View from a Prairie Home

By Hege Herfindahl, Columnist

I have rowed my whole life. It takes effort. And persistence. If I row on a river or a very shallow slough, I will encounter barriers. Rocks. Fallen trees. Even beaver mounds. I think growing older is like rowing. Most people will encounter barriers. That is unless your life is without any hardship and I can’t think of a single person I know that hasn’t encountered some kind of heart wrenching problems on their way through life. Losing a job. A parent. A good friend. Sickness. Divorce. Wayward children. Not being able to have children. Loneliness. To go on does require effort and persistence.

I have lost two sons. Waking up in the morning, I can’t remember what day it is. Or what I am supposed to do. Maybe, I think, I have beginning dementia. But my remaining and kind son, Reuben, says it is grief fog. Grief fog. It causes me to go around like in a daze. Head empty but with a heaviness all over. I lack energy. Initiative. I feel I am slipping into a very black hole. From which there is no way out. I pull myself together and try to do something. The easiest is housework. It keeps the body busy and some of the fog lifts as I now can concentrate on the tasks at hand. I don’t do heavy housework, but my kitchen counters have never been cleaner. I polish mirrors and water plants, even though some are wilting because they are so wet. 

I know I need to go outside. The beauty and peace of the outside world always calms me. I remember reading that Jesus was almost always outside so he must have loved nature too. And I also have read about mindfulness which is supposed to make a person more centered and content. So if I practice mindfulness in nature, I should be peaceful and maybe even happy. So I stand there, my face lifted to the heavens. Can Erland see me? Is he in nature? Or heaven? It doesn’t really comfort me. The main thing right now is that he did depart from this life way too early. As did Patrick. But I have to go on. To live. Rowing with strength and persistence. But I also have to be patient. This is early grief and the pain is so deep it takes my breath away. And if I want to go on, I can’t just run away all the time. But I do with my incessant cleaning, reading and movie watching. 

Once in a while, I have to face my pain. Be honest. I am not fine. I am sad. And empty. I not only have to be present in nature, but I also have to be present with my loss. I can’t run away. That is not moving forward. That is denial. And grief is not a problem to be solved; it is and always will be a part of me. Just like sickness or divorce or job loss is part of other people’s realty and who they become as they row through life. 

But I must also find joy and take care of myself in the midst of it all. So I sing. I belong to a church choir. The people around me sing with me and their voices fill me. They sound like angels. I get to sing with angels. Our voices rise as we sing the words of our faith. The faith in Jesus and God, our father. Voices of praise and love. To me, the Bible, and thus my church and choir, is about love.  Kindness and love. 

And as I row through this grief fog with a broken heart, I can hear the voices of angels urging me on. And my eyes mist with the beauty of it all.