After our lives changed in the summer of 2017, I stopped caring for myself. Shaving is usually the last thing I am consistent with at the best of times Subsequently, I went from five o clock shadow to hobo scruff to mountain hermit in short order.
(Um, Amanda wants you to know that this is Mike, just in case you haven’t gotten there yet.)
Over the course of our time in Rwanda, where seasons and holidays are very different then in Canada, Amanda and I have worked to implement rituals, habits, & celebrations to create a structure of seasons that can be consistent no matter where we are. This has gone a long way to help us live healthier, celebrate more frequently, and find gratitude in the midst of difficulty.
One day during some time reading the Bible, I was reminded of King David and many others mentioned in the Old Testament who mourned losses. They would tear their clothes, cover themselves with ash and sackcloth, fast, & withdraw from public for a
time. And as I have realized how little I know about grieving well, one of the things I noted here was the importance of ritual to mark seasons.
In talking with friends and wise counsellors I came to a decision to grow out my beard as a mark of my grief. As a reminder to myself that this was a season, a period, that would eventually end. Not that I will ever cease to miss my little girl but that this ‘dark night of the soul’ would have an end and I would step back into hope and vitality someday. A recognition that I could go easy on myself when I failed to get up in the morning, failed to be kinder to the people around me, failed to see the hope that I know is there for joy and goodness in the world.
The first week of December, as we were staying with our friends in Pennsylvania, I asked Chadwick if he would be willing to pull out the hair cutting chair: as we were living with them, I noticed a ritual every month or two where he would pull out a chair after supper
and buzzcut his boys’ hair. I thought it might be more meaningful for me if cutting my beard was an event for the whole gang to experience (much like elementary teachers buzzing their hair after a fundraising drive seems so exciting as a kid), but also then I would have some witnesses to hold me to account for the step I was taking (which is an important part of ritual/tradition). Many of you may have noted my post on facebook when I ‘shaved it all off’ and I really didn’t feel a whole lot different.
I recognize, however, how that moment marked my life and gives me a point of reference ever after to look to.
Hey Mike, it’s great to hear you tell your story. I love the smile on your face underneath that beard as it comes off. I celebrate with you as you write this. I am so thankful that one day Heaven will make all this well, even if all the pain never goes away on earth. I can only imagine how your compassion for those suffering a loss has grown as long as your beard, and even though your beard came off, the compassion will stay. Keep smiling. Love Don
Aw, looks good Mike, thanks for sharing. You will find hope & vitality but on your own time. Congrats on taking this step. Love & hugs to you & Amanda.
Thanks Mike for being vulnerable, sharing about seasons and symbols as you have taken steps through this part of your life.