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No shame in tears, nor strength in dry eyes

“I was crying at school and I couldn’t control it,” my little boy whispered as I stroked his hair moments ago.

“Oh, sweetie,” I murmured. “You don’t have to worry about that. You just worry about feeling better.”

He nodded.

“Do you know I even cried, when I saw how much you were hurting? It’s okay. It’s okay to cry. It doesn’t need to be controlled.”

He didn’t reply, but his eyes drifted closed. I continued stroking his hair and thought:

I don’t want
you to struggle with stoicism as I have, like there is some great merit in stoicism above all else;
you to waste your energy concealing your heart to win anyone else’s favor; if hiding is what wins it, it’s not worth winning;
you to think it’s manly or strong not to cry, when indeed it takes profound strength to reveal vulnerabilities, through tears or otherwise;
you to believe for a moment that my love or respect are conditioned upon your ability to grit your teeth and bear it; these things you already have for simply being wonderfully, unabashedly you

Maybe they are just going home

Try as I might to remember, I forget most my night dreams.

By contrast, one night dream I wished to forget clung to me for many years before I finally accepted its memory will be a constant companion throughout my life.

I am sitting in a doctor’s office with my sister Rache. She holds my hand as her elderly doctor informs her she’s not only sick with cancer, but that it is so invasive and malignant within her body that she has at most three days to live. Rache seems resigned; she simply pats my hand while I weep.

I’m suddenly by myself outside a large church. I gaze up at it and think, “How could you, G-d? How could you?” I walk inside the empty church and see that, though no lights are on, it’s full of sunlight filtered through stained glass windows. The church’s paneling is dark, so the light mostly emphasizes the nostalgic darkness of its interior.

Without being aware of having moved, I’m in the center pulpit of the church. I fall to my knees, look skyward and try to see the beauty of the panes above me. Instead, I see only beauty which my sister will soon never be able to see again. 

I scream. I scream, and scream, and scream, until my voice is lost and I can scream no more, and the ground around me is drenched with my tears.

I heard that same scream this afternoon.

I was enjoying the outdoor seating of my favorite cafe, basking in the goodness of having written 840 words in my WIP after a writingless week, when heartwrenching cries filled the air. My own heart plummeted to my feet as I thought, I know that sound. While I didn’t know its exact source, I knew it almost certainly had to do with the hospice next door.

I was wrestling with the warring urges to offer comfort and ignore it lest my offer be rejected when the middle-aged ladies the next table over stood up.

“Are you going to go talk to her?” I asked. They nodded as they strode away from their belongings and food.

When they returned a few minutes later, the older lady touched a hand to her heart and said, “She just admitted her son to hospice.”

My own hand rose to my heart as I said, “I recently lost my mom, so . . . I’m glad you guys went out to talk to her. I was struggling with whether I should.”

A few minutes later, as I prepared to leave, the woman further from me asked, “How long ago was it?”

I explained that it’s been more than a year now since my mom passed away. “It’s much easier now, but it’s hard to hear that and know someone is just beginning that journey themselves. The inevitability of it. I’m so glad you guys went and talked to her. I just wish I hadn’t waffled . . .”

Immediately, both women spoke.

“You’re just fine,” said one.

“Sit with us for a little!” said the other.

I shook my head and said I had to go, but thanked them again. They wished me well and I felt sorrow and gratitude warring in my heart.

As I turned to the left and started to walk past the hospice, I saw a woman sitting on a bench outside it. She was quiet, but her body was shaking with her silent sobs. I kept walking, seeing as if there were cords connecting them that the two people nearest her in the courtyard were with her.

What good could I do, anyway? I kept walking.

A cry escaped her as neared the end of the hospice. I froze and thought, “I’d rather say something, no matter how inane, than not say anything at all.” I turned around, walked back, and felt tears sliding ever faster down my face as I approached.

“Is there anything I can do?” I whispered, even though I already knew the answer.

“No,” the woman said, her sobs continuing. “But thank you.”

I didn’t say anything else after that. What could I possibly say? But I said a prayer as I walked away, wishing her comfort and love to see her through the tumult ahead.

I remembered that dream. And I was glad I couldn’t forget it, because how it ended was very different from how it began.

It’s the third day. Rache and my godmother are sitting on a hillside, basking in the sun. Rache waves at me and pats a spot next to her on the grass. “If this is all the time I’ve got left, I’d rather spend it here than crying in a dark room somewhere.” I smile, because that seems so right somehow.

I lay down next to her on the grass and she holds my hand. There are so many balloons in the sky, all of them drifting upward toward heaven, that I think maybe they are just going home.

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