This blog post is part of a series that I began for telling our story. You can read the first post here.

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Today is Mardi Gras. Or Fat Tuesday. I think there’s some other words for this day also, depending on context and culture. But what it boils down to is the last hurrah before Lent begins. We kind of did that at church already on Sunday, when during the children’s message the kids “buried” the Alleluia. In reality, they folded up a banner and put it in a box.

For me, it’s a little different. Ash Wednesday has had a special significance to me now for the past eight years, because it was the day they began prepping me to be induced in 2011. Technically, the date on the calendar was March 9 that year, but for me, the church calendar holds more sway than the actual date. I guess it’s because Samantha was born the day after Ash Wednesday, and so much of her life was marked by the church calendar.

So tomorrow feels a lot like the eve of our daughter’s birthday, even though that’s technically this coming Saturday. We’ll be in worship on her birthday on Sunday. I still can’t believe she would have been eight years old…

The whole reason I’m thinking about this so strongly tonight is from watching a movie, of all things. I was watching Mamma Mia: Here We Go Again (the sequel to the original movie, based on the Broadway musical, based on the music of ABBA). Still with me? Great. Anyway, at the very end of the movie, Amanda Seyfried and Meryl Streep sing a poignant duet of “My Love, My Life” in the little chapel on the island, while standing at the baptismal font. And suddenly, I was sobbing. I don’t think about my daughter very often, as I mentioned here. I don’t let myself. But some things bring it up so strongly that I find tears running down my face. Another moment recently was when we were watching a medical drama. A woman’s teenage daughter was brain dead, and the hospital convinced her to donate organs. And there was this scene of hospital staff creating an honor guard for the mother and her daughter as they took her to surgery to donate her remains… I was a goner.

One of the strangest things about grief is how it tricks us into believing that if we start crying, we may never stop. I’ve read it and heard it countless times from others. For me, it was never a problem early on. I let myself sob every night for months after our daughter died. Then I settled into a pattern of numbing myself into sleep, a combination of benadryl and using a puzzle game on my phone for self-hypnosis. I would take the pills and then play the game until I felt sleepy. Part of the problem is that sleep has never been easy for me, but in the aftermath of that loss, sleep was next to impossible.

Nowadays, I’ve cut back on the meds but still use the puzzles to wind down. But often the process is entirely about shutting off my brain. Thankfully the thoughts that keep me awake aren’t always about our loss anymore – sometimes I just make myself crazy worrying about projects or ministry happenings! – but I still struggle to sleep.

I hope to post more tomorrow and the rest of this week, as I consider what this time of Lent means, both for me personally and in the grand scheme of things. I was reminded tonight of the importance of sharing our own story when I read a blog post from Rachel Held Evans (please forgive me if you have issues with her theology; I sometimes do also, but I find this statement to be so spot-on that I couldn’t ignore it):

Jesus invites us into a story that is bigger than ourselves, bigger than our culture, bigger even than our imaginations, and yet we get to tell that story with the scandalous particularity of our particular moment and place in time. We are storytelling creatures because we are fashioned in the image of a storytelling God. Source

Next post coming tomorrow.