In the 1990’s I had the privilege of working for seven years with women and men infected and affected by HIV/AIDS. Dickens’ words “it was the best of times, it was the worst of times,” echoed during those days in Atlanta. Across lines of class, race, gender, and age those same words rang true. They were impossibly, precious days and shaped many in our generation.
That work taught me a great deal, and I continue to learn from the many memories I carry with me. One of the pieces is the notion of memory cells. These are said to be antibody producing cells or infection fighting cells. Vital cells, life bringing cells. And it made perfect sense to me that of course our bodies remember, even our cells remember.
We are people of stories. We move through our days collecting memories of encounters that comfort and sustain us; stories that break us open and gather us in. Especially in our times of grief are we most aware of them companioning us, as though we are wrapped in a storyboard quilt. We treasure them and these body-memories continue to live in us as we make our way on.
Part of our grief work is letting go of what we’ve been physically doing during the ending, dying days. Our physical care for our loved one often took a great toll. And the body remembers. When we cared for our loved one, our routines shifted and we created a schedule focused on time for their care. And our body remembers. Our self-care often became secondary. And our body remembers.
It’s a miracle really, carrying those hours and days in our bodies. afterward physical healing at a cellular level is needed as well as emotional healing. We need to take gentle care of our whole selves in these tender days of holding on and letting go.
As we watch the moon tonight we are reminded that more light is coming. With this light may we be encouraged to do what is next for us. May we find comfort knowing that our bodies will remember the love that continues in us as we journey on.
Breath Prayer: "Steadfast" "spirit"
Steadfast One, create in me a clean heart. Begin again with me so that I might be refreshed and soothed by your healing balm. Transform my weariness of body and spirit so that I might return to you, Healing God, and turn to what is ahead. And in the morning may I awaken to your light that is guiding me on. Amen.
(thanks to friend Susie for this picture of the bowl and the ones below)
Working as a Hospice Chaplain, Lesley is an ordained minister in the United Church of Christ. A Candler School of Theology graduate, Lesley has just published her second book, Grief and the Psalms: Companioning the Moon for 29 Days (available on this website). She and her partner, Linda Ellis are raising their two sons, Brogan and Sam in Decatur, GA.