A Child’s Sacred Cries

There is a time to weep and a time to laugh, a time to mourn and a time to dance. Ecclesiastes 3

Last week I dedicated my Thanksgiving blog post to Mike Henry, my ex-husband’s brother who unexpectedly died on November 23. My ex-husband and I were married for twenty-two years. After our divide, we remained connected through our sons, and then after a freak accident where I busted up my mouth, we once again found ourselves in each other’s company. Our problems were the same, yet we were evolving. Slowly. And painfully. Our potential reconciliation manifested as an ebbing and flowing where we eventually gained a deeper recognition and appreciation of each other’s needs and a concerted effort to change for the better. This means a lot of things for each of us, for both of us, which maybe I’ll share sometime in the future. For now, however, I would like to say this: We attended Mike’s funeral together, with both our sons, like we had my brother’s funeral just last fall, all of us deeply shocked and saddened by another loss. 

Thanksgiving reminds us to reflect on our blessings, to be grateful, to pause and remember that which is alive and good. But what happens when there is death? When Thanksgiving is overshadowed by a funeral? As friends and family gathered during Thanksgiving week to remember Mike, and as the reverend began the service with words of gratitude, a child wept.

Mike’s five-year-old granddaughter sat on her mom’s lap, enveloped in the comfort of her mother’s arms. Then, she slid over to her dad’s lap and cried some more, his strong arms holding her safely within. Finally, she made her way to her grandmother, the woman who had been married to her Papa for forty years. She and her grandmother embraced and cried––each a comfort to the other. 

A child’s free-flowing sobs mingled with the prayers, scriptures, stories, and songs like a much-needed ingredient in a family recipe. Nobody hushed her or ushered her out. She was not shamed. Instead, she was allowed to shower her sorrow, to feel her pain, to move through it, and in the end to better move through her loss like we would savor a Thanksgiving meal. This child’s freedom to be sad was one of the most beautiful things I have ever witnessed. It gripped my being. 

Thanksgiving is about gratitude yes, but when people ache, Thanksgiving is gracious enough to step aside and say, “Cry my children. Cry. Let it out. For loss (of any kind) hurts. I am not here to push aside pain with a righteous or forced gratitude, but rather to be with you, by your side through this time. And when you’re ready to laugh and smile and give thanks once again, I’ll still be here. But for now, in this day, cry my children. Cry your tears. Mourn how you need. And know that your sorrow is sacred.”  

The Power of the Pause

Note: After writing this blog post, Mike Henry, my ex-husband’s 58-year-old brother, unexpectedly died. We will be traveling this Thanksgiving to attend a funeral, to pause, and ponder another life gone. I dedicate this blog to Mike, who remained and will forever be with his high school sweetheart, Sherry; who was also the father of four, grandfather of three, who loved his work and community, and who was alive and peaceful in the end. 

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Every Tuesday I attend Toastmasters, an international public speaking organization. To help each other improve our presentation skills, members serve as functionaries, such as Grammarian, Timer, and the ever-dreaded Ah Counter, who tracks filler words like and, um, ah, so, and but. It’s not that we can’t use these filler words. We can. We just can’t allow them to use us, in other words become too much, too annoying, too distracting. As members get more comfortable speaking in front of others, we learn the value in replacing these habitual words with silence. 

We learn to pause.  

Pausing can allow the speaker to collect his/her thoughts, add emphasis, slow down a speech that needs slowing, help gain composure, or further enrich a rhythm. 

There is power in the pause. 

And just like with public speaking, there is also power in pausing from our daily runaway duties. 

This week, Thanksgiving week, is all about pausing––one of the reasons I hail this holiday. Unfortunately, it is sandwiched between the frenzy of black witches and Black Friday––the madness that kicks off the madness of holiday shopping. Thanksgiving is there, but barely. It’s like a piece of bologna between two slices of cake. 

But I love Thanksgiving! I love the Macy’s Day Parade and that the commentators are bundled up and I’m not. I love that there are no gifts. I love that we actually take time to ponder our blessings and be with family and friends. I love fall. I love all the amazing food. I love Thanksgiving.  

Today I’m taking a pause from my body image series to promote my favorite holiday. I don’t want it to be bologna between two slices of cake. I want Thanksgiving to be hailed for all its glory. I want it to push its way back onto our calendars. To demand its place. But Thanksgiving isn’t like that. It is not rude or forceful. It’s simply there if we so choose. 

Please. 

Let’s pause this Thanksgiving to collect our thoughts, to add emphasis where needed, to slow down that which needs slowing, to gain our composure, and to further enrich our distinctive rhythms. 

Let’s pause this Thanksgiving.