Saturday, January 17, 2009

A Time for Tears

It’s weird how little crying I’ve done since all this happened.

I was born super-sensitive and high-strung, and have cried easily and frequently throughout my life. There was a time a few years ago when I simply couldn’t stop crying. One time I cried so hysterically that my kids actually discussed calling 911.

But crying won’t kill you.

Several years ago, my sister, with strange foreshadowing, gave Katherine a picture with a scripture verse on it. It was of a beautiful woman with long blonde hair, weeping. The verse was:

“You keep track of all my sorrows.
You have collected all my tears in your bottle.*
You have recorded each one in your book. (Psalm 56:8 NLT)

(*Other translations say “wineskins.")

I must have contributed many magnums to heaven’s wine cellar by now.

I’ve discovered that there are times, though, when you just can’t cry. I have shed strangely few tears since April. (For me, anyway.) Prior to that time, much lesser things have completely done me in. Maybe this is just too big. Much, much, much too big. Maybe I’ve been in a benign type of denial.

I think I realize, subconsciously, that if I let myself really get started, I won’t be able to stop.

When I was home for the holidays, I’d run into someone I hadn’t seen since before April 21. That person, seeing me for the first time, might try to say something comforting, but would start crying before they could get it out. Now, normally, I always cry when other people cry. The faucet immediately turns on full blast. It’s like when someone else is throwing up, I start gagging. (Actually, if I even smell it, I start gagging.) But in these holiday encounters, even though the person was crying on my behalf, I didn’t shed a tear. Not a drop. I could almost feel something inside of my chest turning to steel against the hug.

I wonder if there’s been some kind of internal mechanism operating in survival mode. Maybe there’s a mental gate that slams down when I get too close to the edge of the cliff.

Oh well...enough navel-gazing for now.


Last Sunday, everyone came to the apartment in LA for lunch after church. This has become a weekly tradition. I usually hate to cook, but for some reason I really pull out all the stops for Sunday lunch. It’s the closest thing we have to being home out here. Everyone stays all day, and then sometimes it turns into supper. Jay says it’s my “Nenie” thing. My grandmother Nenie was a fantastic southern cook; I am barely a decent mushroom-soup-can cook...but it’s more about the spirit of the thing. Last week we had about 10 people and 3 babies crammed into this miniscule place. In addition to the immediate family, we had Jay’s cousin Johnny, whom I’ve adopted, and two couples who are among Katherine and Jay’s very closest friends. The two mothers, Anna and Abby, were pregnant when Katherine’s AVM rupture occurred, so those babies incubated at UCLA. They were there practically every day of their inter-uterine lives, at least until we moved to Casa Colina. Anna and her husband Andy took care of James for us for a couple of months.

Anyway, it was a happy, sweet afternoon with very well-loved ones. Katherine was parked in her corner of the shabby shabby-chic couch I got off Craig’s List, watching as we ate baked salmon and goat cheese omelettes and drank peach tea and mimosas. We’ve almost gotten over our guilt about indulging ourselves in front of her by now. Just a quick twinge now and then. She watched as we passed around the little babies and took cute we rescued James from perilous perches and picked him up from the mothers discreetly retired to the tiny bedroom to nurse.

That night, Katherine and I were alone with James in the apartment for a while. As I desultorily cleaned, she read on the couch. When I asked her what she was reading, she held up “The Purpose-Driven Life.” “Katherine, haven’t you read that before?” I asked. She nodded yes. “Why are you reading it again?” A few seconds went by. Then big crocodile tears started streaming down her cheeks. “Because I need a purpose.” I didn’t say anything, I just sat down and held her. “How many mothers can’t go to their baby when he cries? That’s what mothers DO.” I nodded on her shoulder. I knew she was deeply touched by the mother-baby interactions she had just witnessed with her friends. “Those babies are close to the age James was when this happened to you. Is that sad for you?” Fresh tears streamed down, and Katherine’s tiny shoulders shook with pain. “I don't know how much longer I can take this. How many mothers can’t pick their baby up when he’s hurt? Do you know how that FEELS?”


Suddenly, I felt that steel bar start turning into rubber.

My baby and I just sat on that sofa and wept.

I have a feeling the dam’s about to break.

It’s time.


“...a time to weep and a time to laugh,
a time to mourn and a time to dance..." (Ecclesiastes 3:4)

“This is what the LORD, the God of your father David, says: I have heard your prayer and seen your tears; I will heal you.” (II Kings 20:5)

“Those who sow in tears will reap with songs of joy.” (Psalm 126:5)

“He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away." (Revelation 21:4)


Callie said...

This post was beautiful, Mrs. Arnold. You are a wonderful writer and have used your talents towards a very positive way of channeling the feelings you experience during what you are going through. Thank you for opening up on this blog. Your words have blessed me and many others.

Megan Carson said...

Miss Kim...didn't know exactly how toget in touch with ya'll best, but wanted to forward this info along. My aunt has been praying for ya'll and keeping up on your blog. She receives a newsletter and saw this article. SHe wanted me to get this info to you just in case ya'll haven't heard of this new treatment. Here's the link:
Megan McNeill Carson
(ZTA from SU)

Brittany said...

Ms. Kim,
I am so touched by your honest thoughts today. My heart breaks for Katherine and the pain she must feel in certain situations. We are still here supporting you...tell katherine I am so amazed by her that I am at a loss for words when I try and explain her story to friends who don't know of her yet. I guess it's just as much God's story as Katherine's, as he is using her journey to open up so many conversations with friends about Christ. Could you or Katherine give us an update on what little James is into right now? What is he babbling this week?
Brittany Wood Bolemon
Zta- samford

Camille, Blake and Pierce said...

Thank you so much for sharing your heart in this blog... it is so refreshing and humbling to see honesty at its best. Praise God for you and your relationship with your daughter. I have been watching your story since last April when my friend Marcie Benner (a friend of Katherine's) sent me the caringbridge website so I could pray. I have been praying and just wanted to tell you so... And don't forget the shortest scripture but the most humbling one in the bible.... Jesus WEPT... hold strong my sister.
Camille in Singapore

Kim Godawa said...

Thank you for sharing your heart and range of emotions. It is so daunting to watch the sacrifice, the love, and the constancy with which you live towards your family. Katherine's written words are also very encouraging to read.
At the risk of sounding "trite", The fragrance of Christ is everywhere in your blogs. -pointing me more to Christ and who He is - a God so able, so personal, and so involved in our suffering. We read about it in the Bible, hear about it in church, but we SEE it in you and your family. Thank you for being a witness of Christ for us all to see.

mdavis said...

I have been a reader of your blog from the beginning. My daughter, Jeanie, went to Desoto with Katherine. You are a gifted writer, and I believe your talent is being used each time you write. I pray for Katherine, the Arnold, and the Wolf families every morning on my way to work. Just know that there are prayers out there, unaware to you, but faithful in this time. Keep up your faith and writing. You are touching many.
Mary Ford Davis
Tuscaloosa, Alabama

Karen said...

We weep with you, and we will pray with you, until Katherine is healed. May God be glorified. Amen

Ginny Evans said...

Kim, all I can say right now is "You rock"....You are such a blessing and I know Katherine draws so much from you. I cannot begin to understand what either of you or the rest of the family are going through, but I know that God has each of you and He is not finished with Katherine. We will see her healed, restored and telling her story all around the world. I pray for all of you.

Lindsey and Jeremy said...

Mrs. Arnold, I just want to let you know that our prayers are with you & your family. I am one of Jay's 3rd cousins, and I had the pleasure of meeting Katherine last Christmas when they made a trip to MS. I think you are such a talented writer & I have continued to follow your blog since I first discovered its existence. I think your honesty & openness is absolutely amazing. Thank you for opening your heart & know that you & your family is thought of SO very often.

tatiana said...

still prayin' 4 u & katherine (& your niece, as well)....

"There are more tears shed over answered prayers than over unanswered prayers."
-Saint Theresa of Jesus

"There is a sacredness in tears. They are not the mark of weakness, but of power."
-Washington Irving

"We need never be ashamed of our tears."
-Charles Dickens

"Tears at times have all the weight of speech."

"There are times when God asks nothing of his children except silence, patience and tears."
-C. S. Robinson

4 your tears.... let them fall where they may.... it's ok....

aemarsha said...

I can attest to the fact that we do have some sort of survival mechanism. I can't tell you how many times I have felt strange speaking to someone who was weeping because of what I am going through, how many times I have spoken matter of factly about what has happened, and not shed a tear-only to go home and cry uncontrollably. I just had a chance to catch up on your blogs, and I have to tell you-after the last few horrible weeks, you have given me hope today. Sending thoughts, prayers, and love your way.