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 Mark, chapter one, verses nine through 15.
In those days Jesus came from Nazareth of Galilee and was baptized by John in the Jordan. And just as he was coming up out of the water, he saw the heavens torn apart and the Spirit descending like a dove on him. And a voice came from heaven, “You are my Son, the Beloved; with you, I am well pleased.”
And the Spirit immediately drove him out into the wilderness. He was in the wilderness forty days, tempted by Satan; and he was with the wild beasts, and the angels waited on him.
Now after John was arrested, Jesus came to Galilee, proclaiming the good news of God, and saying, “The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God has come near; repent, and believe in the good news.”
The other day I found the masks and snorkels Ted and I had used the last time we snorkeled together. The first time, he was a little boy and our favorite part of visiting Hawaii was finding places to don our masks, flip our fins on, dive in, and point at the amazing things we were seeing together. In 8th grade, he wrote about the day we snorkeled with sea turtles. He wrote that he loved the peace of being underwater. Already, he was dog-earing and highlighting every book on ocean life he could own.
By the last time we snorkeled together, Ted had struggled with years of addictions but had also found peace and pride developing a small business maintaining home and office aquariums. By then, he was living near his Midwestern college, and I was living in Florida, where Ted visited often. One of our favorite things to do when he did was snorkel at a local beach. I was always amazed at what Ted could tell me about the fish and corals we saw on our forays.
That day, as we sat on the beach drying off, Ted told me that he’d read about a new process in which people’s remains were being used to grow reefs in the ocean and that he intended to be part of that once he died. Neither of us knew Ted would leave this earth in only two months. But when he did, I looked into the process. Unfortunately, it was way too expensive for me to honor Ted’s wish, but I do have some ashes I intend to distribute near our favorite reefs someday when I can snorkel without my mask filling with tears.
So the other day, when I found our snorkeling gear, I found myself trying to grasp the sand in Ted’s mask as it slipped through my fingers. I want to grasp the memory of my dying son and shake him back to this life. I want the heavens to tear apart like they did when Jesus was baptized, and I want my son – healthy and happy at last – to shake forth from the veil torn between this life and the next to swim with me. At least long enough for me to tell him how pleased I am that his favorite memory included me, snorkeling among him and the turtles in paradise.
Grief is a thin place.