Sometimes a visual picture explains more the way you feel or understand something in a way only a picture can. I have been walking past a site of destruction almost daily. It isn’t just a demolition site, it’s an iconic building that represents part of the hospital and community. The rubble sits angrily contrasted against the picturesque green hills of Portland, surrounded by a sea of functional and updated buildings including the areal tram, one of Portland’s tourist attractions.
The site is truly amazing to look at. First of all, it is a massive area that is laying in rubble. It takes an immense amount of power and energy to lay a building of that size down. When looking at the wreckage it almost takes your breath away. Large cables dangle from the side, pieces of flooring and ceiling laying in obscure places, exposed beams filleted openly to the sky. Half of the building is still left standing awaiting the wrecking ball’s return.
Walking past it I had an intense feeling of awareness. This building was an exact replica of the way I felt inside. During the process of loss and grief, most people find themselves standing in a place they have never been before. It usually comes unexpected, leaving us exposed and raw. I have never been one to believe that nothing unexpected can happen, but I think most of us wander around on this planet with blinders on, believing it won’t happen to us. I felt very blessed. I had everything I had ever needed, a beautiful house, a good marriage, four beautiful kids, a good career. Then the wrecking ball came and smashed it to a point where my life is unrecognizable.
Great loss cannot be described any other way. I admit I never understood it until now. I want to go back and hug anyone I gave platitudes to. I want to write every parent that lost a child in the recent shootings, find them and hug them. I even started to consider the poor lonely parent of the shooter who cannot grieve openly, sitting alone without their child more confused and hurt and broken than anyone can imagine. Where is their comfort? Did they choose to have their life smashed to pieces? Is it their fault?
Where do you go from here? After painting this intense and bleak picture where does this lead? I had an epiphany when recently trying to clean up the cards and flowers around my house. I have to backtrack to the moment I found out my daughter had passed away and was flying home from my mission trip in South America.
I hadn’t yet found time to get to the market for souvenirs. I was grabbing my bags and saw the vase I had admired, made by local women, sitting behind the counter. I quickly asked the clerk for it and headed towards the airport. In my complete shock and haste, I figured it would be the only reminder of my trip.
As the flowers poured in, I found a use for every vase I had. The Peru vase quickly became functional. I moved flowers around while trying to keep my cats out of the fields of flowers as they played their version of jungle cats. As I was moving the flowers the Peru vase smashed to the ground. I watched it shatter to pieces and it felt metaphorical for my life. Here was the one and only thing I had brought home from South America on the day my daughter died.
While I was cleaning up the mess I noticed the shape of the broken vase and it reminded me of a cornucopia. I had recently walked through a higher end grocery store and had seen similar purposefully shaped vases and containers with succulents that were artistically placed inside. The use of the vase, though not what I had intended it to be, was still beautiful and it was still useful.
I was waiting for the areal tram staring at the rubble contemplating brokenness the next day. In the northwest we pride ourselves on reusing and repurposing. Would the rocks be used for gravel? The scrap metal and valuable materials would of course be reused. How much more valuable are we, in our brokeness? I starting to write my post in my mind, while driving home, when the radio started to play a song from Matthew West, Broken Things.
“Now I’m just a beggar in the presence of a King. I wish I could bring You so much more, but if it’s true You use broken things, Then here I am Lord I am all Yours. The pages of history they tell me it’s true, That it’s never the perfect: it’s always the ones with the scars you use. It’s the rebels and the prodigals: it’s the humble and the weak”
We cannot repair our brokenness. We cannot become again what we were before a loss or devastation in our lives, or always understand the reasons behind the destruction. We have to believe that we are valuable and in our vulnerability we have purpose and use.
It just may not be the purpose and use that we once believed we were intended for.