Broken Open Heartedness

Cathy Cuenin  (7/11/10)

Cathy Cuenin Reading:

“The Unbroken,” by Rashani Rea
Found in The Power of a Broken-Open Heart,
by Julie Interrante

There is a brokenness
out of which comes the unbroken,
a shatteredness out of which blooms
the unshatterable.
There is a sorrow
beyond all grief which leads to joy;
and a fragility
out of whose depths emerges strength…
There is a hollow space
Too vast for words
Through which we pass with each loss,
Out of whose darkness
We are sanctioned into being.
There is a cry deeper than all sound
whose serrated edges cut the heart
as we break open to the place inside
which is unbreakable and whole,
while learning to sing.

Opening Prayer:

Holy Spirit of love that breaths us into existence, inspire our minds and open our hearts with Your presence. In this Holy presence may we rest in you and you in us. Amen.

I have an 18-month-old granddaughter, Clara, whom I love with all my heart. And I know in my heart that someday we will part. I will leave or she will.

It is the same with Loren and everyone I love. We all live with this all the time. We will all be broken sometime, somewhere. Before I talk about brokenness I want to say that when we found this church four years ago, we were picking up pieces from a broken time and you have played a part in our healing. Thank you.

When our time comes we may be washed to sea by a dark and suffocating wave of suffering. Washed out right along with us may be all sense of hope, meaning or belonging, with no light or end in sight. We exist barely alive on the edge of the world that is abuzz with optimism. It is as if those grieving the death a loved one and those who live with illness, emotional or physical pain live in a parallel universe of dependence and vulnerability. Side by side is the bright world of productivity, optimism, confidence, independence offered with unceasing persistence by the world around us, by our culture.

When my sister's husband died of Huntington's disease she didn't just lose him. She lost her “wifenss,” her “coupledom” in a circle of coupled friends, her traveling partner, their future plans, sharing with him their future grandchildren and college graduations. The kids lost their father's guidance, fellow wilderness explorer, hunting partner, and they all lost the skipper of their fishing boat, a source of family income.

We lose the roles that define us, make us who we are: our “husbandness,” our “motherness,” our “best-friendness.” Before my lung transplant, as a rare lung disease grew inside me, besides losing my breath, I lost my well-self, my athletic-self, my walking and hiking self, my work, travel, and income; and precious time with friends who I could no longer keep up with.

I like to say that grieving is not for wimps. I also like to re-frame the burden of great suffering. I see it as a mystery. It's a subtle shift from burden to mystery, but for me it places all that must be endured into the hands of Creator and Creation. I would never intentionally invite great suffering into my life but it comes with great power to break us open into the unbreakable, into Divinity.

And still, there is the painful journey to be made. Yearning, anger, fear, loneliness, worthlessness, forgetfulness, guilt, helplessness, relief, blessed numbness or shock, which carries us until we are ready to move further. These are all normal and they need to move through us, WHEN we are ready.

“Emotion,” comes from the Latin root: “emover”: to move through. That's what emotions do. That's what they NEED to do. Your grief may take longer than someone else's. It may take longer than someone expects. It it may be shorter than you or anyone expected. Your sleep and appetite may change, energy bottom out, body may be tired, tight, achy. And your attention span lousy. And then there are the tears, the blessed, healing and cleansing tears, bearing witness to our love.

We are told that Jesus wept for Lazarus and tears of blood for himself. His commandment to us is that we are to love one another as we love ourselves. With a world around us vigilant with it's values of optimism, independence, and pain-avoidance, how are we are to love ourselves and other, broken? How, with so little training, do we enter this Mystery with anything but fear?

Here's how I think we do it: I told you about my little granddaughter, Clara. When she visited recently she had a terrifying moment and with all my heart, I extended my open arms to her.

That's how. To ourselves. It's not particularly easy. It's hard enough when we're on top of our game, let alone, broken, hopeless and helpless.

It is said you can't go around, over or under grief, only through it. Pushing pain away may work for many but it does not provide healing passage through the valley of grief. When we won't walk down, we get pulled down: crying unexpectedly, experiencing angry outbursts.

We've learned to try to move on, to harden ourselves against our own weakness or sadness. The results can be drinking, drugging, eating, and more.

So first, foremost, I extend kindness to myself.

Second, I find someone who will listen, and listen and listen some more. Someone who will not need to fix me, not give me advice unless I ask for it. And it is not always our closest family and friends who can be there for us this way. They may be grieving too. So find someone else.

And for all of us who want to love our grieving friends, we don't have to be that someone. When we ask “how are you” we may want to have that time to listen. When we haven't time we can let them know how much they have been in our hearts.

And when you have someone who will listen, then tell your story. Tell how your heart feels, how much you love, where your feelings are in your body; explore the landscape of your story. Weep your tears. Tell your feelings to the natural world. The trees and water and mountains can bear it. I did that a lot. Journal. Talk with your loved one from your heart.

You will never forget — the pain will never be gone — but you can find it a place to rest in your heart. “Your grief,” says a Buddhist monk, “is your raft across the river. You need it to cross over but when you reach the other side, don't haul it along with you.”

When our grief comes to rest in our hearts our stories will change. No story is big enough to hold us. It is the same for those of us with aging and broken bodies. With kindness instead of anger at ourselves, we shift our journey.

Breathe deeply into your heart; rest, laugh and cry. The tears for each come from the same well. One can bring on the other. Sing and move.

Above all, be gentle. There is no cure for grief but when we cease clinging and clawing our way back to what was, we are left to rest in what is.

Grief can turn our heart to stone or break it open. Broken open we find the Unbreakable, Unshatterable.

This is our night rainbow.


May you rest, always Unbroken, even when broken, in the loving arms of God.

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