Grief is a thin place. A place so thin, it’s hard to tell where earth ends and heaven begins.
Grief is a place so thin that it’s where the living and the dead feel one another’s love.
I’m the Rev. Lisa Hamilton, and I grieve. First, I’ll read a scripture appointed for today. Then I’ll struggle with those words through the lens of grief. I’m glad you’ve joined me.
Today’s reading is Matthew chapter 6, verses one through six and 16 through 21.
Jesus said, "Beware of practicing your piety before others in order to be seen by them; for then you have no reward from your Father in heaven.
"So whenever you give alms, do not sound a trumpet before you, as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and in the streets, so that they may be praised by others.
Truly I tell you, they have received their reward. But when you give alms, do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing, so that your alms may be done in secret; and your Father who sees in secret will reward you.
"And whenever you pray, do not be like the hypocrites; for they love to stand and pray in the synagogues and at the street corners, so that they may be seen by others. Truly I tell you, they have received their reward. But whenever you pray, go into your room and shut the door and pray to your Father who is in secret; and your Father who sees in secret will reward you.
"And whenever you fast, do not look dismal, like the hypocrites, for they disfigure their faces so as to show others that they are fasting. Truly I tell you, they have received their reward. But when you fast, put oil on your head and wash your face, so that your fasting may be seen not by others but by your Father who is in secret; and your Father who sees in secret will reward you.
"Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust consume and where thieves break in and steal; but store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust consumes and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also."
When I was a girl, I adored my grandfather, who lived next door. PawPaw always had time for me, and I happily followed him around as he gardened and mended tools in the basement. He took his Christianity seriously, and a sign hung over the basement stairwell. It was a fuzzy cardboard, olive green, and in bright gothic print it proclaimed, as it’s written in the King James Version,"Lay not up for yourselves treasures upon earth, where moth and rust doth corrupt, and where thieves break through and steal; But lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust doth corrupt, and where thieves do not break through nor steal: For where your treasure is, there will your heart be also.”
You can imagine the way that once familiar sign lives in my head: “For where your treasure is, there will your heart be also.” In mourning the losses of my first husband and our child, those deeply-imprinted words on PawPaw’s sign have inspired words of grief: “In the ashes of my treasures is my heart.”
Do our treasured dead know our hearts are with them? We live and love in this world, which they once knew. But we also love in a world beyond our knowing, because it is the place of those we love but see no longer.
The gravestones read Scott Lane Hamilton and Edward Lane Hamilton. Scott and I chose to honor my beloved grandfather, whom Scott knew only through my stories, by giving PawPaw’s middle name to our son for his first name. We called our Edward “Teddy.” I was always grateful to PawPaw for being the kind of person we hoped our Teddy would become: loving, gentle, faithful to the living out the compassion of Jesus Christ. And Ted was. And much more.
The day friends and family helped me unveil Scott’s and Ted’s gravestones, I asked my brother to walk a few yards with me to our grandfather’s monument. As we stood there, I took a smooth stone from my pocket that had the words “Thank You” engraved on it. And I placed the stone on PawPaw’s grave.
Grief is a thin place.