I wish I could explain why Neil Young is stuck in my head these days. In the Bluegrass, we talk about the High Lonesome Sound. Neil is the wild haired Canadian master of that mountain cry. At moments, his strange voice can ache and smile at the same time. His rendition of Long May You Run was one of the highlights of the Calgary Olympics for me. Tonight, he is blessing my tired soul.
I spent the morning calling doctors. Making appointments. Talking with Mum so she wouldn't find out about all this on Facebook. Holding back the tears. "Just keep talking to me," she asked. "I would rather know than worry." I told her things were under control. Mrs P is here. No need to grab the "Bob Bag" and jump in the car just yet. In fact, I might like to spend some time up there, running in the mountains. Reading on the porch. Smelling spring as it wraps itself around the hardwoods. "It's going to take a while for me to get myself together for the drive, though. I don't think I can cry all the way from Lexington to Limestone." Mum's answer caught me by surprise and caught my heart in my throat. "I've done that. It's not much fun." I don't see how there can be anything in the universe as powerful as my mother's love.
Had a nice green salad... left overs from my tearful lunch with Mrs P yesterday. The dogs teased me for croutons, then sprang out the back door woofing at every sound that came in through the open windows. Friends reached out to me with text and email and chat messages. Cyber compassion is as good as the old fashioned kind, I promise you. I wept at the loving words. The tears flow without sense or reason. They wash over me like the spring wind blowing the running shirt hanging on the line.
When I was in the hospital, going to the gym to play volleyball was the first thing that made me feel alive again. I knew that I needed to move. Under the afternoon sun, I started the mower and plowed into the dandelions that filled my front lawn with gold. I hated to see them go, but there's rain in the forecast, and they would soon have gone to seed or grown too heavy with rain to cut. As the engine roared along, I found myself thinking about the Y, the people I had let down. The way I had left... frightened and sobbing. I started to blubber there in broad daylight, hoping that the sound of the mower covered my voice as I pushed on. When I finally finished the yard, I shut off the motor and came inside, unable to muffle my grief.
Mrs P ran in from her office, startled by the sound. "Are you OK? Did something happen?"
"No," I cried. "I just don't want them to remember me that way. Running away."
"That isn't how they remember you. They love you."
She brought me a cold cloth and held it on the back of my neck until my shoulders stopped shaking.
"I didn't cry like this for my father when he died. Not when my high school sweetheart left me or my college lover told me she was seeing someone else. I've never cried like this in my life."
Mrs P said, "Maybe these are tears you should have shed. Maybe your heart has been filling with tears for a long time. For the people you love who have cancer. For the ones who died. For Molly and Buddy and Mo and all the animals we've lost. Maybe your heart has broken open to let all of the tears out."
My God, what a woman I married.
Before dinner, I went out for a run. Oh the sweet mercy of the road. Feet tapping the pavement. Breathing smoothly in time with each step: in-two-three, out-two-three-four. Just two miles of sidewalks, but enough to quiet the grief for a while. I can still run. I am still alive.
Tonight, I type in the den. Neil Young's voice soothes my ears. The dogs soft breathing surrounds me as they stretch out on the couch and the floor around my desk. My eyes are moist, but not flowing. My heart is heavy, but not choking me. This is the in-between time. I don't know why all this is happening, but I am so grateful for the time between fits of sorrow. I am so grateful for the mercy of the friends I've disappointed and for the understanding of the ones who have traveled this dark road themselves. Can you feel shame and joy at the same time? Humility and humiliation in one gasp?
Part of me wishes I could just go to sleep and wake up and be all better and raring to go. But I know that isn't going to happen. It would be easier for me to wake up and be back to Wednesday morning, before the hurting, before the tears.
I have often said that our hearts break so God can come in. I believe that's true. But Mrs P is also right. Maybe our hearts break so the tears can get out. Maybe that's why my friends' love hurts so much right now. My heart is too full of tears to hold their kindness as well. I pray God will be there to fill it back up again once they have all been wept away.