Saturday, August 06, 2005

The Emerging Story

Last week I was called to an emergency in which a 68 year old man had died at home and the EMTs, and then the ER docs, were unable to revive him. I sat with his wife in a quiet room as she struggled to make some sense of what had so suddenly happened to her. The anger, upset, hopelessness, confusion, and despair rolled through the room in waves, like storm clouds moving across a horizon. In calmer moments she held my hand and told me stories of how they'd met, where they'd lived, what they hoped. Then the pain welled up again with many tears and she asked unanswerable questions to the ceiling, to me, to God.

In those moments, the story was too big, too immediate, to raw to name--but I noticed that one small bit of comfort, the only piece of intentional narrative work that seemed to fit in those moments, was the tiniest of reminders: The story will continue to unfold. Our conversation about what would be coming over the next several days, about the nature of grief, about ways to let others help with funeral arrangements, all spoke to a future that would come for her, even though the unthinkable had happened and her husband was gone. I was struck by the idea that even in those moments when we can't face story head-on, its reality, its rhythm, its possibility still serves to frame and comfort us, like a mother rocking a baby in her arms.


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