Child Loss · Grief · Healing · On Coming Alive · Storytelling · Strength to Strength

When the Pen Drops

20140328_111731We are storytellers. Every single one of us. We live and our lives tell the story. As we breathe in and breathe out, the story line is woven. We are the hero, the villain, the explorer, the adversary, the captive, and the rescuer all in one. We make choices and sentences are written in this book of our lives. Yet we live in a world that presents sudden and shifting alterations to our stories without our permission. Imagine if you will that the great C.S. Lewis had been penning his masterful tale “The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe”, when someone or something outside of himself stepped in, took the pen, and wrote a paragraph that changed the trajectory of his story. Imagine the look on his face, unable to change the sentence, but forced to write a new ending.

What if he had not planned for Aslan to be crushed upon the rock, yet these words suddenly appeared on his paper,

“At last she drew near. She stood by Aslan’s head. Her face was working and  twitching with passion, but his looked up at the sky, still quiet, neither angry nor afraid, but a little sad. Then, just before she gave the blow, she stooped down and said in a quivering voice,

‘And now, who has won? Fool, did you think that by all this you would save the human traitor? Now I will kill you instead of him as our pact was and so the Deep Magic will be appeased. But when you are dead what will prevent me from killing him as well? And who will take him out of my hand then? Understand that you have given me Narnia forever, you have lost your own life and you have not saved his. In that knowledge,  despair and die.”

What if he had given up when that line was penned outside of his control? What if he had decided that because this was not his plan, the story would be over? What if Redemption had not been written into this story?

But the story did not end. He picked up the pen. Death would not be the end of the story, and Aslan would rise and say,

“….that though the Witch knew a Deep Magic, there is a magic deeper still which she did not know. Her knowledge goes back only to the dawn of time. But if she could have looked a little further into the stillness and the darkness before Time dawned, she would have read a different incantation.”

And so here we are, you and I, writing our story, when that mysterious flash of lightening appears and an invisible hand writes a paragraph that changes our plan. What do we do with that interference, that violent jolt, that invasion, that strike of lightening?

I  remember the day the pen dropped. I woke up and everything was perfect. Our sweet son Mattie was almost 4 and thriving in every possible way. He had overcome so much. He had spent the first 11 months of life in the hospital where he had two open heart surgeries, received a tracheostomy, and had fought off many infections. He came home and though the years to come would not be void of challenges, terrifying moments, even near death experiences, he was rising above it all and living life to the fullest. I liked the way this story was turning out. It wasn’t fun fighting off the dragons and forging our way through the thick forest, but we had done it. I couldn’t even fathom anything ruining the magical ending to this fairytale. My brave warrior boy had slain the dragon. We had won the prize. Or so I though.

The pen dropped. Words appeared on next page of the story of my life. Words I never would have written. Words that made everything inside of me want to curl up and die. Words that as hard as I tried, I could not erase. “And the doctor stepped back from his body and said, ‘Time of death, 9:30PM’. His mother collapsed at his side and cried out, ‘Oh, my son, my son, my son. My sweet son. Oh my son!’ and his father wrapped his arms around them both and they wept.”

And then as if time stood still, I found myself in the slow-motion, horror-ridden walk of grief. Like a blind woman, navigating a thick, dense forest, I fumbled through the foggy  darkness. And somehow I managed to claw my way through the thicket, grab the fallen pen, and put words to paper again. I wrote the story the only way I knew how. With truth, I told my story,  I bore my heart and shared my pain with every sentence I wrote.

Some days, the story was simple, “She got out of bed, she loved her children, she allowed herself to rest. She wept.”

Other days it was like writing the script of a horror film, “She couldn’t move, her chest pressed against her like a heavy wave was crushing her very soul. She fell to the ground, her face pressed against the earth, her tears turned to mud. She clawed at the earth and wished she could return to the place from whence she came.”

And then one day I rose, I grabbed the pen with desperation. I stood up and knew I must begin writing a new chapter, words of hope and healing, words on coming alive. I knew that if I was going to allow love to grow, I could not allow pain to win. I would not let this story end with me as a captive victim to grief. So I wrote, “And she carried Grief on her back because of Love. She called out to Love and welcomed him to her side. She called herself ‘Brave’ as she put her foot to the trail. She ran into Hope and Happiness and shyly asked them to come along. She never turned Sadness away when she walked by, she took her by the hand and they remembered The Boy who changed her world. Darkness would come and go, but she knew how to turn her face to the Light. With every breath, she learned how to inhale hope and exhale pain. With every footstep along the path, she stepped further and further into hope. And when she paused to watch the sun rise, she took a moment to absorb all the love and courage that called for her to come, just a little further. 

So you see, my friends, “there is a deeper magic still.”  When we are ready to rise up and look beyond the pain, deep into the “stillness and the darkness,”  we might just discover that there is a Lion in each of us ready to cast away the ropes and rise from the rock that holds our battered and bruised bodies. Inside of each of us lies the strength to pick up the pen and write a beautiful and brave next chapter to this story of our lives.

And C. S. Lewis wrote,

“‘Oh, children,’ said the Lion, ‘I feel my strength coming back to me. Oh, children, catch me if you can!’ He stood for a second, his eyes very bright, his limbs quivering, lashing himself with his tail. Then he made a leap high over their heads…”

And today the pen is still in my hand. I feel the strength coming back to me. I am the one penning the ending to my story, ready to take the leap. I am the one responsible for what happens next in my heart and in my actions. I am responsible for how I carry the Love that was deposited into my heart because of The Boy  who loved me.  And I refuse to waste that perfect gift. So tomorrow I will rise and write, “She woke up and Love coursed through her veins. She felt the the rhythm of a pulse, an all familiar rhythm. It was a song she knew so well. It was the song of The Boy who held her heart and knew only Love. So she rose determined to love fiercely, to walk bravely, to give with abandon, and to tell His Story to anyone who would listen.”



This piece was written to be shared on Michelle Madrid-Branch blog 

Michelle Madrid-Branch is an author, speaker and global advocate for women and children. She promotes the empowerment of women; in doing so, she is dedicated to be a catalyst for change—for when women are empowered to lead full and productive lives, their children, families, and communities prosper.

She is the Executive Producer and Host of The Greater Than Project, a documentary web series exploring the intrinsic greatness within women. The project encourages women to stand together, authentically—scars, flaws, and all—in order to recognize their inner strength, leave the trappings of the past behind, and move forward in their lives.

Michelle enjoyed a decade-long successful career as a television news anchor and investigative journalist, including an Emmy nomination while on-air with ABC-TV. She has three books in print—The Tummy Mummy, Adoption Means Love: Triumph of the Heart, and Mascara Moments: Embracing the Woman in the Mirror—and is currently writing a fourth.

Michelle has been referred to as a “world-wide voice on adoption” by Adoption Australia. She was inducted into the New Mexico Women’s Hall of Fame in 2006 and honored with the Governor’s Award for Outstanding New Mexico Women by Governor Bill Richardson. An international adoptee herself, she is the recipient of the 2004 Congressional Angels in Adoption Award.

Michelle never steps down when it’s time to speak up on behalf of others, and does so with a natural poise, genuine curiosity, and deep respect for whomever is in front of her. Her international upbringing allows her to feel at home anywhere in the world. With a shared passion for adventure and service, Michelle and her family live and travel worldwide. Their current home is in Santa Barbara, CA.


I am grateful to be a contributing writer for the On Coming Alive Project. The On Coming Alive Project is movement of people rising from the ashes and coming alive. The project features a diverse group of stories on the topics of abuse, addiction, death, depression/anxiety, divorce, domestic violence, illness, rape, and suicide. On Coming Alive was created as a platform for those who have suffered to share their stories of survival and their wisdom with the world.

You can find my story “Survived”, and we invite you to share your story of rising from the ashes and coming alive. 

You can Find Michelle’s story “From Pieces to Promise: Becoming Whole After Abandonment” also on the On Coming Alive project 




9 thoughts on “When the Pen Drops

  1. Beautiful! And at the end – that life-loving smile on the face of a sweet boy. Both the words and the picture made me feel warm, from the inside out. Thank you!

  2. I love your words, you are a true storyteller, poet and PURE heart. It is very hard not to compare my attempts at expressing myself with pen in hand,in the beautiful way that you do. You are SO GIFTED. You are an inspiration.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s