burying the infant: in memory of rob toon

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Monday, February 13th, 2012

burying the infant: in memory of rob toon

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two years ago today, my best friend rob breathed his last breath. on february 13, 2010, he finally found rest from his battle with leukemia.

you can read what i wrote just hours after he passed away here. as this anniversary neared, i knew i wanted to express some thoughts here on the blog but i struggled with exactly what to say (which, for me, is rare).

a couple weeks ago, though, i heard peter rollins speak at uca and a parable he shared was an instant remedy to my lack of words. here’s the story he shared:

The story tells of a mother whose baby dies. She is so distraught that she carries the dead body strapped to her chest and travels around attempting to find someone who would be able to breathe life back into her beloved infants body.

Eventually she finds a holy man who says that he can help her, but only if she can bring to him a handful of mustard seeds from a home whose inhabitants have not suffered the loss of someone they love.

The woman begins to search but is unable to find any home that has not been marked by the dark shadow of death and loss. Yet, in her futile search something truly amazing happens. For as she hears the various stories of these different people she slowly begins to come to terms with the death of her own child. After a little time she is finally able to let go and bury her infant in the soil of the Earth.

i spent a very long time holding onto the infant. i assumed my story with rob was unique and that no one else understood the emotions and the depth of loss.

but then i began to hear stories that sounded nearly identical. i heard from people whose stories, quite frankly, were even worse. i heard stories of pain and suffering and personal loss that i couldn’t imagine.

don’t get me wrong, i still hold dear the memories that i shared with rob. i still think about him in some way at least several times a week. i listen to music sometimes just because it’s music rob loved.

but i’ve buried the infant when it comes to my unhealthy assumptions about being the only person to have experienced loss and suffering. i had to make some choices that allowed me to bury the infant.

i had to choose to discontinue using rob as my singular standard for other friendships. i had to choose to disengage from a facebook page that was created to capture memories from his life (but largely became a place where i was empowered to continue carrying the infant). i had to choose to discontinue to use his death as an excuse for some personal shortcomings.

there’s a community of suffering that, on the surface, sounds depressing, but when you fully discover it, you experience a freedom that allows you to move on in healthy and holistic ways.

i’ll never forget rob and he’ll never cease to have an incredible impact on the rest of my life, but i’m thankful that i’ve finally been able to bury the infant.