Retrieve Lament: Rachel Spies' mourning story

Throughout this week that we call Holy, I've invited a few friends who have companioned in suffering with Christ and His people to share a bit of their stories with us. I'm grateful to today's guest - a friend from our beloved church family (and writing group) in Austin - for sharing from her experience of a relentless lent. I'm also grateful to Rachel for her skill in expressing the inexpressable in a way that welcomes us into her grief, and thereby, our own. This is no small gift, and I pray that God will raise up a canopy of protection over Rachel's family, as she and Jonathan continue to wait for resurrection. I pray this for all of us in the various forms of suffering we encounter waiting for the help of a risen Christ. Would you read with me, and listen with an open heart for any words Christ might be speaking to you through Rachel's story?

Walls From Words and Stories  by Ines Seidel ( source )

Walls From Words and Stories by Ines Seidel (source)

Retrieving the lament of that which is almost unbearable to name

The past five years I have lived in Lent. The church calendar has ticked by but I have stayed here in the barren place, the dark place where hope is for others and resurrection is a belief but not tangible. It’s one of those long stories, too long certainly for this space, with long emotions and long components, but familiar too – grief, hurt, expectations not met, illness, grief, uncertainty, abuse, adoption, mental illness, destruction. Many families enter into these lands, and many families fall apart. We did. Some families are able to weather the storm. We couldn’t.

Last year I had four children, this year I have three. Or maybe I still have four. I don’t know how to answer that question. Last year my daughter knew nothing of violence or crime or the physical power that men can yield over women. This year, at eight years of age, she is a sexual assault statistic. I will never be over that, never.

Five years ago when I heard the word “rad,” I thought of 1980’s slang. Now I think of attachment disorders and all the hell they entail.

I am a writer, a poet of sorts I suppose, and my offerings are often written on the page. These are a few of the laments I retrieved over the past few years.

I had a son

I had a son
With tight black curls
Tight black skin
Bright white teeth
Bright white smile

He had
Tight slit eyes
He told me
Tight white lies

He had a mom
With slippery hands
slippery heart
Who couldn’t hold on
when she slid away
on slippery feet
Into the dark

I snatched him up,
grabbed him up,
stole him -
Carried him over the sea
Told him to forget who he was
Told him to be like me

I had a son
He had nothing
A name, A country, A tribe

I had a son
He gave me
hate red cheeks
a dead black heart

And the saints sang Hallelujah,
And everyone worshiped a thief.
They all bowed to the abductor,
all hail the savior in chief.

Before and After

Notice the clouds
balled together to form the very
likeness of a brontosaurus,
free-roaming gentle giant now trapped
in plastic molds
and skyscapes

One scream and
the world ends,
the clouds forgotten (already drifting apart)

One scream and
sirens come

One scream and
How can sixty seconds
violate innocence so
casually completely forever?

Real Live Monsters

Once monsters were
who lived in
pages of fiction -
hairy giants, with
sharp teeth and claws

I was wrong.

Because this fall
I met
A. Real. Live. Monster.
And though beast,
It blended well
In a human suit

It had fire-breath
And long arm tentacles
Strong as ten men
hidden beneath its clothes.
It crouched in wait,
and struck.

And all I was left to do
- hold my little girl
open gash in her side
As she sobbed in my arms for hours on end

Support for South Sudan

We are a tribe of neon-chested armor clad warrior women
Dressed ready for battle
Cecilia leads us out with a mighty cry
and heads out the door toward the open field beyond
Someone starts a rhythmic clapping
we stomp-skip-clap
No words are needed now
we fight as one, but each a different battle
Mary fights malaria five times,
Teresa and Eunice fight to keep going
past their dying babies
Janie fights eight mouths to feed with no food
Everyone knows what to do
We form a dancing circle as we keep
up the clapping and the stomping.
Very Old Martha
Has three fingers, very few teeth, walks with a cane
She starts a new song with a new beat,
and everyone is now slapping a knee on a down
beat while clapping and stomping.
We move counter-clockwise, as one.






Rachel grew up and still lives in Austin, TX, where she enjoys writing, her family, and searching for the perfect margarita

Once, ritual lament would have been chanted; women would have been paid to beat their breasts and howl for you all night, when all is silent. Where can we find such customs now? So many have long since disappeared or been disowned.

That’s what you had to come for: to retrieve the lament that we omitted.
— Ranier Maria Rilke, "Requiem for a Friend"

(You can read all of the Retrieve Lament stories from previous years here.)