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 from Isaiah chapter 55, verses six through 11:
Seek the Lord while he may be found,
call upon him while he is near;
let the wicked forsake their way,
and the unrighteous their thoughts;
let them return to the Lord, that he may have mercy on them,
and to our God, for he will abundantly pardon.
For my thoughts are not your thoughts,
nor are your ways my ways, says the Lord.
For as the heavens are higher than the earth,
so are my ways higher than your ways
and my thoughts than your thoughts.
For as the rain and the snow come down from heaven,
and do not return there until they have watered the earth,
making it bring forth and sprout,
giving seed to the sower and bread to the eater,
so shall my word be that goes out from my mouth;
it shall not return to me empty,
but it shall accomplish that which I purpose,
and succeed in the thing for which I sent it.
No matter how ill someone is, nobody how deeply we believe in heaven, none of us want to return our beloved to God. The veil between this life and the next may be thin, but it almost taunts us because that veil of separation is so painful. Riffing on today’s scripture, the ways of the dead are not the ways of the living. Their ways are higher than our ways, and their thoughts are not their thoughts, nor are our ways their ways. I don’t know what that separation feels like on their side of the veil, but I know that on ours, it hurts.
I buried my first husband and our son 25 years apart. As I stood at Scott’s grave, Toddler Teddy’s hand left mine for a moment. Teddy reached down and handed me a feather. I’ve no idea what kind of bird it came from, but I can understand why it caught a 26-month-old’s eye. Half the feather is a soft grey and the upper part is a reddish-blond, similar to the color Teddy’s was as a baby, with grey and white tips. It is as soft as his hand was in mine. I’ve kept the feather all this time in the Book of Common Prayer Scott gave me our last Christmas together – the prayerbook I used at both their graves.
I had intended to take the feather from my prayerbook and bury it atop Ted’s wooden urn, but I forgot – and I’m glad I did. As it turns out, the feather from the day Teddy comforted me we stood at his DaDa’s grave was only the first. At uncanny times, I am comforted with a feather. One time, I was out walking Zelda, the standard poodle puppy I got to cheer me a few months after Ted’s death and ruminating to dog-whispering Ted that I wish I knew that he knew about her. Several steps later, Zelda tugged on her leash, I looked down to find a purely black feather, as inky as she is.
Even as I write this, I notice a small feather on my sleeve.
Grief is a thin place.