Blessing for Getting the News

blog-GraceInTheDarkImage: Grace in the Dark © Jan Richardson

It was three years ago this week that we learned Gary had a brain aneurysm. Four months later, at the end of a surgery that should have handily dealt with the aneurysm, Gary’s neurosurgeon stepped into the waiting room and said, It did not go as we expected.

And the world cracked open.

I’m thinking a lot about news these days—news that comes suddenly, news that comes after long waiting, news that we never wanted, news that begins the ending of the life we have known.

I pray such news is far away for you. But when it comes, if it comes, I pray that in the rending, a blessing will be waiting to enfold you.

Blessing for Getting the News

I don’t know
how it will be
for you.

For me,
when the news came—
when it sat down
across from me in the
waiting room
at 4 a.m.,
wearing scrubs and
speaking words awful
and full of
it came with
a humming in
my head,
an endless, echoing buzzing
that would never
entirely leave.

I can hardly tell you
the words the news used—
others would piece that
together for me,
but I can tell you that
in the humming,
a whole other conversation
was happening.

In that conversation,
I remember wanting
to appear calm
while the world
was beginning the rending
from which it
never would return.

In that conversation,
I remember wanting
to be the wife
who could withstand
what the news
was saying to me
even as I could
hardly hear it.

In that conversation,
I remember wanting to ask
if someone could please
get me a blanket already
because I was shaking so hard
I thought I would shatter.

I do not know
how it will be
for you.

But when
the news comes,
may it be attended
by every grace,
including the ones
you will not be able
to see now.

When the news comes,
may there be hands
to enfold and bless,
even when
you cannot receive
their blessing now.

When the news comes,
may the humming
in your head
give way to song,
even if it will be
long and long
before you can
hear it,

before you can
comprehend the love
that latched onto you
in the rending—
the love that bound itself to you
even as it began its leaving
and has never
let you go.

—Jan Richardson
from a forthcoming book of blessings

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Using Jan’s words…
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21 Responses to “Blessing for Getting the News”

  1. Carol Says:

    Thank you for this profound blessing from the depths of your heart and experience.

  2. Marla Says:

    Thank you for this blessing! It has been three years since my husband of 27 years passed away after being diagnosed with lung cancer six months prior. Your words speak to exactly how I felt when we got the news of no hope then. It has been three months since my son and daughter-in-law got the news that at 31 weeks there was no hope for their baby to live. This time I was better prepared for the love to unfold and I was able to baptize him.

    • Jan Richardson Says:

      Marla, thank you! I am so sorry for the news that you and your family have had to bear. How beautiful that you were able to baptize your grandson, and to enfold him and his parents in love.

      I send you and your family so many blessings as you each travel in the wake of these heartrending losses. Deep peace to you, and much gratitude.

  3. Lynda Hyland Burris Says:

    Dearest Jan, you always speak directly into my heart, but this, well, this is so timely. It will be a year on Thursday, since my husband died. At this time of the morning, 8:53 a.m. The nurse had just come because I had seen the news on his face when I got up; no one had to tell me, he did. So the nurse came to make sure he was comfortable, and I was holding him, stroking him, and he just … stopped. The news breathed out of him, and I suppose I should have felt it was Good News, but I did not feel it at the time. I am beginning to around the edges of things now. Writing, and time, and God and her messengers. Bless you so, dear Jan. Thank you again and again.

    • Jan Richardson Says:

      Lynda, thank you so much for the gift of your words. What a gift you were able to give to your husband, in being present to him so powerfully as he died. But I am so sorry you have had to bear this loss. I’m glad that, as you say, “writing, and time, and God and her messengers” (beautiful) are helping.

      I’m sending particular blessings as you approach tomorrow’s first anniversary of his death. May the day hold deep graces, and may the veil be thin.

      Peace to you, Lynda. Thank you again.

  4. Diana Barron Says:

    Jan, as a grief specialist who has heard many, many stories told by loved ones (and have plenty of my own), I want to tell you this is the most powerful, compelling, accurate articulation of “the news” I have ever read. Thank you for your gift with language, and your willingness to channel such raw emotion through words. You are a healing light to many. Please accept my gratitude… and my prayers for your journey.

  5. Ruth Atterberry Says:

    How can I thank you enough.

  6. Shelly Says:

    Oh Jan this is so close to home today. My father was killed in a head on collision on Monday. My mom seriously injured. I’m the nearest kid and I had to tell her the news and my brother. My sister and all of her grandchildren. I want to appear competent and calm but there was a buzzing in my head which is still going. This ache is almost too much to bear. Your words are powerful for me today. Thank you for baring your soul.

    • Jan Richardson Says:

      Shelly, I hardly know what to say in the face of such an enormous loss. But please know my heart is with yours. I am sending an armload of blessings for you and your family as you absorb the news of your dad’s death and as your mom wrestles with her injuries. I am so deeply sorry for all of this and for the news you have had to bear and to pass along to the rest of your family.

      I pray that in the aching, you will know yourself enfolded in grace and love. Thank you for the gift of your words.

  7. Cynthia Helton Says:

    Again ..and again …and again, Jan, I savor your blessings that surely come from a place that is holy. Your words bring healing to far more people than you know. Thanks you.

  8. Barbara Says:

    Thank you for sharing so freely your healing words.

  9. Bob Oberg Says:

    I don’t know how I found the Painted Prayerbook, but I am glad I did, for it resonates with me in two ways. One is that I too had a spouse who passed suddenly. Marianne was hit by a turning vehicle, and I remember so clearly waiting for word, and then a team of people in scrubs came and the chief person said plainly she would die. That was a little over four years ago. The second reason is the Marianne was an artist. Her clay sculptures in the house have been a continuing blessing for me, and yes, I have found that the humming in my head has given way to song. My choice is to act on the basis that the song is from spirit, and so I continue to hear the song amidst the tears that also continue to come. A relative sent me these beautiful words from Dietrich Bonhoeffer, which have been a source of comfort to me:

    Nothing can make up for the absence
    of someone whom we love … It is nonsense
    to say that God fills the gap; God doesn’t fill it,
    but on the contrary, God keeps it empty and so helps
    us to keep alive our former communion with
    each other, even at the cost of pain … The
    dearer and richer our memories, the more
    difficult the separation. But gratitude
    changes the pangs of memory into
    a tranquil joy. The beauties
    of the past are borne, not as a
    thorn in the flesh, but as a
    precious gift in themselves.

    • Jan Richardson Says:

      Bob, thank you so much for sharing these powerful words—both yours and Bonhoeffer’s. I am so sorry you know the death of a spouse, and am so glad that Marianne’s sculptures are an ongoing blessing for you.

      The things that Gary created—most especially his songs—were too painful to spend time with in the months after his death, but I’m thankful that I became able to listen again (to “hear the song” both literally and figuratively!), and that those gifts have become such a source of solace for me. May Marianne’s sculptures always be that for you.

      Thank you again! Many blessings to you.

  10. Carol M Says:

    My thoughts and feelings echo those who’ve shared above. My ‘news’ came 10 months ago. I have never identified the intervening feelings and thoughts as ‘humming’, but it explains why I can’t make sense of the song that is yet to form (and I’m a musician!). The accompanying artistic rendering is very powerful. You have a very special ministry, Jan!

    • Jan Richardson Says:

      Carol, thank you so much. I am so sorry for the deep loss you are living with, and I pray that you will know yourself enfolded in grace and love as you navigate this unexpected path. Deep peace to you.

  11. Susan Boyer Says:

    The news came to me a half hour after my husband walked behind me at the gym and told me he was fine. I haven’t yet been able to hear the song but I believe that some day I will hear its music.

    • Jan Richardson Says:

      Susan, thank you for your painful and beautiful words as you find your path in the wake of your husband’s death. I’m glad to hear from you, but so very sorry for the loss you are having to live with. Sending you many blessings and praying that, when your heart is ready, you will hear the song. Till then (and after then, too!), may you be gentle with yourself, and may you know yourself enfolded in love and grace. Deep peace to you.

  12. June Van thoen Says:

    Your words are powerful medicine and a healing balm. Thank you for sharing your gifts of words.

  13. David Nickeson Says:

    When the news came to me, I had many friends and family to enfold me and help me through it. Reading your poem brought it back, sort of like PTSD. I hope you continue to share the grace you have been blessed with, because we need it out here, as you needed it then.

  14. sheila johnston Says:

    Jan, Your words are always meaningful. I was with my husband, at home, when he passed from cancer. Almost three years ago. He had been in the hospital and came home. I knew at that time, that what I saw was a shell, and he had been gone for some time. But I still feel his love everyday.

  15. Brian Coffey Says:

    Dear Jan,

    I am so delighted to have been referred to your poetry and paintings by a fellow seminarian! I will share this powerful poem with the clergy and volunteers in my clinical pastoral education (CPE) program as we reflect on the importance of being present with those “getting the news”.

    Peace be with you.


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