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 from Genesis chapter 17, verses one through seven and 15 through 16.
“When Abram was ninety-nine years old, the Lord appeared to Abram, and said to him, ‘I am God Almighty; walk before me, and be blameless. And I will make my covenant between me and you, and will make you exceedingly numerous.’ Then Abram fell on his face; and God said to him, ‘As for me, this is my covenant with you: You shall be the ancestor of a multitude of nations. No longer shall your name be Abram, but your name shall be Abraham; for I have made you the ancestor of a multitude of nations. I will make you exceedingly fruitful; and I will make nations of you, and kings shall come from you. I will establish my covenant between me and you, and your offspring after you throughout their generations, for an everlasting covenant, to be God to you and to your offspring after you.’
“God said to Abraham, ‘As for Sarai your wife, you shall not call her Sarai, but Sarah shall be her name. I will bless her, and moreover I will give you a son by her. I will bless her, and she shall give rise to nations; kings of peoples shall come from her.’
I grieve the loss of grandchildren. Unlike Sarah, unlike Abraham, I have no descendants. My only child, Ted, died before becoming a father.
I drove Ted to the rehab center the day he decided to enter treatment for heroin addiction. Ultimately, Ted beat heroin, but two years later, he still had nerve pain, and turned to Imodium for relief. He took too much, went to sleep, and didn’t wake up.
In the car that hopeful, hellish, August day, our conversation turned to Ted’s desire to be a dad some day. He told me he planned to name a child “Scott” in honor of his dad who passed when Teddy had just turned two. I still remember the proud lump in my throat. And I remember envisioning a proud, healthy Ted beaming as he held his baby in his arms, somewhere in the future.
Now I do not know what to do with the baby clothes and toys and books I saved for Ted’s children, for my grandchildren. They hang in closets and fill drawers and closets and shelves. And once in a while, I seem to find a new home for them.
I found one the other day.
I belong to an online group of women, many of whom attended the same Divinity School I did. I haven’t met most of the women, and many are much younger than I am. One of them is the mother of three boys. A little over three years ago, she gave birth to a daughter, Mina. Unexpectedly, Mina lived only three days.
Now my friend is about to give birth to a second baby girl. As it turns out, this little girl is due on my birthday. Which made me think of the baby dresses in the top drawer of the dresser in the guest room. A neighbor who happened to be in the Philippines shortly after I was born brought back a half dozen paper-thin, pure white, hand-embroidered dresses that my mother dressed me in my first summer. They’ve yellowed some, but they’re still exquisite.
I realized the dresses would fit my friend’s new daughter during her first summer, and when I asked if she would like them, she wrote me right away. “We’ll cherish the dresses. My husband is from the Philippines, and we don’t have any of his or his siblings’ baby clothes, so they will be meaningful in that way also. From the bottom of my heart, thank you. Gemma will know where the dresses came from, and she’ll know how special you and Ted are to our family.”
I had no idea my friend’s husband is from the Philippines, and it’s unlikely I’ll ever meet Gemma – or any of her family. But I feel that grief is bringing those tiny dresses home.
Grief is a thin place.