Wednesday, March 25, 2015

What I Learned about Grief from Cinderella

Often times unknowingly, I view life through the lens of grief.  Last night while watching Disney's CINDERELLA, I had an 'a-ha' moment.  It truly is a beautiful and magical movie depicting the strength of character and true beauty.  Yet, this movie is wrought with grief.  This enchanting movie begins with a love story.  You can feel the love, the deep love between Ella and her mother and father.  You can't help but smile as you see them enwrapped in their joyous, happy, and blissful love.  When we love much, we grieve much for we understand the depth of losing such a radiant love.  Sweet little Ella loses her beloved mother and my mama's heart breaks for her as she drinks up her mother's dying last words.  This fiercely loving mother charges her darling daughter to have courage and to be kind and that these two attributes will see her through to the end of time.  Ella embodies courage and kindess throughout her life and at times, uses much restraint in honor of her mother's words.

In another sorrowful twisted turn, she loses her doting father and her beautiful world collapses in the cruel hands of her step-mother.  As she sleeps by the fire to keep warm, the cinders from the dying fire fall on her and thus she acquires the name, Cinder-ella.  I have seen various Cinderella movies and read various story lines, and have found that more often than not, the cruelty of the wicked step-mother and sisters is seen through the lens of jealousy.  They are either jealous of Cinderella's beauty, or of the love Cinderella and her father shared, or at times jealous of her kindess of spirit.  In this intricately woven story I saw both of the main characters, the evil step mother and Cinderella, through the lens of GRIEF.

In one scene, Cinderella finally speaks up for herself and gut-wrenchingly questions her step mother as to why she must be so cruel?   I could see the pain in her step mother's eyes.  The harshness in her face and eyes relents for a moment as she says it's because Cinderella is pure and innocent. Yes, she was jealous of Cinderella, but perhaps not because of her beauty, not even by her goodness, but rather by how Cinderella continues to bloom and blossom despite of pain and sorrow.  She too has felt deep love and tasted bitter loss, but instead the step-mother chose to grow hard and angry.  Watching Cinderella choose life and live it with courage and kindess was like salt in her own sorrowful wounds.

Grief.  It is such a powerful emotion and encompasses all others.  You can feel happy and still grieve.  You can feel angry and still grieve.  You can feel sad and still grieve.  Grief bleeds through all other emotions and hightens them.  Grief changes you.  You can not remain the same, whether you want it to or not, it changes you.  Your pre-grief shape no longer exists, and with that realization comes a deep sense of loss of self and the fear of the unknown.  All that you once knew of love and security is gone and you find yourself teetering  on the edge of uncertainty and confusion.  You have no choice, there is no going back.  You must move forward with courage or stay still paralyzed in fear. And here we find the dichotomy between Cinderella and her step-mother.  One chooses to move gingerly forward in courage, compelled by kindess, forgiveness and love, and the other remains entangled in fear and ensnared in anger.

If you let it though, grief can re-shape you into a new and beautiful creation.  Or it can warp you into a twisted version of your former self.  If you allow the pain of grief to sweep over you and trust that God can make beauty from ashes, you can beautifully emerge from the deep chasm of grief as Cinderella did with courage and kindess.  Or, you can thrash against grief, allowing yourself to become engulfed in the deep darkness and seething anger, as did the step-mother.

To live through grief takes courage and kindess, especially with yourself.  It takes courage to move forward when all you want to do is retreat.  It takes kindess to be gracious with yourself when you catch yourself in a moment of joy, smiling at the beauty that is still found in the life around you.  As I walked away from the magical movie, hand in hand with my own sweet little princess, I felt so thankful and blessed that we as a family have chosen to walk our grief journey with courage and with kindness.

If you are in a place of grief today, whether it be the loss of a loved one, loss of a job, or even the loss of a relationship, my prayer is that you would walk forward with courage and kindness and choose to rise from the ashes.  May you, like Cinderella allow beauty to come from the cinders of a broken life and allow God to make beauty from the ashes.

Isaiah 61: 3 bestow on them a crown of beauty instead of ashes,
the oil of joy,  instead of mourning,
and a garment of praise,  instead of a spirit of despair...

Here is a picture of Cinderella and our real life princess, Olivia.  There is no question that our family is a 'Disney Family'.  If we could go every year for the rest of our lives, we would!  It holds a special place in our hearts because some of our first moments of real joy in sorrow were found there.  xoxo

Monday, March 02, 2015

The Price of LOVE

Seven years ago, on the day of love, you were born.  Our beautifully perfect, imperfect Valentine.  The odds were against you.  But, odds meant nothing to you.  You were our gentle warrior and your spirit and heart were stronger than your physical frame.  Your spirit and your heart belonged to us, your family.  You taught us the very meaning of love.

Love is believing to hope when all else fails.  Love motivates you to seek answers even when you are told there are none.  Love doesn't give up when the doctors do.  Love is what keeps you breathing when your reality meets the inevitable and sucks all the air out from within you.  Love allows you to celebrate a life when all you want to do is mourn it.  Love propels you to help othes, when you would rather retreat.  Love is beauty and love is pain.

Six years ago, on March 2, 11:30pm your spirit left your beautiful earthly vessel in the most divine of moments.  The rush in the room was nothing short of miraculous as you opened your eyes and awoke and for but a moment and we saw you healed, whole, and beautiful.  Then in an, your spirit, that sweet gentle warrior within you, was gone.  I felt the exchange as you, our Sleeping Beauty awoke to the Prince of Peace.  A moment, I will never forget.

Your heart kept beating though; all night I waited with you in some sort of a backward birthing process.  Each breath like a contraction pulling you further away until at last, at 5:30 am March 3rd, 2009 you took your last sweet breath and your heart finally relenquished the fight.  In that darkest night of the soul, there was so much sadness, and so much pain.

Yet, as we held your brother and sister close last night as they cried for you, we remember more than these unbearable moments of pain.

We remember the LOVE.

And oh, how we LOVED.

Grief never ends, but it changes. It’s a passage, 
not a place to stay. The sense of loss must give way 
If we are to value the life that was lived 

Grief is not a sign of weakness, nor lack of faith