Comforting Words: Take My Hand

Sunday, October 22, 2006

Take My Hand

No…I did not kill myself. I thought of it though…seriously thought of it.

I left the Chapel on Friday (October 20) certain that my course of action would be to visit the pharmacy before returning to my hotel room to purchase some aspirins to finish the job. I had switched to my most business-like personality and this was just another business plan.

The meeting had already begun and not soon after sitting down my cell phone buzzed. I had forgotten to turn it off. The thought crossed my mind to ignore it but I flipped it open, saw a number I did not recognize and curiosity got the better of me.

“Miss Claudette?” the voice of my dear Dr. P chimed. “What are you doing in Toronto?”

I walked out of the meeting room while explaining to Dr. P my business in Toronto and then she asked, “How are you?”

Wrong question. The floodgates opened and, as I cried, I told her all that had happened. “Yes, yes, I know,” she responded, “I just read your blog and sent you an email but somehow I knew I had to find you.”

We spent about twenty minutes on the phone and again it was the telephone call that saved my life. The truth is, I was and still am in a very dark place. Dr. P understood this and across the ocean separating Jamaica from Canada she felt that I needed help and offered it.

Ever the metaphysician, over and over she reminded me how much God loves and wants me to evolve to the fullness of who I am. “Try to see this as possibly your breakthrough, Claudette,” she offered. “God can now do all that She wants to do through you.”

Intellectually, I understood what she was saying but it was not taking control of my heart. Probably sensing this, she started quoting scriptures. Remember, Dr. P is one of my former Ministers in Jamaica but more so, she is a model for me – of a woman who has completely transformed her life. It was this fact, knowing that she once was a very highly placed public official and a woman of power in a material way who left all that behind to live an authentic life, to live from her core that made me continue listening to her.

These are some of the scriptures she offered me - the ones that were right on point for me in that moment. They were the life line that helped me to make it through Friday, resisting the temptation to call Judith and beg her to not leave me with a promise to do any song and dance that would make her happy.

"Trust in the LORD with all your heart, and do not rely on your own insight. In all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make straight your paths". (Proverbs 3:5-6)

"...forgetting what lies behind, and straining forward to what lies ahead, I press on toward the goal for the prize of the heavenly call of God in Christ Jesus" (Phil 3:13-14)

"I can do all things through him who strengthens me" (Phil 4:13)

We rang off with an offer and a promise from her to call me every night before bed time for the next 30 – 40 days or however long necessary. Holding onto those scriptures and that promise of help and spiritual support, I returned to the meeting.

All throughout the day, waves of panic attacks would come over me and I just kept repeating “I can do all things through him who strengthens me.” It became my mantra until a panic attack so severe had me doubled over in the meeting room. Lady Serendipity stepped in.

A movie about the history of the Black Church in Canada was running and in the moment of my most severe physical agony, the gospel song “Precious Lord, Take My Hand,” was being sung by a choir.

Precious Lord, take my hand, lead me on, let me stand.
I am tired, I am weak, I am worn.
Through the storm, through the night
Lead me on to the light
Take my hand, Precious Lord, lead me home.

In that moment, I made another huge decision for me. I left the room and called Ann and told her I needed psychological help.

The rupture from Judith was too great, too sudden, too cold and too abrupt for me to handle without professional help. I just could not do this on my own or from just one angle – I needed to pull out the big guns, so to speak, if I was going to have a chance to get my life back. And so, I gave Ann several possible dates thinking that it may be hard to get an appointment.

Knowing that Dr. P had my spiritual back and that Ann was going to get me into a psychologist gave me the strength to make it through the rest of Friday’s proceedings, although I still could not hold down the little bit that I was able to eat. As if to make sure I did not change my mind, less than an hour after speaking with her, Ann called back in the middle of a presentation I was making. I answered as I saw it was her and she told me that she got an appointment for me to see a counselor first thing on Monday. I think she bribed her way in – that’s my girl Ann.

However, the panic attacks did not end. The next one came as the group of us approached the hotel where we were staying. I really did not want to be left alone but how could I ask for this group of stranger to stay with me to keep the suicidal thoughts from re-emerging in my head?

And so I decided write. That was the ‘Shamed’ post.

At this point let me apologise to one person in particular for any upset I caused her. Sorry M, it was not my intention to cause pain or to scare anyone. I was trying to get rid of my own pain by writing away my fears. “Writing clarifies,” I have heard it said – and it does for me. As I was doing that, the phone rang and it was Dr. P so I ended the post at that point, so grateful to hear a kind, compassionate and loving human voice to lead me through the night.

No sooner than I hung up from Dr. P than my cell phone rang. I hesitated to answer as it was a strange number and it was approaching midnight in Toronto. Answering just before the voice mail picked up I heard, “Hello? Claudette is that you?”

“Yes?”

“Tell me you are okay, tell me you are okay!” this unknown female voice was demanding from me. “I want to hear you say it, tell me!”

“Who is this?” I asked.

“M,” she replied. “Tell me you are okay!”

It was one of my wounded healers from Toronto. She joined this community a few months ago and we were to meet for coffee when I was in that city back in the summer but we could not after all. She was up and read my post “Shamed,” and terrified that I had overdosed on aspirins or at least in the process, she called a friend to pray while she dug up her files or something for my cell phone number.

As I said, I have never met this woman but she was the third telephone angel that dragged me an inch further up the dark tunnel. Dr. P’s call was great and writing the post released some of my tension, however, I really did not want to be alone. I was fearful that the thoughts were going to return in the middle of the night and I was not sure I had the will to live.

M stayed with me on the phone for over an hour, constantly reminding me of God’s love for me – one that is unfailing and unchanging. I shared with her my fear about the suicidal thoughts coming back and the other thoughts that kept taking me either back to the past – what Judith and I had, all that we overcame, the manner in which she told me it was over and how that felt like outright cruelty or punishment to me. I also shared with her my thoughts about the future – unsure that I really had one, not being able to picture life without Judith being a part of it somehow and all the travel, vacation and retirement plans we were making only two weeks ago.

“I know this is easier said than done, Claudette,” M responded. “But I want you to stay in this moment, not yesterday, not tomorrow, but right now.” What she did was to give me a tool to make it through the night – that one night – without calling Judith, the voice that I really wanted to hear – even if it had the now familiar harsh edge or if the snarl that has become a feature of her face (at least with me) was hitting me through the telephone line. I just wanted to hear her voice and I would sometimes call and listen to her voice mailbox message. M helped me to focus on listening to the Spirit in me – or at least try for that one night.

Saturday (October 21) and I decided to just turn my phone off for most of the day and be in every single moment. The only calls I made were to Ann and to my Minister in Edmonton. Both calls occurred as I tried to overcome major panic attacks that had me shaking uncontrollably.

Ann got me through the first and my Minister’s partner got me through the second that was the more severe, threatening to cut off my breathing entirely as it came closer to the time to leave for Edmonton.

I did not know how to return to the memory-filled apartment, how to live in a place where every item would remind me of our history. How would I live in the city that was finally beginning to feel like home and not remember every step I took with Judith to do so? I actively wondered whether it might not be best to jump on a plane to anywhere else – with just the clothes on my back and my identification.

I also called Judith.

She was to pick me up at the airport (go figure!) and as I sat in the Chapel again Saturday afternoon praying for guidance it came to me that it was time to do my own closing ritual.

I fell to my knees at the altar and slowly took off one of the earliest pieces of jewelry, a ring, she ever gave me. I blessed it and thanked God for the intent at the time it was given. Then I took off the 10th anniversary ring she gave me. I blessed it and blessed the one that I gave to her in absentia. I asked God to cherish it wherever she might have discarded it and to keep sacred the words and promises that were made at the time. Then, with much difficulty, I removed her chain that I have constantly worn, rarely ever taking it off over the past 16 years. I thanked God for what it symbolized to me.

However, I could not remove the diamond earring she gave to me for another of our early anniversaries. I have hardly ever removed it since the time she gave it to me, possibly some nine or so years ago. I could not remove it even as I did this ritual now because she has not left my heart. I will remove it if and when that day comes.

Holding these three pieces of gold in the palms of my hand, I raised them to the heavens and said something like this:

“Judith, I will always love you unconditionally. You asked me to let you go and they say what you love the most you set free. So, with much difficulty I open my hands. Fly away my love.

Keep in your heart and know my love that if life every gets just a bit too much for you to bear and you need a friend who loves you eternally – just call my name and I will be there.

I bless you and pray that you might find the inner happiness and inner peace you seek and so greatly deserve. My deepest pain is that you could not have been honest with me before now nor be compassionate as you finally came to your truth. My deepest truth is that it hardly matters now.

I know that with the passing of time my pain will heal and so will yours and all the people who have been affected by this trauma brought on us because of untruths and secrets.

Right now, I am in a very dark place, struggling to crawl back up and out. It might be long but it will not be forever. You may very well be in your own dark place too.

Go in peace, go in love and always grow in Truth.”

Raising myself up off the floor, I stood before the altar with my hands stretched above my head and I cried out loud, “Precious Lord, take my hand!”

I knew that I was absent from the meeting for a while but I went to the telephone and called her and asked her not to pick me up at the airport.

It has ended. It is closed. A new chapter can now be written.

Friends, I thank you for being a part of my life. I thank you for your calls of support. I thank you for taking my calls or for your emails and for holding me. Josh Groban sings this song entitled, “You Raise Me Up,” and that’s what you all did for me:

When I am down and, oh my soul, so weary; When troubles come and my heart burdened be; Then, I am still and wait here in the silence, Until you come and sit awhile with me.

My dearest friend Ann here in Edmonton, Dr. P. in Jamaica and M in Ontario, I thank you from the bottom of my heart for your continuing journeying with me through these dark days and nights in particular.

My minister in Edmonton and who turned up at the airport (Saturday, October 21) to meet me, reminding me that I have a faith community that loves and cares for me, I thank you. If not for myself, I must heal to continue walking beside the people of Southminster-Steinhauer United Church who you so graciously represent. You, your partner and the entire congregation are teaching me a lesson in commitment and loyalty.

Longtime friends of Judith and I, Delly and Z both in Jamaica, I thank you for your emails of encouragement and good old Jamaican no-nonsense – pick up your self girl!

I thank you N, a friend of Judith’s, who emailed me with her prayers for both of us.

I thank you B, for coming over for coffee and for your telephone messages.

Thanks Y, my former co-worker and friend who claims that I was her angel when she had a similar experience. Thank you for reminding me that I had the strength for you – so I can dig it up for myself.

C and D, partners and friends in Ontario, thanks for your email of encouragement and yes, I truly believe in God and although I am not conceiving of entering another relationship any time soon, I hear you!

My arduous journey back to my former state of wholeness and better is not over – not for a long stretch. Judith’s, my daughter’s (who has been caught in the middle of this) and my life have been severely ruptured. We are all hurting.

For my part, I still cannot sleep for more than a few hours (4) each night and food has lost its appeal. I have not had a proper or full meal in a few days now but look at the bright side, I will lose some weight. Congregational Care Committee of Southminister-Steinhauer I know you have been calling but please do not bring any casseroles – I cannot eat them!

This will be a painful struggle for me, as the panic attacks continue even as I write this and the question - “what’s the point in living?” and the tempting idea to end it all continue to lurk. I will enter counseling on Monday submitting myself to the care of a professional healer blessed by the Divine.

I ask you all to continue to hold Judith, my daughter and I in your prayers. I ask for special prayers of strength for each of us as: Judith finds what she so desperately seeks; as my daughter grapples with the intricacies of intimate relationships that we have modeled over the last 16 years of her life and as I embark on the journey of creating a new life for myself – putting the pieces back together and allowing God to be God through me – however She wants to be.

Most of all, what I have learned from this experience is that I am loved – that there is a real value on my life and my presence in the lives of others, even if my beloved has chosen not to have me in hers or when others chose to betray and try to humiliate.

The pain of the past two weeks has been crazy making. But, it is the love that I will always remember.

The love that I have experienced over the last couple of weeks is phenomenal – one that I have never experienced growing up with the woman who birthed me. It is a love that Judith over our years together was preparing me to receive. Maybe you are right Delly – maybe it was time to test if I am ready – mission accomplished. Wha next God?

“Precious Lord, take my hand and lead me home.” Amen.

With much gratitude and in humility, I offer you all blessings.

Claudette

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