In which there is holy work in compassion

The first thing I have to say is this: Thank you. Thank you. Thank you. Thank you for your kindness towards me yesterday. I read every comment, every tweet, every Facebook comment, every email. I can’t tell you how it feels other than this: I feel like we’re all in this together somehow. Thank you for celebrating, for rejoicing with those that rejoice. You are good people. 

Now, I’m honoured to tell you that I’ll be contributing monthly at Prodigal Magazine. Prodigal is a lovely collective of writers that believe storytelling can change the world.

This is my first essay for them: it’s for all of us that seek to comfort others – or even our own selves – in grief and sadness.

The baby had already been nursed, and rocked, settled with kisses into her crib. My husband needed to water our patch of earth at the community garden, and so he took our eldest daughter with him, just a quick errand before bedtime, be back in 2o minutes. It was just me and Joseph, nearly-four-year-old boy-of-my-heart, with his generous mouth, and clumsy puppy boy-energy, kooky and wild and wonderful. We had a busy weekend outside in the sunshine, we were all tired, not at our best, but it was past bedtime, and he wasn’t feeling well.

So he stood at the front window, and he watched his dad and his big sister pull away in the mini-van, headed for his beloved garden, and it suddenly all became too much to bear. They were leaving him, and he wanted to go with them, more than anything in the world, he was tired, he was unwell, and oh, enough is enough. He began to cry and cry and cry.

I had tried my best to distract him.

I put his sturdy boy body into a warm bubble bath, even found a few cars to go in there with him, told jokes, forced a few laughs from my own exhaustion, teased, tickled. He cried and cried, sitting in the bathtub, his sobs echoing off the tile, tears falling, he would not be quieted or shushed or bossed in his grief. He would not be distracted. Then I heard the baby wake up, alarmed by the cacophony of grief, and I lost my patience. I stomped, I shushed. I hissed about sleeping babies, and how he was too big, too old, for this nonsense. For heaven’s sake, it’s a small garden, they’ll be back in a moment, gracious, child, where is your self-control? Listen to me, listen to me, obey, obey, stop it, stop it stop it. This is ridiculous.

Amazingly, this did nothing to calm the situation.

I bathed him, grim-faced, a sergeant major of mothering, dried him with his own striped towel, and still he wept his frustration, his exhaustion, his loneliness, his left-out-ness.

And I remembered something

—something about my own self in the moments of my grief and exhaustion and weariness for real-grown-up-life stuff, and wondered: maybe small boys need this gift, too?

Read the rest of this essay at Prodigal Magazine. I’ll meet you over there…

  • Hilary Bernstein

    Sarah, you are one of my favorite writers. I love how you describe everyday life so poetically … it’s like you’re right here at my house seeing what goes on, but you make it sound beautiful. :) This was a fantastic post. (Congrats on the book deals!)

  • lmmckay

    This was beautiful. I know you’ve probably heard this 100 times, but here’s 101 … I think your third book should use, somehow, some of your gorgeous reflections upon the big and small moments of mothering. I know, I know, I’m a writer myself and it almost never works when other people tell me what I “should” write, but I couldn’t help myself – the gift is so clear.