Monday, April 19, 2010


There is a secret Sorority of Suffering.

The pledgeship is hard.

The initiation rituals are terrifying and heartbreaking.

Once you’ve joined, your life will never be the same.

Unlike the case with most sororities, you are not given the privilege of choice in the matter.  But once you’re IN, there’s a choice to be made. Actually, many, many choices.

I have met some wonderful new pledge sisters and alumnae in the past two weeks. Earthquake survivors, one and all. That’s not to say that they haven’t been injured or even maimed. But they have chosen to survive and thrive, in spite of the devastation wrought by their respective earthquakes and their forced entry into SOS. (Sigma Omega Sigma?)

We speak the same language, know the secret handshake.

We have all made the choice to chant the letters of our sorority (SOS!) at those times when we can’t go on. And we’ve received the help for which we’ve cried out.

There have been secrets learned in the dark.

 “And I will give you treasures hidden in the darkness—secret riches. I will do this so you may know that I am the Lord, the God of Israel, the one who calls you by name.” (Isaiah 45:3)


 Our worlds have been rocked.

It’s like this:

You’re going along your merry way, thinking the way it is is the way it always will be…with only minor variations in circumstances. You’ve got a plan. It’s all mapped out.

And then the floor drops out from under you.

The walls crumble.

The chandelier comes crashing down on top of your head.

You are covered in rubble and dust and ashes.

Life changes forever.

With no warning.

In the blink of an eye.

As you begin to dig your way out into the daylight, you discover than life as you knew it is gone. All of your assumptions, predictions, projections, and ambitions are scattered around you like shards of glass. The New Normal is not normal at all. It is hard to find your feet again. The world is spinning out of control, and you want to get off. But you can’t. So you stay low to the ground at first, just trying not to be sick.

I remember falling to the floor in the ICU. The fact that it was hard made it better.

As the vertigo subsides, you have to face your first choice: Will you follow the advice of Job’s wife, and “curse God and die?” Or will you choose Life? Will you ask for help in learning how to live again? Will you become bitter, or get better? Or will you just cram your system full of every anesthesia known to man in an attempt to dull the pain?

We have the gift of choice.

I’ve recently met some amazing survivors…new sisters…who have chosen Life, with all of its pain and imperfections.  Some are naturally brave; others, like me, have been given the courage that doesn’t come naturally to them. Although the stories are all different, there are many similarities. It doesn’t matter how it measures on the Richter scale: an earthquake is an earthquake.

As my new friend Abby writes, “There is clearly a pocket of believers who are searching for communion in their suffering.”  In the next few days, I will be sharing some of these stories. We can learn from each other. Cry with each other. Pray for each other. Help each other. Be with each other.

We’re all in this Life thing together.


Even if you haven’t gone through an earthquake yet, it’s always good to be prepared.

As much as you can be.


  1. I wonder sometimes if the universal nature of suffering on this plane isn't just to serve the higher purpose of compassion. We all have the capacity for it but it certainly expands through our own trials. And compassion, when offered, soothes the giver and the recipient. We receive with more grace when we have had the experience of gifting, as well.

    Suffering illuminates our equality in a way that is irrefutable. Education, economic security, physical gifts, all the things that we believe set an individual apart or above mean nothing in the face of a tragedy or trial that can strike anyone. I think that's why Job got his own whole book in the Bible.

  2. Laurel,

    This is beautiful.


  3. Beautiful. And, I know the shared stories will open us up to one another.
    Right now, we are waiting for the youtube video from yesterday's talk at Bel-Air. Please post that. Don't make me fly out there---but I would and will. It would be easier on me if you'd just post it.
    Love, hugs and "Being with" from Athens. Marianne

  4. Dear Kim,
    Reading this took my breath away. When Kenny was being diagnosed with Frontotemporal Dementia, I remember sitting in the waiting room as he was having the SPECT scan. I was chewing the inside of my cheeks reminding myself to breathe. Everyone seemed to know each other. I just looked at the floor. I woman soon came over and put her arm around me and said, "we are all afraid". I cried, and didn't think I would ever stop. Life is a new normal, now. Each day, I wake and whatever happens, I am grateful for each blessing. Many days, the blessing is simply the strength to get through the day and on to the next. Some days the blessing is to see a smile on my son's face, instead of the fear. But there is always a blessing. Thank you for your amazing blog.

  5. One of my favorite quotes seems to fit in here.. It's "We can comfort each other in this place; I can look into your eyes and see my own face." It's from a song by Deb Talan. (She's a singer with a band called the Weepies now.)

    Thanks for sharing your story! I stumbled upon it, and am humbled and inspired every time I read more.




Thank you so much for taking the time to write.

It helps to know we're not alone.