The Loss Box

For as long as I can remember, I’ve thought in terms of metaphorical boxes in my brain.

Kind of like myths of Granny’s attic, filled with dusty boxes and trunks full of old photos and yearbooks and clothes waiting for the day when someone would come and clean them out, dividing things with love amongst the family.

Only one of my grandmothers really had an attic and she was fond of shiny new things so she gave most of the things that would have been in the attic to generations of church rummage sales through the years.

And yet, in my head, the image persists.

As many of you know, I went to Hungary in the winter of 1989 with a group of seminary classmates. You’ve heard the stories… cold feet and homemade hootch for breakfast and Russian tanks “exercising” in the fields beside the roads.

One of the things that happened on that trip, which is a little harder to write about, is that all the boxes in my brain fell apart.

By the time I returned to Atlanta (and thawed out) it was no longer possible for me to live in a world with separate boxes for theology and economics and politics and health care and education, Christian or otherwise.

It all ran together and talking about one became talking about all.

This did not necessarily simplify life at that point in my journey.

I sure doesn’t simplify it these days!

There are a couple of boxes left in my mental attic though.

One of them, that seems to grow when I’m not looking, is labeled Loss in bold magic marker.

It’s an odd sort of box.

Every time I have an experience of loss and try to sneak unnoticed into the attic to slip the new bit tidily inside, all the other losses in there get riled up. They start trying to climb out of the box and run around the attic, demanding to be noticed all over again.

Which kind of means that all those I’ve lost are still with me, helping to make me who I am.

This week has been such a time.

It’s a complicated story, and not entirely mine to tell, so let me just say that an old friend was killed in a tragic accident.

The previous losses in my box are in full on riot mode, like tired toddlers wanting all the attention.

Loss, it seems, is loss. And it’s all hard.

Last night the attic dreams ran me out of bed and I spent some time with tea and my journal. Then I went back to making prayer dots.

Just in case you’re wondering what prayer dots are, they’re a tradition in the Intentional Creativity community with whom I am learning painting and a world full of transformative other things.

A bit like rosary beads, they’re a whole body-mind-spirit way of participating with prayers, which helps lots of us.

They also, as Shiloh Sophia would say, keep us facing the loss, the suffering, the love.

Ten lives lost in a Texas school shooting. A dot for each soul. Seventeen in Florida. And on and on.

If you wander back to the homepage here and click on the drop down menu for Artist, you’ll find a gallery of my quilts and discover that I’ve been hooked on polka dots for years.

Prayer dots are like polka dots, only better.

I make mine with the end of an old paint brush. Dip. Random-ish dots, each with a name or petition or simply attention. About four or five dots of varying sizes before it’s time to dip again.

Dip. Dots. Prayers. Repeat. Repeat. Repeat.

Go back later and repeat some more.

Rage, if you need to. Cry. Give thanks.

Dip. Dots. Prayers.

I started with my very first painting, while a friend was critically ill in the midst of Hurricane Irma and I couldn’t get there.

The rhythm is somehow soothing for me.

My second painting is full of dots, too. Mostly for a friend going through treatment for breast cancer.

Those dots kindly made room for more last night and today. My friend. His family. Dip. Dots. Prayers.

Now, I was educated in what theological folks call the Reformed Tradition. As a flock, we’re not much for prayer rituals. Or at least we believe we’re not. And we’re pretty convinced that no number of polka dots in the world is going to change much. Which, in and of themselves, they’re not.

It’s the attention and intention that change things. Being conscious. Intending good. Reminding God, as the prophet Jeremiah said so long ago, of who God is.

Or, if you prefer, sending positive energy into the Cosmos.

Like getting thousands of people together to meditate for peace.

Dip. Dots. Prayers.

One day, I walk by one of my paintings and notice that what I feel is grateful. Grateful for all those I love, in this world or the next. Grateful for others making dots. Literally changing the world.

And I know that, one day, I’ll need more dots. Kind of like needing a bigger box in the attic.

And love will meet me there.



Sue Boardman, Certified Intentional Creativity®
Color of Woman Teacher & Coach