I pulled out my dressy winter coat Tuesday night for a walking event (We went to Unsilent Night, and it was super cool), and as one does, I put my hand into the pocket at some point - and came out with this.
It doesn't look like anything - but this broken shell helped me through one of the darkest parts of my life, a storm of chaos and despair that started in March and went on to December of last year. (Well, we aren't talking about the several months in 2007 that were horrifically dark. That is the other super bad and very horrible time in my life.)
Back? Fantastic. In a nutshell - my beloved sister in law and my fantastic father in law both became ill, I took care of them, my sister in law died in August, I moved my father in law in with us, and he passed in November. I didn't handle it very well.
Like, at all. I was a WRECK. I don't know that I've ever cried that much, and for so long. I ended up going to grief counseling with a fantastic, caring and wonderful woman named Sybil for about 6 months. (It took about that long for me to get her straight with the names of everyone in my super large extended family, so she could understand what I was saying as I sobbed my way through our sessions.)
But. Back to the shell fragment.
When I was at the prayer service for healing (it's the topic of the post linked above that you didn't read, you probably should go read it now, the rest of this post will make more sense...) the female pastor gave a really fantastic talk. In it, she discussed being in a beach house during a Nor'Easter, and after the storm passed, she went outside and found the most amazing piece of driftwood. The crux of her talk was that really horrible and violent things happen to us, things that are difficult and tough and we feel as if we can't get through them - and they shape and refine us in ways that make us beautiful.
Much like driftwood.
She stood in front of a table as she talked, and her hands carressed a very large piece of driftwood, which was decorated with shells, sand, sea grass and broken shells. At the end of her talk, she offered the shells to us as a reminder of our pain, and a way to heal.
Put one in your coat pocket, she encouraged. When you feel like you can't go on, rub the shell and remember that you aren't alone. Storms pass, and you will make it through.
And I did. There were some gorgeous shells on the table - beautiful, whole, fancy shells. I took a broken piece, because I didn't feel as if my pain was the worst ever - I wanted to let other people have the whole shells. I wanted something that was as broken as I felt.
And I carried that shell in my coat pocket, the coat I wore the most last year. When I put my hands in the pockets, as I do multiple times a day - I'd feel that shell. I'd rub it and pray for my father in law, for my sister in law, for my peace of mind and my sanity - for I felt as if I was on the verge of another nervous breakdown.
Slowly, it's gotten better. Slowly. Until I forgot about the shell and got on with my life, and was able to mourn and remember without so much sturm und drang.
I'd forgotten all about it until I put my hand in my pocket Tuesday night and pulled out the reminder. It was just a shell fragment, not important, just a little piece of something much larger and more impressive. But that little fragment helped me.
I want to be a fragment in someone's life.