I am a big fan of the “Modern Love” column in the New York Times. I recently had occasion to re-read Brooke Rinehart’s moving story “Sharing the Shame After My Arrest,” which was originally published in April 2011, and I have posted the link below. In her account, Ms. Rinehart, who had never broken a law in her life, is wakened early one morning, handcuffed, arrested, and hauled off to jail along with her husband of less than a year. It turns out that her husband has been using her name and identity to embezzle funds in his workplace. To wrap up that part of the story, after 90 days she is exonerated and her husband goes to prison.
But it is her account of those 90 days that struck me. Devastated – her whole world turned upside down – the 28-year-old Ms. Rinehart moves back home with her parents. Unable to sleep in the bedroom of her idyllic childhood, she sleeps on the sofa – and her mother sleeps opposite her on the love seat. Every night. For 90 days. Saying few words, but being a constant presence, sharing the heartbreaking load (and the late-night TV) with her daughter. Eventually, her care for her daughter causes her own health to break down. Ms. Rinehart writes:
“But my mother’s making this about her was actually saving me. To know that someone loved me so much, was willing to feel my pain so intensely that it kept her on the laundry room floor for a day, made me feel encased in a bubble of protection.
“I began to wonder if sadness was this finite thing, a big black mass of which there was only so much in the world. If so, my mother was sharing it with me so that I did not have to bear the full weight.”
I don’t know if Ms. Rinehart saw her moving tribute to her mom as a metaphorical story – a kind of parable – about God, but I certainly did.
At the end of the account, Ms. Reinhart pours out her story to her doctor:
“Something bad happened to me,” I said, unsure of how to begin. But then it all came out: my arrest, my husband’s deceit, the charges, the end of my marriage, the loss of my house: the whole harrowing ordeal. When I finished, her eyes were wet.
“How have you survived this?” she asked.
I thought for a second. “While the charges were held against me, I slept on the couch in my parents’ house. I spent 90 nights on that couch.” I paused. “And my mom? She slept for 90 days on the love seat.”
My doctor blinked, unable to hold back her tears. “What a mom,” she said softly. “What a mom.”
What a God. What a God. Emmanuel – God with us.