Grief Induced Chutzpah

There is a common saying that  goes, “If you don’t have anything nice to say, don’t say anything at all.” Instead of biting my tongue when I don’t have something nice to say, I prefer the approach of saying it in a foreign language. This might stem from growing up with a Spanish professor for a mother or the fact that trauma has completely removed what little filter I had before. I’ve always had a love of languages and sometimes you have to borrow from others to convey what you really want to say without sounding too crass. Life is bleeping hard enough without having to worry about holding back the thoughts we want to express and I have unwillingly learned that widowhood takes some serious cajones.

Sometimes things just sound a little less harsh or cringey in another language. Even Margot implemented this concept at two years old. My toddler knew that potty talk was for the bathroom only, but not long after she started daycare she came home and started inserting “caca” into every other sentence. If I told her to finish her peanut butter and jelly sandwich, she would say, “you mean my peanut butter and caca sandwich,” and then laugh as if she wouldn’t get in trouble because she said it in Spanish. I’ll admit, this phase was mildly amusing and didn’t irritate me nearly as much as when her little sister was the same age and couldn’t make it through a meal without some kind of potty joke in English.

I have spent the last two years since losing Taylor swimming upstream. There’s not another adult at the dinner table with me to reprimand or secretly smirk at the inappropriate discussions. Grief has taken so much from me, but there is one thing I’m thankful that it has given me and that is chutzpah. Not everyone would agree that this is a positive attribute. In fact, the definition of this Yiddish word is “unbelievable gall; insolence; audacity.” Widowhood has made me brazen in ways I never was in my first 32 years of life. I was thrown into the deep end without any warning and it is chutzpah that has kept me afloat. 

“But those who hope in the Lord will renew their strength. They will soar on wings like eagles; they will run and not grow weary, they will walk and not be faint.”

Isaiah 40:31

Driving home from my last visit to Fort Worth, I was listening to an audible that referenced the observations of Rabbi Harold Kushner who wrote, among other things, When Bad Things Happen to Good People. Suffering is universal and it often leaves us questioning, “Why?“. Kushner pointed out that in the Hebrew language the word “why” has a dual meaning, each with its own word. Maduah means “from what cause?” and lama translates “to what end?”.

I’ve done my fair share of questioning over the last two years…

My husband died.

Q: Maduah?

A: Equipment Failure. Freak accidents happen.

My husband died.

Q: Lama?

A: I accept that this is something only God can answer.

There have been all kids of “lamas” that have run through my head. I often come back to the knowing feeling that Taylor and I were always meant to be together in this lifetime for however short and called in his death to minister “together” for the Glory of God’s everlasting kingdom. Whatever the reason may be, my hope rests solely in the Lord. Whatever lamas you are facing in your own life, give them up to God. When we put our faith in God, he constantly renews our strength and blesses us with chutzpah to walk hand in hand with our suffering. He will not let us grow weary no matter what battles we face as long as we invite the Lord to stand on our side.

Love, Molly

Copyright © 2022 M. Marley, LLC

Word For the Year

Berlin Holocaust Memorial

Choosing a word for the year seems to be a buzzy topic lately. The intention is to choose an affirmative word every January as you set your goals for the upcoming year to be your theme or mantra for the next 52 weeks. I’ve always been quick to make a decision and stick with it, but perhaps because I have a tendency to be wordy, this practice is just not for me. How can I possibly be expected to choose just one? Last January I went to the first yoga class of the new year and we were all given a card with a word to meditate on and use as inspiration for the upcoming year. I can’t remember what my word was, but I do remember it was lame and I let my annoyance with a lousy word distract me the rest of class. Placing so much weight on a single word isn’t the best motivation for over-thinkers.

I do, however, appreciate the notion of a single word or phrase opening up a year’s worth of possibilities. Returning to school after winter break, my 7th grade art students picked up where we left in December working on a heavy topic: The Holocaust. I have each of my middle school grades do some sort of self portrait every year and for my 7th graders it is in the form of an identity box. They spend weeks working on this project. Students decorate the outside of their boxes to represent themselves and their personalities while they fill the inside with things they make in class and treasures they bring from home. Needless to say, they are very special and personal.

Building upon the ideas of the art teacher before me, when the students come in for class excited to present their self-portraits they learn that their identity boxes are gone. Their possessions and all the things that represent each individual student have vanished (hidden in another teacher’s closet). This loss of self always creates a panic and opens up an insightful discussion about what it means to lose everything and have your identity erased. We then dive into the basic history of the Holocaust. The students study this topic in depth in their social studies class so the focus in art is the importance of not letting the history of those who survived and the ones who did not get erased. In the old testament, God commands the Israelites to build monuments commemorating trials they overcame so that future generations would not forget the suffering endured by their ancestors.

He said to the Israelites, ‘”In the future when your descendant ask their parents, ‘What do these stones mean?’ tell them, ‘Israel crossed the Jordan on dry ground.’ For the Lord your God dried up the Jordan before you until you had crossed over. He did this so that all peoples of the earth might know that the hand of the Lord is powerful and that so you might always fear the Lord your God.”

Joshua 4:21-24

After a raw discussion, my students get to explore the stories of survivors. We spend a few days in the computer lab listening to the recorded testimonies of survivors and rescuers. As they scroll through the footage, I always try to emphasize that these people are all gone now and it is up to us to continue sharing their stories. These recordings are provided through Chapman University’s Holocaust Art and Writing Contest. As part of the contest, students are instructed to choose a single word or phrase from the recorded account of a Holocaust survivor. That word then becomes the inspiration for an art piece representing that person’s story. It is an interesting thing for a twelve or thirteen year old kid to realize that the old person they are watching a video of is talking about these unimaginable things they endured when they were around the same age.

I emphasize to my students the importance of the fact that they have been entrusted with sharing their survivor’s story through their own artwork now that the survivor is no longer here to tell it. Students take one word from another person’s testimony and depict a lifetime of trauma and inhumanity, but they ultimately depict a story of survival. When God instructed the monuments to be placed in the book of Joshua, it was so that after those people were long gone future generations would remember what they went through, and ultimately know what they overcame. It is important to remember what came before us. If I had to pick one word to focus on it would be salvation and it wouldn’t just be for the unfolding year. God dried up the Jordan river just as he parted the Red Sea to bring his people across. They overcame the obstacle before them by His will. Even though we don’t deserve it, we are all offered salvation now through Jesus and a way across the river. Life is full of pain and trauma, but through our salvation we already know that we are survivors.

Love, Molly

Copyright © 2022 M. Marley, LLC

Merry Christmas

Family photo by Mallory McGill

Wishing you a very merry Christmas from our family to yours. We are continually thankful for all of the prayers and support and wish everyone good health and prosperity in the new year.

“The virgin will conceive and give birth to a son, and they will call him Immanuel, (which means “God with us”).”

Matthew 1:23

Love, Molly

Copyright © 2021 M. Marley, LLC