God in What is Not Said

His is an unassuming wit, the gentle sort that surprises you, and only after you have known him long enough. I am not amused by puns or foolish antics, but by dry wit, the understated kind, the kind my husband has. He has always made me laugh and I have always loved this about him.

Laughter, though, does not echo in these hospital halls or if it does, it is strange and out of place—like our pregnancy this time. “Ectopic pregnancy literally means Out of Place,” my husband reads from the Internet and later writes a poem about the out of placeness we feel in this experience of intermittent infertility followed by miscarriage after miscarriage and now, this. We hold our collective breath for nearly a week in the hospital while I continue to bleed, bent in pain, and we continue to pray. And then I am wheeled into surgery and we lose the baby before we lose me.

I don’t laugh for a month. Nate doesn’t even try to make me. The hours pass slow and monotonous, like the poet said, “a punctual rape of every blessed day.” Even when I am well enough to leave our bed, I don’t want to. Even when the scars don’t pull with every movement, I feel them still and the emptiness they betray. We're not the sort to pretend things are fine when they're not. We're not afraid of mourning, of being sad. We aren't going to pretend we have jubilant and full hearts when the truth is we've felt emptied of joy, and instead brim over with emotions that seem out of place and our control. There's no shame in our grief and we feel no shame for it. We're not in some sort of rush to sweep the bad things away and spring clean sadness from our hearts. Sadness has its purpose too.

One night a month after, Nate and I talk before bed as we often do, turned toward one another, and a surprising laughter comes from within me. He makes me laugh for an hour or more and then again when we turn out the lights and face away from each other.

Someone asked me a question recently: "What's comforts you in infertility and pregnancy loss?" I answered the Psalms. They have been the best comfort to me in the past few years. But there is poetry too, and not of the biblical sort, that has comforted too. I read a poem by Mary Oliver when we were in the hospital and it lingers still with comfort.

Poetry says what cannot be said in prose. And sometimes it says what cannot be said at all or sometimes what should not.  Good poetry leaves much to the imagination and even more to interpretation. Its purpose is not to force the reader into a well-worn pathway, but to surprise instead with inflection, wonder, and—perhaps—emptiness. What is not said is almost more important than what is.

Grief is like that, for me at least. God is at work in what is not said more than what is. He is found in spaces, emptiness, quiet pauses and plots and pieces. He says without saying, "Notice me in this thing or this sight or this void? See me in the ways I preserve and protect and keep?" He is almost an afterthought in many ways. He is a surprise.

The best comfort to me in grief has been the Psalms, yes, but also poetry, and also surprising laughter, filling up from inside and pouring over. The sort that makes my stomach hurt, the kind that makes my eyes water, the kind that makes me stop and notice, for one minute, when my hands feel limp and lifeless, that all things are still held in his.

Heavy, by Mary Oliver

That time
I thought I could not
go any closer to grief
without dying

I went closer,
and I did not die.
Surely God
had his hand in this,

as well as friends.
Still, I was bent,
and my laughter,
as the poet said,

was nowhere to be found.
Then said my friend Daniel,
(brave even among lions),
“It’s not the weight you carry

but how you carry it -
books, bricks, grief -
it’s all in the way
you embrace it, balance it, carry it

when you cannot, and would not,
put it down.”
So I went practicing.
Have you noticed?

Have you heard
the laughter
that comes, now and again,
out of my startled mouth?

How I linger
to admire, admire, admire
the things of this world
that are kind, and maybe

also troubled 
roses in the wind,
the sea geese on the steep waves,
a love to which there is no reply?

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