I may have killed the bleeding heart plant that a friend gave me right after Pete died. I mentioned its impending death to friends last week and they said, “It’s a shade plant.”
Well shit. It’s been hanging in the sun on my patio. It gets the morning sun and then most of the day it gets heat and partial sunlight. At the end of the day, part of it can see the sunset.
So yea... I may have killed my bleeding heart.
And here is what I’m trying to learn from it: I need shade. We all need shade. And by shade, I mean safe places where we can find rest. Not necessarily sleep. Rest.
In my pastoral work, I have often said one of the greatest gifts we can give to one another is the gift of our presence and in particular, the gift of sitting together in silence. Being in silence is not comfortable for most of us. And as our world has gotten louder, our comfort level with silence has gotten worse. There are so many words, so many pictures, so many comments, so many “likes” to our posts on social media, so many friends “talking” out there in cyberspace and we don’t want to miss anything. And then add in the constant chatter of the 24 hour news cycle. Our ears are so busy; our eyes are constantly reading and watching. It’s very loud in our heads. We know little rest. We have little shade.
Perhaps that’s why the 23rd Psalm says that God “makes us to lie down in green pastures.” God has made us to lie down. Lying down is part of our nature. Lying down or rest is a natural component of being human.
To be human is to need shade. To need rest. To need quiet. And my truth: I am fighting this need for shade every day lately.
I don’t want to stop and sit still and be quiet with myself. I am grieving and it feels horrible. So, no I don't want to sit quietly with myself. I want to run away… from myself, from my surroundings, from my relationships, from my job, from my home, from my own skin. I can’t stand it in here. I miss Pete so much that my flesh starts to feel prickly; there is humming inside me and my tears have never been this close to the surface in all of my life. They overtake me. And I can't will them to stop. I don't want to sit still with myself. I want to run away.
There is quite a bit of irony in this tension too. For the past five years I have complained that I was never alone in my own house. Pete was here all the time. I would get up early to write or to read or to enjoy my house alone. And now that I have it alone, I am squandering it away by scrolling through facebook early in the am or by watching the Newsroom for the 4th time til late at night.
And then I say to myself - give yourself a break, Beth. Stop with the chastisement. You’ve just lost your best friend, your partner, your shade tree.
I’ve lost my shade tree. And my bleeding heart looks pitiful.
Pete used to tell this joke about a guy and a monkey who went to space together. They make it through take off and the monkey begins working frantically, pushing buttons, working hard. The guy just sits there. And so someone asks the guy, what do you have to do? The guy says, I feed the monkey.
In my and Pete’s world, he always said his job was to feed the monkey. I was the monkey. And I’m having to learn to feed myself.
Last week, I learned to ask for help and my sons fed me.
Last week, I learned to be more honest about my bleeding heart and my friends provided restful shade.
Last week, I told the story of Pete’s death again to a couple women at my church and it felt like I was watered.
But the honest truth is my bleeding heart still looks, and feels, pitiful.