reconciling things

“Allow it all to happen: beauty and terror…” Rilke


“I will repay you double what the swarming locust has eaten…” Joel 2:25

Farm To Table 2021

Catholic Rural Life Farm To Table Supper 2020. I made a spectacular menu with lobster spring rolls and a Moroccan lamb and chicken stew and five kinds of paletas. I didn’t eat any of it. I barely made it through the day. I leaned hard on my mom friends who helped me in the kitchen. I had to take frequent breaks because my body was not cooperating. I finished the six course service, then sat down by the fire with friends. They toasted the perfect autumn night with champagne and offered me a clove. I was just happy to be done.

I don’t know how I got home actually. I drove. I had to. But, I was already shutting down.

The next day I got up and went to Mass. Yes, I did. After working for about 12 hours the day before and pushing through the pain, I went to Mass. I spent most of it in the basement by the bathroom.

When I got home I laid on the couch. My good friends came over, as usual, for the afterparty. The Farm To Table Supper is a huge celebration. It’s elaborate, fun, intense, and has the best leftovers. My friends plunked on guitars and ate leftover stew and sourdough bread. And I slept. Finally opting to go upstairs to my bed.

And there I stayed for nearly two months.

Although I was gradually feeling more and more out of sorts leading up to the annual Farm To Table Supper, that is the day I remember succumbing.

A week later I had already lost about 15 pounds. I was in Urgent Care and then the ER. They were running every test. They didn’t know what was wrong.

Fast forward: I lost over 30 pounds and nearly all my muscle tone. It was diagnosed first as IBS, then Giardia, then post infection IBS, then finally Crohn’s disease. One thing was for sure, my body was not digesting anything.

I missed last Fall. I didn’t see the leaves turn. I didn’t hike any mountains. I didn’t take my kids out on Halloween. I didn’t drink any cider or sit around any bonfires. I missed all the autumn, crying deep tears of pain and despair. I could not even hold my children for comfort. All the nerves in my body were on fire and it hurt for anything to touch even my hair.

But then there was grace.

My priest and friend came over and gave me the Anointing of the Sick. If you are not Catholic you need to know that they don’t just pass out this Sacrament for the sniffles. This is for those gravely ill and in danger of death. He heard my Confession and gave me the Eucharist. It was October 15. And the next day I started be able to digest broth and gradually vegetables.

By Thanksgiving I left my house on my first big outing, to lay down in my friends’ cabin, instead of on my own couch.

Thanksgiving 2020

Catholic Rural Life Farm To Table Supper 2021. Last night we served 5 delicious courses, which my 15 year old said was my best menu to date. I was fully present. When it was over, I drank whiskey with my friends and sang old-timey-Gospel songs in an impromptu jam session.

I didn’t know I would see this Fall. Not only am I seeing it, I am feeling all of it.

Homemade pasta with sunchokes and local lion’s mane and shiitake mushrooms, Farm to Table 2021

This is not a story of personal triumph. This is not the intro to a self-help post to tell you to persevere or to pull yourself up by your bootstraps or even to pithily say ”this too will pass.” No one knows any of those things. Will things change if you persevere? Can you pull yourself up by your bootstraps? Will it actually pass? I can promise none of those things.

Rather, this is story about about a tapestry of people and the very real grace they brought into my life.

My mom friends who helped me through that big event of 2020

My kids who cared for me so attentively and held the family together while I could do nothing

My dear close friends who arranged meals, took up collections to pay my bills, sat by my bed, held my hand, prayed for me

My priests who prayed for me, offered Masses for me, anointed my tired body, brought me the Eucharist

My bestie who coached me through the roughest days and helped me find what my body needed

My doctor who had the vision that I could fully recover

There are others to thank, I am sure. Forgive me if your role is not on this list.

There are no words to fully describe my gratitude. The Lord loved me through this tapestry of people, who had no guarantees of the outcome of this, but they held space for me. They were faithful witnesses to whatever God was doing in my life. And I love them. I do. Intensely.

This Autumn I am watching the leaves turn. I am breathing deeply the crisp air as I do yoga or walk or hike or just sit outside watching the sky. I remember last autumn my little son crept into my room where I was in and out of consciousness and gave me the biggest and prettiest autumn leaf he could find. I cried, because he was bringing me a little sign of hope. Each day for about a week he would bring me autumn leaves. They collected on my bedroom altar—a little testament to how beautiful death could be.

I didn’t die. But something did. My body radically and dramatically cleansed itself of years of grief and trauma that left my body as violently as it had come in. The rebuilding has been a rebirth. I missed an autumn, but I am fully here for this one.

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