April 2018

Monday, October 15, 2012

That which cannot be spoken

At church yesterday, when Annie shared the struggles of a friend who has terminal breast cancer and who is on a roller coaster ride of good news and bad news, my friend Lori wailed at the prayer. She threw her head back, her body shook, and a deep well of grief flooded the sanctuary.
Lori cannot speak. She was born with cerebral palsy, a degenerative disease, and in her forties, she’s confined to a wheelchair and cannot control most of her body’s movements. She cannot speak and any communication is hard, though she does laugh and cry.
Because some people work to hear her story, we know a little of her pain. We know that her body hurts. We know that she lives in a group home and that relationships there are sometimes hard. We know that she was raped by a caregiver. We know that her parents have died recently. We know that she identifies as a lesbian. (This one is easy, as she sports a bumper sticker on her bright pink wheelchair that lets us know.)
When she laughs, which is often, we all laugh with her. When she sobs, which is rare, we hear a pain that cannot be spoken, and all we can do is sit with her and hear the depth of a sadness that she cannot speak about.
Her pain that cannot be spoken reminds me of Harry Potter’s Voldemort, “he whose name must not be spoken.” As I remember, Harry does speak his name, and in the speaking takes some of his enemy’s power.
I think of the way that language allows me to discover my hopes and fears, my joys and sorrows, and to share them with others. In the words, in the speaking, I find power.
For me, this blog and the books I’m writing have helped me to find words for the hope that I experience, a hope that my life will have meaning that goes beyond these darn tumors.
I experience similar hope in our church’s sister community in Guarjila, El Salvador. This community, which celebrates its 25th anniversary this week, returned to El Salvador’s flattened meadows from years in Honduran refugee camps. Before going into the camps, they—the country’s poor—fled torture and murder in their country’s civil war.
When we visit them and when they visit us, they tell us stories of their tragic experiences, and perhaps in the speaking and in the sharing, they find some peace, some power over their past. In the return, they seek to create a community that honors the lives of each person, even the most powerless.
We speak with them, too, about injustices that they are largely unaware of, when we tell them stories of living as gay, lesbian, transgendered, bisexual, queer persons and our allies. Like our friends in El Salvador, we who are GLBTQ experience others who do not see who do not see us as fully human. We hope that we can begin to be heard.
Perhaps in speaking our pain, we give it a shape that allows it to fit into our lives rather than spilling over onto the whole of our lives.

In another moment in church on Sunday, Jannine spoke passionately about Referendum 74, Washington’s ballot measure to allow GLBTQ people to marry. She encouraged us to talk with those who may not approve, to share our stories and ourselves. She suggested that we post green yard signs encouraging our neighbors to “Approve Referendum 74.”
She said that the “Reject Referendum 74” campaign has begun and that her neighbor posted a red “Reject Referendum 74” sign. What she read was, “Reject Jannine.”

I thought of how powerful her message was, how important that she got to share it and I got to listen to it.
I thought of what it means to be voiceless, and what it means to hear the cries of the voiceless and to stand with them, with their ineffable pain, and to hear them as best I can.
I want to speak up, as a lesbian and a person with disabilities. I also want to learn to hear those who cannot speak. I want to know how to create a world in which we can all be heard.


1 comment:

  1. Amen, Mary. I want this, too-- to speak, to learn to hear, and to create a world where all can be heard. I stand with you.


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