strength and intuition that eventually puncture denial and know when enough suffering has been enough. The fear of knowing deeply there is much beyond our control, that we have little choice as to when we must say good-bye to a mother, a father, a friend or husband or wife, a son or a daughter.

So many threads of our souls added to the tapestry that evening. It’s a good gathering though when we can bring these with a mind to cover the walls and floors of our lives with colors and textures as rich as this. You are beautiful and unusual and brave, my fellow sojourners, and these threads have added so much.


In the middle of being stuck in sadness earlier this week, as is normal for me with loss of almost any kind—rotating through the first four stages of grief and unable or unwilling to reach acceptance—came potent cheer and healing in the form the loveliest 11-year-old I know.

“I missed you so much!” she grinned widely, hugging us both. And then, falling into step with me, she echoed her mom: “Your hair is so pretty, short like that,” and then “I’m so glad your treatment worked!” And “I love it here, I wish we could stay longer.”

She travels regularly with her father to world destinations infinitely more exciting than Alberta, and I’m honored.

At home, we get all caught up, and later, making plans for the morning and the shopping trip I’d promised, she announces that she has, via iPod app, acquainted herself with West Edmonton Mall and has her shopping list ready to go.

At the mall, we visit Abercrombie and Fitch, where she is strongly drawn to a number of overpriced items. She pulls out her iPod, calculates the sale price, and agrees to look elsewhere, somewhere where we might be able to buy several items for the price of one.

We shop, she has a giant Marble Slab ice cream, and we shop some more, until the rest of us are tired. She has settled on a number of sale items over the over-priced Abercrombie and Fitch ones she’d initially eyed, but still not found the red jeans she’s after. I offer to walk with her to one more store to check, but she tells me it’s okay; she can tell from the look on her mom’s face that she’s had enough; we can always try another time.

She is far beyond eleven years of age—thoughtful, socially skilled, caring, sensitive, unafraid and funny—but also in every way simply an utterly delightful child. Her mom, carrying the bulk of the job of ordinary everyday parenting, as single mothers do, must feel both lucky and proud; she has done well.

We had fun, and I think I may have reached acceptance in those other pockets of my life again, for now at least.