This is week two in which sorrow walks into our house, takes off its shoes, sits on the couch, eats dinner and goes to bed with us. Its darkness has substance, sometimes like a second skin, sometimes like a separate being, sometimes like an opaqueness that colors the river we swim in each day. Time is changing it, for me. I can look at it with less fear now. It is different for Andrew and Anna and Bob; they are managing it in their own ways.
      Ten days ago, a young woman in Andrew's class took her own life. She died from an illness for which she was being actively treated and supported: depression. Her many friends played different roles in keeping her afloat for as long as she lived, from laughing and playing soccer and hanging out with her as lights in her life, 
to those who were willing to get into the muck with her and help her swim back towards the light. They showed her the many ways she could, and did, access help for her illness. Her singular choice ten days ago when her illness overcame her instinct to survive drove spears of shock and pain through our community, with ripples well beyond. 
      The stickiest layer of sorrow I have been carrying comes from watching Andrew. Stripped to the core of who he is, he has become a rock for his dear friend who was one of the ones who repeatedly got into the muck to swim the girl to the light. This work, even born of love, is exhausting. In his love and grief and strength, he is exhausted. I am exhausted.
     And I am inspired. Anna and a large cohort of her classmates are responding with a conviction that illnesses like depression should come out of the closet, released from the stigma that keeps them hushed and hidden. When a friend is in pain from an illness like cancer, we support them with friendship, community, offers of assistance, and by educating ourselves about the illness and various treatment possibilities. Anna and her classmates are planning programs and events, within the school and out in the community, to talk about depression and other mental illnesses so that likewise when a friend is in need, they can ask for help and we can support them through the hard times.
     In my meditation this morning, a very helpful image came to me. It was of a bubble becoming detached from the bottom of a lake, and rising to float lightly on the surface. I decided to be that bubble, and to feel first the mud of sorrow around my feet, then wiggling them free, swimming up and feeling the substance of water around me, and finally breaking into the sunlight at the surface. I floated there, asking my memory to pull forward the smells of water and the feeling of the air's coolness as water droplets evaporated from my skin. Above me was blue sky and sunlight; all around me was the rim of the lake, where pine trees held the community of birds and squirrels and mink and moths and all that live, as I do; and beneath me was the lake's water holding me. Even the lake itself was held by the earth. Everything was there, the mud and the sunlight, and all life. 
     I offer this as a story that needs telling. It's my small way of helping to bring this illness into the fresh air. To say "I have an illness" takes courage, but less so if we understand that many people struggle, and we have company. We can be medicine for each other, if not always to cure, at least to relieve pain, and often to heal.
     There is no neat ending to this, no tidy wrapping up of a metaphor. But there is a way through it that flows with time, and I know it is easier when we walk each day open to the hard stuff, the beauty, the stories and each other.  


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