There’s a precipice we teeter on as we watch our dear ones go through their life’s tribulations. We think we suffer with them and we lift our voices with them in anguish and we hold each other and try to rebalance each other. Maybe each of us regains a moment of ease at different times. Maybe we just think we do.
If we are lucky, we go through our pain and it resolves itself. Some wounds don’t heal and we hurt over and over and over. When we link arms to look into that chasm together, if one of us falls in, the rest of us scramble to stay on the edge AND pull our loved one back to the edge again with us. It doesn’t always work. They fall to a ledge that simply can’t be reached no matter how heroic an effort the support team musters.
The fallen cry and panic and scratch to get back but eventually they seem to hunker on that ledge and put up a brave front teetering on their own as the rest of the team watches and rebalances. In nature, it’s the point where most will wander off, listening, and grab a bit of food. Eventually the listening for the missing becomes a distant memory unless they call out again.
I woke up with this image in my mind this morning. Knowing there will be some who will go down each ledge with the one in pain – maybe even allowing themselves to fall to stay with a mate or a child or a friend. Hoping for all they are worth that they can push their loved one back up to the edge. Sometimes in their effort, it works. Sometimes it doesn’t.
I imagined the face of the cliff with scattered bodies clinging each to their own narrow place. Sometimes death creeps in and takes one here or there on their ledge. Sometimes one will jump hoping the bottom can be healed from, or will end the battle. One man falls asleep and topples off. Another looses grip and slips. One is accidentally pushed.
At the top there comes a false calm as the onlookers slumber and resolve to help again next time. One mulls the lesson so they can do better. One vows to stay away from the edge altogether. All the while, we journey with our arms linked – until we can’t. Some of us pray. Some of us shout until we can’t shout anymore. Some accept their position as their fate. Some fight and scratch and claw and never accept where they are.
My friend lost her son yesterday. Her family’s pain has shut me and Steve up. I cried for her husband and children and their children. I want to reach out and offer something – from my own ledge, where I’m clinging to Steve’s hand as he pulls away from me to be alone on his own ledge. Her precious oldest son lies at the bottom and can’t be reached. I called out to my own children at the top and felt each look over the edge to see me for a second.
What do we do to make things better? What choices lead us to where we are? At what point do we let ourselves move too close to the edge? What pain is generational? Does it have to be generational? Do we have to bear our burdens alone? Psalms 23 is typically read at funerals when it should be memorized and depended on way before we need that rod and staff…the rod and staff and the Lord who wields them.