I’m rattled. There’s no skirting the issue: my keyboard’s betrayal is shaking the core of my being.
That’s all I could find to say.
The weeks have been slipping by since my last post, KBO, but each time I set out to write those few words were all I had.
For a long time now I have been rolling along through the various losses and challenges of my unknown condition with a belief that no matter what comes my way, there will always be a “Graceful Companion” alongside each less welcome intruder. For three years there has been a patch of blue in every cloudy sky; sometimes a small patch admittedly, but redeeming virtue seemed to attend each adversity I faced. Events have fitted together in such a manner that I have been able to embrace them with faith, by and large, knowing that I was not the lonely victim of random misfortune, but that there was a divinely ordered providence to life. At times the Graceful Companion has taken the form of miraculous provision: extraordinary gifts such as our home in Paradise; or more commonplace wonders like the many successful adventures Bugger, my power wheelchair, and I have shared; often with astonishing timing in regards to boggings, break downs and spare parts. Sometimes the Graceful Companion has appeared as a tangible sense of the presence of the Almighty himself; or as the rich companionship and fullness-of-life to be found in silent contemplation. I tried to capture this experience of paired loss and gain two years ago in one of my favourite posts, The Gift of Loosing Things. My current experience, however, has yet to yield that familiar balance.
I think I have misunderstood grief, and especially the Christian response to crisis and loss. Led by my own need to soldier on, never admitting defeat, I have sometimes mistaken faith for stoicism and confused emotion with unbelief. Where does it come from, this insistence that all is well, the grin-and-bear-it mentality? Bravado. I suspect it’s a core value in many cultures, not least that of my English forebears; they of the ‘stiff upper lip’. I’m certain bravado has its place, but it must surely have its counterpart also. Tellingly, the antonyms of bravado (restraint, modesty, fearfulness, cowardice) might each (at a stretch) apply in some degree to the ultimate example of grief and loss; one which is familiar to all of us, but from which I have more to learn. In the garden of Gethsemane, Christ anguished deeply over the ‘cup’ from which he would drink, the forward path he had to tread. There might seem to be little profit in drawing any comparison between His grief in that horrific setting and my own relatively minor predicament, but Jesus’ suffering was an integral part of his identification with humanity. It is this same suffering, the New Testament teaches, which equips Christ as the Great High Priest to deal gently with his flock. Seen this way His suffering is also an example to us in our many griefs. Bravado, it would seem, was not his style.
“My soul is overwhelmed with sorrow to the point of death”, Jesus said to his three disciples. Although he claimed the authority to dispatch an army of angels in his own defence, Jesus did not. He had come to live in a world of skin and blood and tissue, and he would die by its rules as well. At one point he fell face down on the ground and prayed for some way, any way, out. His sweat fell to the ground in large drops, like blood.
And God stayed silent. (Philip Yancey).
Many of the Old Testament Psalms share this honesty in the face of desperation. David, especially, throws himself headlong into his sorrow, airing his lament for all to share. The lack of space for lament in the modern, affluent world – Chuch or otherwise – exacerbates the pain of those who mourn. “Have a good cry”, they say, “It’ll do you good … get it out of your system”. So we do, and they pat us awkwardly on the back, and then we sniff a self-conscious apology, “I’m OK now, thanks”. Tears are embarrassing, alarming even, especially for us blokes. They are something to be “got over”, another toxin threatening to mar the bliss of our happy existence. Well: bunkum, twaddle and poppycock!
Being so steeped in my own culture I am at a loss for a better alternative, but I envy my Aboriginal friends in the distant desert their communal life and their well worn passages of grief.
Six months ago I was expounding the joys of the keys in Typing School . The pleasurable years of touch-typing developed into something much more serious between my keyboard and I once the need for her assistance became acute last year. We were a couple, we were co-dependent; she relishing the lightning sharp caress of my fingertips, and I entranced by the clarion quality of her fonts. We were a team; together we conquered the non-vocal world. We were inseparable! Tonight, as it has been on many nights lately, she is sitting neglected in the corner. Her innards are still purring away in misplaced hope, but I have my back to her; concentrating instead on the big new screen on the wall where there is ample room for Dasher, the vixen usurper, the trackball driven typing software. I don’t know what it is exactly; it could just be the need for unblinking concentration on Dasher’s endless stream of letters and alphabets, but this is hard work. It’s an alien language with none of the type-as-you-think fluency that I have practiced for so long. I feel incapacitated, mute, disabled.
Her softly backlit keyboard still flirts at the edge of my vision, longing to lure me back, but it’s over between us.
How terribly, terribly sad.
Yes; but thankfully I still