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Holding together and falling apart

"I am made up of two worlds; one in which I exist to hold everyone together and the other where I watch myself constantly fall apart." --K. Piper

I read this quote today and it felt profound. It evoked emotions that I couldn't quite identify. Today has been a heavy day. People dear to my heart are suffering for a variety of reasons, and none self-inflicted or remotely deserved. I have spent much of the day with a lump in my throat, not for myself, but in thinking of how the people I care about must be feeling, and out of helplessness that there is nothing I can do to ease their pain or change their circumstances.

When I was 21, my younger sister died in a car accident. Though many years have passed since that day, I have vivid and almost visceral memories of many of the events of the day, and many of them have come flooding back to my mind today. I can remember the strangest details of certain things, like reaching into the handle of the truck to get the phone out after church. I remember the more poignant details too, like the gut wrenching tone in the whispers from my uncle to my aunt when I called to try and find someone who could tell me what was going on. It was a brokenness that I never want to hear again. I also remember the comfort in being surrounded by my in-laws that day, and the compassionate silence from Donny's grandpa as he gave me a hug and slipped a $50 bill into my hand when there were really no words to be said.

One of the distinct memories I have was of something that was said in the priesthood blessing I received and the resolve I found in that. The exact words escape me now, but I was told that I would be a strength and a support to my family. In that statement, I found a purpose. I found resolve that I would be able to do something meaningful and helpful during the time that I was able to be with my family. I knew that there were things that could be done to lighten the burdens that would fall on my parents after the funeral and after everyone had gone home and the presence of support dwindled and I tried to find those things.

Some of them were cathartic, like sitting around the bedroom that my sister and I had shared through high school with my other sister, mom, aunts, cousins, and a couple of close friends and divided up my sister's clothes. We laughed, cried, made jokes about the unique taste in clothing that my sister fully acknowledged, and took care of a task that would have been too much for one person to take on alone. I spent time trying to sort and organize the possessions her friends lovingly packed and brought home from her room at college. We wrote her obituary as a family, and then my sister and I wrote her eulogy. We comforted the friends who came, and made sure everyone ate as much as they could stand to eat of the seemingly endless supply of lasagna and casseroles that filled our kitchens. We are a farm family, so there were chores to be done. The cows didn't get the memo that someone died and had the audacity to still demand food.

My sister and me
"I am made up of two worlds; one in which I exist to hold everyone together and the other where I watch myself constantly fall apart." --K. Piper

I think my sister's death was one of my first and certainly one of my most profound experiences with this dichotomy of existing to hold everyone together while watching myself fall apart. The death of my sister rocked my world in a way that I had never experienced before. Finding a purpose in my suffering gave life to the growth that my soul was aching to experience. In the rawness of those early days, I knew I needed to find SOME purpose for the pain but I had no idea what that would look like. I grieved privately in the ways I needed to and carried in my heart the resolve to find ways to comfort others in the ways that I knew were most comforting to me but often seem to be lost on those who have not experienced a loss like that before.

Other experiences throughout the years have left me struggling to maintain balance between holding everyone together and falling apart. Experiences that feel like they are tearing me apart to my very core seem to have the effect of creating a new version of me. One that sometimes hardly resembles the person I was before and i hardly recognize myself. I have learned that I don't like falling apart. I am more comfortable in the role of holding everyone together. I suppose it feels more purposeful. And less burdensome. It feels strong.

But I also know that it's okay to fall apart. And it's okay to take a break from trying to hold everyone together, and trying to hold myself together for the sake of everyone else. And it's okay to let others fall apart so that they can be put together again. There are heartaches in life that we cannot fix, change, or stop. There is brokenness that we cannot mend. But we don't have to. It's not our job to fix the brokenness of others. That is a journey that is uniquely theirs. What we CAN do is to be with them in their brokenness, and to support and lift them as they navigate their journey of healing.

Joel 2:12-13
Therefore also now, saith the LORD, turn ye even to me with all your heart, and with fasting, and with weeping, and with mourning:
And rend your heart, and not your garments, and turn unto the LORD your God: for he is gracious and merciful, slow to anger, and of great kindness, and repenteth him of the evil.


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