Thursday, May 31, 2012

Stories of Resiliency-Molly Griest

There is a crack in everything, that's how the light gets in.
Leonard Cohen

"Choice" by Molly Greist
Back in a post I titled "Resiliency," I said that I hoped to share some of the stories of people I've met these past 19 months who have experienced some of life's greatest losses, and yet gone on to live healthy, productive lives. One of the people I met early on is Molly Greist. Molly lives in the same community that I do, and I had heard of her over the years, but our paths never crossed. A mutual friend thought we should meet, and so we first got together over a cup of coffee back in January 2011, just a few months after Matthew's death; we had an instant connection.

Briefly, here's Molly's story. In 1989 she lost her 10-month-old son Peter in an automobile accident. In her grief, she found herself drawn to stonework (Peter means stone in Greek), and the results were life-changing and, quite simply, amazing. With her hammer and her chisel she slowly chipped her way "out of the pain and darkness of grief." I highly recommend that you visit Molly's website to view her stunning stonework and read her story more in depth. Here's a link.

Molly and I met recently to talk about resiliency. We sat in her sun porch as the afternoon sun finally broke through the low clouds that hovered all day. Like me, she has had many wonderings over the years and like me, she has more questions than answers. Time spent with Molly always results in deep and meaningful conversations, and this talk proved no different.

In the course of our two-plus hour conversation, we tossed around many words and phrases that resonated with both of us. Words like:

Belief  (in yourself, as well as having someone believe in you)
Presence in the now
Story (How story helps connect us with each other)

All of these things I now find myself thinking about daily as I maneuver my way in the world. I am pretty sure I didn't think this way before Matthew died, at least not on such a regular basis. But now I do and actually it's one of the things I'm grateful for. I guess it makes me feel more grounded and connected to the present.

Nature figured prominently in our conversation and we both realized how much the outdoors has helped us cope with our losses. It's hard not to be humbled by it all when walking in a forest, a desert or on a mountaintop. Molly pointed out that every time she would question something in her life, she would find it paralleling in nature, and she found that comforting. To state the obvious, nature is so much bigger than we are, and that always helps me put things into perspective.

I asked Molly what she meant by 'is-ness" and she said this: "You need to put one foot in front of the other and keep walking. If you are not trying to fix what WAS and instead accept what IS, then you have potential, and possibility is looming in front of you. Hope is waiting. And what if the stone breaks? We can become devastated, or we can see new possibility and potential in the pieces." 

That concept of broken open makes so much sense to me.  It's really not possible to go through life without being broken open by events, big and small. When you are "opened" by some kind of a loss, there is the potential for change. This doesn't mean that it's something you seek, it's just that once something devastating happens you have a choice as to how you want to carry on. Both Molly and I agreed that we realized early on that neither Peter nor Matthew would want their families to be unable to carry on without them. I know that I have often thought of that, and it's helped me move forward.

Finally, how one reacts in a tragedy is a pretty key concept in talking about resiliency. Like Molly says, you can either be devastated by the pieces, or pick them up knowing you can't put them back together again, but see the new opportunity. It's a choice. It doesn't diminish your grief, by any means. It just enables you to move forward and not be stuck. 

So I'll end this post much like I began it, with more questions than answers. But after my conversation with Molly my head is swirling in the best sort of way as I embrace the mystery of life, and know that it's okay not to have the answers. It's also equally okay to continue to ask the questions, hear people's stories and move forward as best I can. 


  1. So many truths, Robin.... written with lucidity and with wisdom. Thank you for reminding us, for teaching and inspiring (yes, you!)

  2. p.s.
    a poem by Wendell Barry which I love:

    What We Need Is Here

    Geese appear high over us,
    pass, and the sky closes. Abandon,
    as in love or sleep, holds
    them to their way, clear
    in the ancient faith: what we need
    is here. And we pray, not
    for new earth or heaven, but to be
    quiet in heart, and in eye,
    clear. What we need is here

  3. That is so lovely, Bobbie. Thank you for sharing it!

  4. "Amen" to this beautiful post! I'm so grateful that you & Molly have found each other, and can share in this way. She is so talented, and her gifts bring much comfort to others.