I believe in the healing power of broken hearts. And that through an influence not my own, the most beautiful wounded souls enter into my path exactly when I need them. They show up having suffered every type of loss, death, suicide, divorce, disappointments, regrets, childhood abuse, trauma, and gently retrieve a shard of my own shattered, porcelain heart. Each friend brings that piece lovingly to me, offering hope. As I find my way back to wholeness, my own heartbeats echo the love of broken-hearted friends who brought the pieces back to me.
A few days after Sam’s death, one of the boys – in a fit of rage and confusion – shredded his favorite blanket, the one he had commandeered from his brother, the lovey that appears in countless photographs of the young child. We had once driven back home two hours to retrieve the baby blanket in order to salvage our weekend away. My son reduced his blanket to ribbons of yellow within minutes, while I stood watching, tears streaming down my face, helpless in the face of my son’s angry sadness. His constant, reliable source of comfort turned to tattered rags. Standing defiantly amidst the remains of his former blanket, the boy wept. Inconsolable.
There are so many times I longed to fix things for my sons, wished I could have fixed things for Sam, and so many friends who wanted to fix things for me. Grief doesn’t lend itself to fixing. You can’t put things back the way they were.
We clung to each other, overwhelmed by the enormity of putting a life together again.
Sometimes, in the midst of just such chaos, a lovely human being shows up with her signature talent. One of my friends is a gifted seamstress; she has also suffered and transcended a childhood loss of her own. I didn’t know these things about her. I would not have thought to ask for her help to repair the blanket. It was her idea. She carefully took the torn remains of my boy’s blanket (with his permission) and began the painstaking work of putting the pieces back together again. Of course, they would not come back exactly as they were, but she sewed with great care, keeping the pattern mostly intact, and then she attached a new backing to the whole thing. There were a few random scraps that didn’t quite fit, but she sewed those pieces into a pocket on the blanket. She’s the kind of friend who knows the value of holding each yellow fragment.
When she returned with the blanket, it wasn’t the same, it wasn’t fixed, but it was soft and whole and lovable. The restored version reminds us of the stabilizing presence of friendship in times of pain and sorrow. It continues to remind us of inner strength, survival and love.
As an aside, I had actually found a blanket exactly like the original, but that new blanket never found a home on my son’s bed or in his heart. And I couldn’t tell you where it is now. It wasn’t authentic. The “real” one had been loved on and spilled on and dragged around and tattered by grief and sewn together by a mother’s tender hands. In the words of Lewis Carroll, “It’s no use to go back to yesterday because I was a different person then.”
My son preferred the well-loved blanket, the one that stayed and frayed with him through his grief, loss and loneliness, the tangible reminder of healing, hope and friendship.
When a senseless tragedy befalls someone I love, and I just cannot get my head around it, all I can do is hold her in my heart. I know there is power in hearts that have been broken open, because I have been embraced and lifted by just such hearts beating in symphony.
In times of heartache, I have been known to borrow my son’s precious pieced-together yellow blanket. I know exactly where it is. I hold it close and breathe in its healing presence. There is a sacred beauty in the wholeness that remains broad enough to include the scars, the frayed pieces and the empty spaces.
Wishing you light and strength on your healing path. And wholeness.