Karina Moreno: Broken, But Still Whole

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Karina Moreno shares the pervasive despair and pain so many feel right now, but she takes comfort in a family saying that has gotten them through dark days before.

There was a saying taped to the wall of my mom’s house during the last years of her life. It was in my sister’s handwriting. She put it there a year or two after Mom was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s.

It greeted us every time we passed through the kitchen: in the early years, while we made tea, refilled meds or played bananagrams at the table; and in the later years when we needed a private nook to weep where Mom couldn’t see us.

It said, “No matter how broken you feel, you are still whole.”

I’ve been thinking a lot about that quote lately.

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I read somewhere once that “rage is the radical tip of a grief that time will never root out.”

Sometimes grief sits with us forever; the loss of a parent, mass death, the degradation of humanity. Sorrow, heartbreak and rage are colliding, in public and in private.

In the morning, I savor that insta-second of time before I fully remember the state of our world. But like so many others, I get up – put one foot in front of the other, and try to make sense of the despair.

One of the most vivid memories I have of Mom is a Sunday I wheeled her into church with me in her latest stages of Alzheimer’s. As was typical of that time, she was out-of-it, glassy-eyed, staring off into space. Then, all of a sudden, when the recessional hymn “We Shall Overcome” started playing, her eyes lit up. She sang all the words, at full volume, with ease and conviction. A moment of wholeness.

I find small ways to feel this now – the extra-tight hug from my children before they go to sleep, the just-the-right-time phone call from a friend, the birds reclaiming their song.

No matter how broken you feel, you are still whole.

With a Perspective, I’m Karina Moreno.

Karina Moreno lives in Oakland.