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 scripture is Ezekiel, chapter 18, verses 21 through 28.
If the wicked turn away from all their sins that they have committed and keep all my statutes and do what is lawful and right, they shall surely live; they shall not die. None of the transgressions that they have committed shall be remembered against them; for the righteousness that they have done they shall live. Have I any pleasure in the death of the wicked, says the Lord God, and not rather that they should turn from their ways and live? But when the righteous turn away from their righteousness and commit iniquity and do the same abominable things that the wicked do, shall they live? None of the righteous deeds that they have done shall be remembered; for the treachery of which they are guilty and the sin they have committed, they shall die.
Yet you say, “The way of the Lord is unfair.” Hear now, O house of Israel: Is my way unfair? Is it not your ways that are unfair? When the righteous turn away from their righteousness and commit iniquity, they shall die for it; for the iniquity that they have committed they shall die. Again, when the wicked turn away from the wickedness they have committed and do what is lawful and right, they shall save their life. Because they considered and turned away from all the transgressions that they had committed, they shall surely live; they shall not die.
Fatima is a bus ride away from Lisbon, Portugal, and the shrine to the Virgin Mary and the children who saw her a century ago sits with dignity in green countryside. But is the white I remember most, because everything about the shrine – inside and out -- itself as white. White stretches of plazas between churches, white candles to burn as prayers, white marble where the remains of the children – two girls and a boy -- lay. The candles are the only thing you can buy in Fatima, but step outside the shrine area only a few yards, and you’ll find store after store carrying nothing but rosaries. Wooden, glass, plastic, silver – rosaries so thick they hang like beaded curtains.
The shrine was crowded the day I visited one day near the first Mothers’ Day without my child. Ted had struggled with addiction. When he was in the talon of its grip, he lost himself and did and said hurtful and irrational things. When he wasn’t in the grip, Ted was ashamed and afraid of falling into the downward spiral again. He spent time in hell on this earthly side of the veil.
The shrine was hushed but crowded, and I was swept with the crowd toward the marble markers of the children’s graves. I noticed some people placing rosaries on them and praying. I had no rosaries. But, drawn to the boy’s grave, I stopped and let the crowd pass around me. I reached around my neck as if I were dreaming, and unclasped the necklace I always wear. On a thin gold chain hangs a gold imprint of Ted’s thumbprint and an aquamarine, which is our shared birthstone.
I placed the necklace on the marble marker and wept. As the world stilled around me, I heard a woman’s voice within me. It was not a young woman’s voice, but a voice smoothed and varnished by age. “Your son is in Paradise,” she said with solemn certainty. I stood there a long time as her voice echoed inside me. And as I bent down for the necklace, I knew peace.
My son is in Paradise.
Grief is a thin place.