I didn’t think I would get angry. Whatever gave me the idea I was immune from the full gamut of human emotions, I don’t know. Maybe it was immaturity. Maybe it was pride. But the first time my broken frame filled with rage, I was shocked, almost as though I stood outside myself wondering who this woman was that wanted to beat someone to a bloody pulp.
I was sitting beside the fireplace that night, feet propped on the hearth, staring into the fire when I suddenly wanted to throw something. If I could just break something, anything, I would be alright. But throwing dishes and screaming at my family was not in my nature, not something I could allow myself to do. I knew if I screamed at them, even in my rage, I would only be making things worse by hurting the ones I loved that were left to me. And besides, if I broke my dishes, I’d just have to go buy new ones so we could eat.
Who was I mad at anyway? It wasn’t Cliff’s fault or the children’s. Myself? Was there something I could have done to stop it? What if I had just done something that day I realized my child had stopped moving? The doctor had assured me there was nothing I could have done. Even if I had known the exact moment that blood vessel in the cord burst, I would have had only two minutes at the most to save my sweet baby. Nothing. Nothing I could have done.
God was the only one left to blame.
Now I was raised in a good Southern Baptist home where blaspheming God was not something to be considered. Even though I had left that tradition of my childhood to find my own expression of faith, I still had a hard time with the idea. However, I’ve never had a problem with asking God hard questions.
My children had a whiffle ball set that stayed in a carton on the back patio. When the rage would build until I thought it would pour out my throat, I would storm outside, grab that whiffle bat and beat the hell out of whatever happened to be in reach—the kids’ wagon, the fence post, the thin-trunked maple tree—until the anger was spent.
Eventually I had to face it. I was mad at God. And just like being mad at Cliff, that unexpressed anger was building a wall between us. And as mad as I was at him, I didn’t like the distance. So I began doing what I do with my husband when I’m angry. I wrote down everything I felt, so that when I talked to him, I wouldn’t forget anything. Then I went outside and started my conversation. The words fired from me like an arrow shot at a blue-jay. I picked up rocks and threw them at the sky. I threw and threw them until I collapsed to the ground and cried, ”I don’t understand! Help me understand! Please.”
The heavens didn’t resound with a message from God, nor did lightning strike me dead. But the wall crumbled.
I didn’t have an answer. I still didn’t understand. But I knew I wasn’t alone.
This scene from Steel Magnolias still resonates with me. The movie came out four years after Allison died. I was totally unprepared for the movie’s ending, had no idea of what was coming. When M’Lynn (Sally Field) leaves her daughter's grave, rage bursts out of her. It’s so real, so truly portrayed. I sat in the theater and wept.