Like a river of life, Carly Simon’s music courses through my veins.
It has been this way since the earliest days of high school. Carly shares her life so freely in song that it has always brought me comfort — she feels no need to cover-up the love or joy or pain. I believe she grew stronger for the sharing of all her ups and downs; and if not, I can say for sure that her openness made me stronger.
Carly’s songs invite me to lean into her experience, which prepared me to ride across similar rough waters of my own life. So it is with Like A River, a song Carly penned in the mid-nineties about the fresh passing of her mother. I listened to this song, along with all the other recordings released on Letters Never Sent, as I commuted to and from Houston in the late 1990’s. Even now, I can see myself turning off of State Highway 288 on to south US Highway 59, listening to Like A River with tears in my eyes, as I got use to the idea of losing Mom long before I stood on the precipice.
Listening to Carly’s loss evolved into a longing to listen to others facing similar losses. Though there are informal ways to offer the gift of a listening ear, I chose a more formal path, one that prepared me to become a Stephen Minister. I sought training because I grew weary of feeling inept and uncomfortable around those grieving the loss of a loved one. I wished to comfort however I could. While I had no intention of becoming commissioned in the beginning, it felt right to do so in the end.
Over the course of thirty months, I provided care to two different women. Odd enough, both were facing the loss of their mother. I cried with them and I prayed for them and with them. But most of all, I just sat and listened and invited them to express their grief and their fears and ultimately their love, the love that would flow into eternity with their mother.
Long after the formal grieving period was over and all the family had returned home to pick up the doings of their own lives, I continued to visit them. I came to listen to my care receivers, to offer them a safe and confidential space to express their grief in whatever way they wished. And I didn’t stop coming until they felt their grief work was finished.
I gave up the ministry when I moved to Oklahoma. But the Stephen Ministry led me to to explore spiritual direction which led me to create a contemplative prayer class, which has led me to pray for Connie, another daughter preparing to say good-bye to her mother.
Like a river, the stories of a mother’s passing are part of life itself — and like all life, the stories deserved to be shared.