Nitty Gritty Dirty Grief

Alchemy of Pain

I’ve been waiting a week to write this post.

A week to let my emotions ferment, brew, stew on the complexities of this life.

Last Friday I was driving up to the mountains to meet my friend Heather for a girl’s night.

Along the way, I heard that Jessica Ridgeway’s body was confirmed in the open space in Arvada.

I was supposed to drive to Fraser to meet my friends. Instead I drove to Frisco. I realized my mistake and cursed, and turned around to drive another hour to Fraser. I would like to say I minded, but I didn’t. I think I needed to to think.

Along the way I cried for Jessica. Jessica disappeared the week before. I saw the posters of her missing; they were in the airport, she was on the news, Amber alerts. But I didn’t pay attention until horrifically, they found a body they couldn’t confirm.

And maybe I should have paid more attention before but our own Mito community was in a state of emergency.

But on Friday, on the way to Frisco/Fraser, I heard about this poor child.

The death of a child is not new to me. We lose kids. I have lost two. I know others who have lost and we talk often of our kids. I sit on the Bereavement Committee at Children’s. The difference is that when we lost Samantha, I felt like it was on her own body’s own accord. We grieve everyday….but I honestly feel like it was her own decision. And for as much as I struggle to go on without her. I know Samantha was surrounded with love until the very end….and still is.

She was not taken from us suddenly or violently. Samantha did not suffer. Nor do I think she was ever afraid. I can accept this. I couldn’t accept what happened to Jessica.

So I drove another hour.

The next day, on my way home, my lovely friend Laura called. Her church was offering 50% of their Sunday donations to Miracles for Mito.

So on Sunday, I attended two sessions of church.

And church was where I needed to be, my head was off and I needed a centering force. I did after all , drive to Frisco/Fraser.

And on Sunday, I got out of the house without a lick of make-up on. I just walked out the front door without my foundation. I looked in the car mirror in Longmont and realized I looked a tad frightening

Those who know me know this is unheard of. I refresh the lipstick every hour….noses are powdered freely and often.

Clearly, something was off.

If you are ever off, go to a Unitarian Church for three hours. Seriously, I listened to Indian music, sang, and meditated on the sermon; The Alchemy of Pain. 

And we talked about Pain. And I cried. I cried because I drove to Frisco/Fraser and left the house without foundation because something I couldn’t put into words was haunting me. 

But no matter how ‘off’ I seemed….the world seemed much more off; worse than off….evil and unexplainable.  

And we read a poem….by Naomi Shihab Nye:


Before you know what kindness really is
you must lose things,
feel the future dissolve in a moment
like salt in a weakened broth.
What you held in your hand,
what you counted and carefully saved,
all this must go so you know
how desolate the landscape can be
between the regions of kindness.
How you ride and ride
thinking the bus will never stop,
the passengers eating maize and chicken
will stare out the window forever.

Before you learn the tender gravity of kindness,
you must travel where the Indian in a white poncho
lies dead by the side of the road.
You must see how this could be you,
how he too was someone
who journeyed through the night with plans
and the simple breath that kept him alive.

Before you know kindness as the deepest thing inside,
you must know sorrow as the other deepest thing.
You must wake up with sorrow.
You must speak to it till your voice
catches the thread of all sorrows
and you see the size of the cloth.

Then it is only kindness that makes sense anymore,
only kindness that ties your shoes
and sends you out into the day to mail letters and
purchase bread,

only kindness that raises its head
from the crowd of the world to say
it is I you have been looking for,
and then goes with you every where
like a shadow or a friend.

As we heal. Perhaps kindness is what makes sense. Perhaps we should look for it like a shadow or a friend.

I left calm, grounded and grateful for a community of kindness. Transcending pain is not rising above it; it is greeting it and acknowledging it….even if you have to drive to Frisco/Fraser along the way.


1 thought on “Alchemy of Pain”

  1. Stunning. Just stunning. I'm so glad you came to Frisco/Fraser to be with me and join a circle of love/sorrow/kindness. Grief seems to be an unending journey, where, magically,inexplicably, churches read poems that heal, friends show up on their way past and to Frisco/Fraser, and hope is born again. Perhaps, like the poem says, this is why we know kindness at all, because we have known sorrow as well. You're a gift. As is your beautiful writing.


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