Originally published Tuesday, 09 April 2013.
A handful of people have asked me what it has been like in these past few weeks, having spent ten-and-a-half years in a foreign country and returning back to my hometown, to the place where I buried my mother seventeen months ago.
What have I learned in this period of transition?
I have learned that Ann Voskamp was spot on when she wrote in her book, ‘One Thousand Gifts,’ of the retina of her soul developing macular holes of blackness. She writes,
‘Losses do that. One life-loss can infect the whole of a life. Like a rash that wears through our days, our sight becomes peppered with black voids. Now everywhere we look, we only see all that isn’t: holes, lack, deficiency.’
I’ve returned to a place of familiarity, of ‘home,’ and yet it is filled with macular holes in my soul’s vision, of voids and deficiency. Can something be filled with deficiency? Or is that an oxymoron?
Yet I have been surprised by things I anticipated would invoke sadness, like curling up on what used to be my mom’s cream-colored over-stuffed couch. I thought the very sight of the cushions would aggravate the layers of bruises and tear open scabbing wounds. Instead, its very presence swaddles me like the hand-knit berry-tinted afghan I drape across my torso as I recline on the couch and think of her. But like the afghan, there are holes.
Holes in the comfort.
Holes in the warmth.
Other, unexpected sources, pierce me at unexpected times and draw forth buried grief from its shallow, hasty grave. Sources like the local business that provided her with oxygen tanks, or the building she frequented for years, sitting peaceably in an armchair while toxins were intravenously fed to her to kill off her cells …
My daughter comes to me and feeds me the same joke I taught her, once upon a time. ‘Look, mom,’ she says, ‘I’m wearing my Sunday socks.’ I look down to see the holes in the fabric, toes and heel protruding. ‘They’re my Sunday socks because they’re hole-y. Get it? Holy?’ I smile, more for the fact that she remembered the joke than anything else.
But maybe she’s on to something. Maybe hole-y really is holy. Maybe those macular holes in my vision, that afghan that only partially warms, that hollow, empty comfort … maybe they, too, are holy. Holy in the sense that they are not mere senseless voids and deficiencies, mistakes in the pattern, a slip of the needle ... but there to serve a purpose, strategically placed there by the divine knitter to cause us to pause and check the tag to see who made it. Holes to make me remember that I am not whole on my own.
So, yes. There are holes. There always will be, this side of eternity. But they are purposeful holes.
They are holy holes.