Beauty for Ashes

My husband and I recently returned from a trip to Washington, DC. On our way home, we drove down the Blue Ridge Parkway. It’s such an incredibly beautiful place, and I realized as we were driving along that I felt like I wanted to physically pull the beauty inside of me. I almost felt like I was a parched, desert wanderer wanting a deep, refreshing drink from the beauty around me. I wanted the beauty to soak deep into my very being, into my life, into my soul. It was like I wanted the beauty to refresh me and to bring a measure of peace and beauty into my life. I wanted to apply it to heart, to my hurt, to my life.


Blue Ridge Parkway (Virginia side)

Mabry Mill - Blue Ridge Parkway

Mabry Mill – Blue Ridge Parkway

I don’t feel that way all the time, but there are times when I am very much aware of that same deep craving for beauty – as we drive onto the Biltmore Estate, as we hike up to a waterfall, as we drive through the Blue Ridge Mountains in the fall, when I see a particularly beautiful picture or piece of artwork, when I see a sunrise or sunset.

Sunrise over the Atlantic Ocean

Sunrise over the Atlantic Ocean

As we drove along home that day, I started analyzing why I feel so strongly at times that I need to pull beauty inside of me. I think I’m trying to apply some beauty to the places in my life to the places that still hurt so much, to the places that are still broken, to places that have been made ugly or feel empty by the things that have happened to me – by Jason’s death; by friends disappearing and leaving us so alone; by selling and moving from a home I loved and a state that was home to me; by having to “get rid of” so many things that were important to me until I feel like I have hardly anything left; by wandering and wandering and wandering and wandering, trying to find a place of peace and beauty that feels like home again…and never quite succeeding; by trying to come to grips with things in my life that are beyond my control and being confronted with things that I just wish I could make better.

I know it may seem strange to try to apply something so abstract as “beauty” to one’s life. I remember, not too long after Jason died, feeling that I just wish people would be kind to me so that I could apply the salve of “kindness” to my broken heart. I felt like kindness would help me heal. I suppose neither one of those is much different than trying to find “love.” They’re all rather abstract concepts. We all have needs in our lives such as these that we are trying to fill, broken or hurt places we are trying to mend. I guess trying to apply the beauty I see to the broken areas of my life is one of mine as bereaved parent. We all need beauty to balance out the harshness in our lives. We need rest to balance out the hard roads we travel. We need joy to balance out the sorrows.

I don’t feel as broken as I once did, but the analysis of why, at times, I feel I need an almost desperate need to absorb beauty into my life made me realize there are still many broken places in me. I think that’s just the way it is for a parent whose child has died. We are broken people, broken in ways most people wouldn’t understand. We are confronted with our losses in so many places and at so many times. Our brokenness just doesn’t show all the time or in ways one would expect. When it does, I guess we try to find the beauty in the ashes.

© 2014 Rebecca R. Carney

9 thoughts on “Beauty for Ashes

  1. You always express your feelings so clearly and beautifully. What you write makes sense to me. I, too, find myself constantly searching for some way to relieve some of the pain from the jagged hole in my heart. As you say, nothing really succeeds because nothing can fill your Jason’s absence or my Graham’s absence.
    Your photos are stunning.

  2. I understand, Rebecca, about that feeling of awe after being so broken by life. I think it’s a result of having doubts about God. When I’m am overcome by the beauty in the world it is reinforcement that life is grander than I can really conceive of. It also brings me back to childhood. When I was young, seeing beauty in nature made life feel limitless; I would be inspired and uplifted. With tragedies and difficult circumstances, I’ve felt like everything is gray and dark – seeing nature brings light back into my life. Beautiful writing and I’m glad you are able to find some comfort on this difficult journey.

  3. I was thinking this morning about how a few people would say something like, “well, people probably didn’t know what to say”. I graciously would nod, but inside it hurt. Did the priest and the Levite not know what to say or do? Is that why they walked by the wounded man on the road?

    Jesus apparently made the point that we really do know – if you can’t say something to help you can do something to help – and when friends/acquaintances leave you as you pointed out, it’s devastating. These are the moments when I honestly feel God draw close to me.

    I have not moved away so I am surrounded by memories. But I have distanced myself from people and situations that I was a part of for 30+ years, that make me uncomfortable. That decision was huge for me since I am very good at compliance. But not this time. My heart couldn’t take it. And do you know, this decision has brought further hurt by comments regarding my choice to protect myself? Or my family?

    Thank-you for beautifully expressing your thoughts in your post. : )

  4. Rebecca, I have found beauty in your words on a day that I feel so unloved and terrified of what tomorrow holds….my son’s laughter gone for good, my daughter’s mental illness and the granddaughters who are without fathers….all consuming me today. I needed to know something positive. So much of what you wrote is ME, especially the third paragraph. Friends disappearing, moving from a home I dearly loved…..all traumatic on top of tragedy. I hope we both will find some kind of happiness that will be constant…is there such a thing? Maybe it is in the beauty of God’s creation all around.

  5. Thank you for this beautiful writing, Rebecca. It echoes so many of my feelings and needs, just searching for something to soothe my soul. I have become a sunset addict since Ben died. I look at the beauty of a sunset and it somehow makes my pain lessen, realizing I am just a little speck in this picture. My best friend sent me a message tonight saying, “I miss my friend Sue” because I have been withdrawing from so many people, finding it difficult to pretend there are not holes and jagged edges in me. I find it takes too much energy to pretend and too much energy to try to explain my pain so I prefer to be alone or with my immediate family, where it is not a struggle to hide. I miss me too, as I realize I will never be the same person that I was before my son Ben died. I read this earlier today, but your words have stayed with me throughout the day, so I wanted to read your writing again and send you a note.


  6. Pingback: Beauty | Grief: One Woman's Perspective

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