by Annie Hardison-Moody
Recently, I was reading Grace Ji-Sun Kim’s post at Feminist Studies in Religion, titled Writing and the Community that Sustains Me. It’s a lovely post about the ways that we don’t write on an island – there’s a network of people (friends, relatives, colleagues) who support us when times are good (hey! I wrote something today!) and when they are hard (when we struggle to write or work through loss, death, or hardship). I’ve been thinking a lot recently about my own community and the people who sustain me through the good times and bad.
I wrote a post on another blog last year about the friends who have seen you during what I call the “mom cry.” It’s that cry that happens when you think you can hold everything together – and you do – until you see that person (as a child, often your mom) with whom you can just let it all out. I don’t cry around people a lot, but my good friends and my family have seen my “mom cry.” They have held me when my heart was breaking over a miscarriage. They have listened as I ranted angrily (crying through it) about the unfairness of infertility and loss. They are the women who meet me when I’m at my wit’s end, my breaking point, when I just can’t hold it together any longer.
Recently, my friends have been going through some hard times. They are dealing with losses related to adoption (potential revocation of an adoption), losing a child during child-birth, dealing with a parents’ life-threatening cancer diagnosis, anguish over shootings at a naval yard where a spouse works, and the list goes on. They have been forced to confront our vulnerability as human beings head-on. We live. We love. We also lose.
I’ve spent a lot of time over the last few months with some of these friends, grieving with them, being angry with them, and also (sometimes) hoping with them. That’s what it means to be in relationship. You take and you give – knowing that the next time, you might be on the opposite end of the spectrum, needing support or needing to give it. That’s the wonderful thing about community, right? It’s that net that is there to catch you when you fear you might fall. And it’s that support that is there for you if and when (God forbid) you end up falling anyway.
I don’t have any novel theological insights about community and motherhood and loss to report…but over the last few weeks and months, being there for my friends, and also coming to know this little life that’s growing inside me, I’ve come to the harsh realization that we are remarkably vulnerable creatures. Torn apart by each other. Torn apart through loss. And yet, it seems to me, that this vulnerability is what reminds us of how much we need each other, and it demonstrates to us (in such stark ways) just how wonderful – and tragic – it is to love. When we are broken down, it’s that same love – found in relationship, in community – that can bring us back together.