This morning, Mom, I read these words by Anne Lamott, a brilliant writer who inspires me: “You will lose someone you can’t live without, and your heart will be badly broken, and the bad news is that you never completely get over the loss of your beloved. But this is also the good news. They live forever in your broken heart that doesn’t seal back up. And you come through. It’s like having a broken leg that never heals perfectly—that still hurts when the weather gets cold, but you learn to dance with the limp.”

I have a limp.

Our culture has little patience with grief, so it finds fault. Why are you still limping? And they give cautionary words about idolizing and sugarcoating those we lose.

I suppose the bad things fall away for some of us. It’s not necessarily a good thing to carry only the good. What kind of world would this be if our memory chiseled away all the bad parts, if we only remembered perfect lost ones? Smooth, flawless marble statues without a chink or a crack? How intolerable the leftovers would become, how impatient we would be with the living.

Cracked Marble

I’m sorry if for a minute it sounded like I made a statue of you and draped it in flowers.

Running my fingers along the cracks and imperfections won’t correct my limp, but remembering the times you broke my heart and I loved you anyway will help me love the living when loving is hard, will help me find compassion for the ones who don’t limp when it seems like they should, the ones who don’t measure up when I know they could. I want to remind myself that I can and will love them anyway.

I’m sitting for a moment with some of the flaws because I think it helps me preserve the integrity of your memory. So, buckle up. This might feel a little rough.

  • Your enthusiasm squasher: “You’re not good enough to do that.”
  • The fear of fat: “We’ll get you some pills for that.” And this one: “If you want another cookie, you have to swim five laps.”
  • Your impatience with the feeble: “Leave that sun visor alone, Mom!”
  • And, oh my goodness, those religious, racial, and sexuality absolutes that made you swim in ambiguous feelings: “They’re fine people, but I don’t agree with their lifestyle.”

I was there for those and more, and I loved you anyway.

Loving with a Limp

Imperfections are a path to grace: the heart that won’t seal after a loss, as well as the chinks in the memories of those we lose. And don’t worry, Mom. All of our statues will (and should) be imperfect, with fractures in the marble. Remembering your imperfections when we still shared air and space reminds me that I can love the imperfect ones who still draw air. So thanks for that.

I’m learning to live with a limp. I’m also learning to love as I limp.

©Pennie Nichols. All Rights Reserved. 2024