I’ve given up on wearing mascara.

What’s the point, really, when at some point during the day tears will steal the lush from my lashes and create inky rivulets down my cheeks and dark smudges beneath my bloodshot eyes?

Don’t feel sorry for me. I almost relish the moments when sorrow pours from my head to my feet and my heart tightens a bit as grief washes me clean. If I didn’t hurt it would mean that I don’t love– that I haven’t lost anything.

Mary talks of my mom every day. She prattles about eating raspberry jam from the garden and playing Candyland and the way Grandma Zoe always let her win. Most of our talk is happy but she brings me tissues and crawls into my lap when I break into sobs. She seems to know intuitively that I need to talk about it, that I need to cry.

On the phone yesterday, my dad said, “I’m praying for you. I pray for you every day.”

I don’t think he expected my throat to contract and our conversation to end in sobs, because as I ran that morning I had tripped on a black speed bump and nosedived into the sort of fall that breaks your nose and neck and skull.

But even as I was falling I felt a calmness, “You’re going to be OK.” I miraculously landed on my hands and while surveying my bumps and scrapes had the sure impression that someone, somewhere had been praying for me.

I’m a magnet for injury these days. I’m in such a hurry all the time that I have a gash on my foot from the refrigerator and a goose egg on my head from hitting it with the car door and a black bruise with a gash on my hand that Ben asked about and I just shrugged.

Grief is exhausting. Every task is a herculean effort. And yet my proverbial plate is full and overflowing and spilling from the sides. So I’ve eliminated everything I can– I’m not volunteering at the school, the yard and house are going to seed until winter covers them with it’s forgiving blanket (could I get a little snow on my laundry pile please, or in Mary’s room?) and I’ve shut down my photography website.

Monday I phoned and emailed every person I’ve promised photos to this fall and canceled our appointments. It physically hurt to say ‘no’ and I dreamt that night of chubby babies in the apple orchard, laughing families in an arch of fall leaves, a boy standing protectively by his mother’s side, friends that I have and haven’t met, the beauty that I won’t capture this season. I’m keeping just one wedding as my treat; we’ve already done the engagement and bridal sessions.

I don’t want to let people down, I don’t like it. Photography and the artistry behind it makes my heart sing. I love discovering very best in people. When I capture delight in a new baby or a child’s smile or a couple’s adoration of each other, it’s the very purest sort of satisfaction that doesn’t rely on anyone else’s opinion. And I’ll miss that.

But even though I’m struggling, and oh, I am, I feel constantly blessed– spoiled really. Every day I see little miracles, friends who call or drop off chocolate oranges, Ben cleaning out the pantry, a new red sweater, Stefan playing “Spinning Princess Wishes” with Mary, the laughter of my three little boys, lunch with a friend, opportunities to take dinners and brooms to the homes of friends who need help more than I, thick drippy triangles of baklava from my father-in-law and drifting to sleep at night as Ben plays hymns on his viola two rooms away.

My big computer crashed again, but I have this sweet laptop from my dad and the memory of going to the Apple store with him last Spring where he handed over his credit card to the ‘Genius’ and said, “Just get her a computer that works!”

See, I am spoiled.

I know I have things to learn. I can almost feel myself growing. And I love these little reminders that God knows me. It’s much like when my children have a huge math assignment and I can’t do the work for them, but I can stir up a cup of hot chocolate to warm their hands and bellies as they learn their lessons.

Today, I told my neighbor Jodi that I was lighter, happier and then I skipped across the street, felt my calf muscle pop and dropped to the ground.

I’m literally crawling now, but I’m not discouraged. Jodi saw my fall and brought a plate of chicken salad and Motrin and an ice pack.

I’m being carried.

October 1, 2009



  1. Blue

    September 24, 2009

    well, when you can walk again, let me know. 😉

    i can relate to so much of what you described here. i’ve cleared my calendar, gotten out of things i had been doing, and am just trying to make space in my life to heal and renew. hopefully this chrysalis process will be fast…i can endure repeated sessions of it, but i need to fly for a season again soon. ♥

  2. Selwyn

    September 25, 2009

    It is so sucky that you are hurting right now, so much. I wish I was a little closer so I could come over and hug you. And make you a pavlova. And whatever else would help.

    I placed your name on the prayer roll at the Sydney Australia temple. Hope you feel the love soon. You are in my prayers xoxo

  3. Annie

    September 25, 2009

    Wish I could make you a cuppa hot chocolate and pat your back. My heart is aching for and proud of you, my long-distance friend.

    It’s a marvel to read your words and watch you grow and process. Thanks for letting us witness it. xo

  4. jess

    September 25, 2009

    my heart swells up into my throat every time I read your posts. i just can’t imagine that sort of grief as i have never experienced anything remotely close. but i know someday i will – we all will – and i am so grateful that i will be able to recall how honestly and gracefully you have dealt with it. thank you for sharing your vulnerability – and know that even though it may be difficult to write about and rehash, your words are healing to others as well. hang in there!!

  5. Azúcar

    September 25, 2009

    Oh, Michelle. I love you.

  6. 優質行動網

    September 25, 2009

    I wish you health and happiness every day!
    Ich wunsche Ihnen Gluck und Gesundheit jeden Tag!
    Je vous souhaite sante et bonheur chaque jour!


  7. Christie

    September 25, 2009

    You are blessed to be surrounded by such wonderful love. Just keep going, a day at a time, my friend.

  8. martha corinna

    September 25, 2009

    I love you too Michelle!

    Can I bring you a treat and cry with you? Seriously, you express it better than I, I don’t feel sorry for myself and I am OK, it’s just this reshaping that has me on the verge of tears.

    Your poor leg.

  9. Diane Linford

    September 25, 2009

    Michelle, a friend showed me your blog months ago. First I was attracted because of your exquisite photography. Then I became entranced by your wonderful family. Then I became emotionally drawn in by your revealing of all your feelings as you revealed the events of your mother’s death and your ensuing grief while celebrating her life.

    You can’t know what a help it has been to me. I just found out my mother has been diagnosed with Alzheimer’s, and I know a long, difficult road lies ahead. I hope I can face it with as much grace, and “real life” as you have. Thanks for your great example.

  10. Jeanelle

    September 25, 2009

    I know you said we couldn’t be sorry for you but your poor leg, hands, heart…everything! Even though I’m sad for the people whose sessions you canceled, I’m glad you’re cutting stuff out of your life because you need to take more time for you (and treats at the Normandie Cafe. Sigh…when can we go back?)

    You *are* being carried and just recognizing that will help you along too. xoxo

  11. Alyson (New England Living)

    September 26, 2009

    This post is beautiful and amazing. YOU are amazing, my friend! If ever you need a getaway, come to New England. I’ll clear out a bed for you. 🙂

  12. Tracy

    September 26, 2009

    sending my love and hugs and prayers to you.

    someday i hope to meet you irl and we can take a long run together.

  13. Catherine Hess

    September 27, 2009

    Your example of looking on the bright side and learning even in the midst of trials is amazing! Thanks for sharing. I always feel like I want to be a better person after reading your blog.

    Sean and I were talking yesterday about how your family is a model family for us. I mean, it seems like your children really admire and respect you. How do you do it?

  14. jendoop

    September 28, 2009

    Am I just trying to relate too much or do I see something in you that I do too?

    When I ache, I see all my blessings and tell myself that I shouldn’t hurt because I have so many good things. But when you have a hurt as big as a missing mommy, those blessings don’t make it all better.

    You aren’t an ungrateful person for grieving even amidst a blessed life.

    Sometimes the sweet blessings can distract us from our grief for a moment or two though. It doesn’t make our grief any less sincere either.

  15. m_and_m

    September 28, 2009

    could I get a little snow on my laundry pile please, or in Mary’s room?

    Love that.

    I can almost feel myself growing.

    Oh, how I relate. It is sort of a hurts-so-good kind of feeling for me.

    And I love these little reminders that God knows me.


    I love you.

  16. Jan Russell

    September 28, 2009

    I’m glad that even if people don’t have the right words to say -they have the right motivation to love and care for you, and cover you in prayer!

    I wanted to tell you that I replenished our sidewalk chalk today at Target, and it made me think about you, and smile! Your words really do stick 😉

  17. Linn

    October 1, 2009

    Thank you for the reminder of how much our God loves each of us. I appreciate what you write so much.

    Thinking of you…

  18. seven smiles

    October 1, 2009

    Grieving now, too–only not my mother.
    I feel tired.
    So sorry you are in the thick of it, but echoing sentiments of gratitude that you are sharing your journey.
    Tunnel vision on what’s good and important in your life = survival. You seem like you’re doing a good job at that. Be kind and patient with yourself, and cry whenever you want to.

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