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 Psalm 19:
The heavens declare the glory of God,
and the firmament shows his handiwork.
One day tells its tale to another,
and one night imparts knowledge to another.
Although they have no words or language,
and their voices are not heard,
Their sound has gone out into all lands,
and their message to the ends of the world.
In the deep has he set a pavilion for the sun;
it comes forth like a bridegroom out of his chamber;
it rejoices like a champion to run its course.
It goes forth from the uttermost edge of the heavens
and runs about to the end of it again;
nothing is hidden from its burning heat.
The law of the Lord is perfect
and revives the soul;
the testimony of the Lord is sure
and gives wisdom to the innocent.
The statutes of the Lord are just
and rejoice the heart;
the commandment of the Lord is clear
and gives light to the eyes.
The fear of the Lord is clean
and endures for ever;
the judgments of the Lord are true
and righteous altogether.
More to be desired are they than gold,
more than much fine gold,
sweeter far than honey,
than honey in the comb.
By them also is your servant enlightened,
and in keeping them there is great reward.
Who can tell how often he offends?
cleanse me from my secret faults.
Above all, keep your servant from presumptuous sins;
let them not get dominion over me;
then shall I be whole and sound,
and innocent of a great offense.
Let the words of my mouth and the meditation of my
heart be acceptable in your sight,
O Lord, my strength and my redeemer.
I am no psalmist. The psalmist longs for God’s will above all else. “More than much fine gold, sweeter far than honey, than honey in the comb.”
I long for my beloved dead above all else. I can imagine nothing sweeter than their laughter. I hold great hope in heaven. I imagine reunions beyond my imagining.
On the edge of my hometown, there’s a little graveyard in the shadow of the brick building that was once a church. I am connected to most everyone whose remains are buried there – at least in the old section. I took comfort in the corner where my first husband’s marker was in the shadow of my grandparents’ stone. Scott and I had met in my hometown, and he embraced it as his own. Our son, Ted, and I planted many a flower and bulb in that corner.
Twenty-five years after Scott’s death, the time came to bury Ted’s ashes. I was consoled by thinking of part of him sharing part of that corner whose soil he knew. But the groundskeeper had to explain to me that there was no more room in that corner. He did so gently, but I felt the lack of space to yet another cruel reality.
The groundskeeper found a spot in the old section that would be large enough, and so I that is where I wept as I placed Ted’s urn that autumn. The next summer, I returned to place Scott’s urn beside our son’s. A friend of Scott’s and a friend who is a priest would join me to hold a quiet ceremony.
As the day drew near, it became increasingly important to me to have flowers at the gravesite. Ted and I had taken comfort in planting flowers for Scott. And so I found what looked to be a lovely summer arrangement online – mostly white, but punctuated by the dramatic pink rubrum lilies we’d chosen for our wedding. When I learned the arrangement would cost $150, I was taken aback, but ordered them any way.
A few days later, one of Ted’s friends got in touch with me. He had been on a state website that listed funds citizens were owed. He didn’t find any for himself, but when he typed in Ted’s name, it was clear that Ted was owed…$150. I claimed the funds easily enough, although it was never clear why he was owed the money.
As anyone who has loved someone beset by addiction of any kind understands, it’s a complex situation, and it draws problems to it like an unrelenting magnet. One of those problems is invariably money. Early on, Ted promised told me he’d repay me every penny I lent him for lawyers and probation fees and rent and one of our shared goals for him was financial independence. We were getting there, but we never reached it, and that was a source of guilt for Ted, and of practical concerns for me.
The June day of re-interring Scott’s ashes was what I’ve come to think of as “practically perfect” weather. “Practically perfect” was the weather headline the day Scott had died so many Junes before.
The flower arrangement itself was beyond “practically perfect.” It was exquisite. As I knelt on the ground to gently place Scott’s urn in the ground, I was so grateful to look up from that gaping hole of death to see a glorious mix of roses and snapdragons and lilies, especially the rubrums in every hue of pink.
But mostly, I remember the bees. They hummed throughout our prayers and tears, busy with pollinating, bridging blossoms and, in ways I couldn’t understand, braiding together earthly regrets with eternal love.
It is always hard to leave that graveyard. But that day, flanked by two friends, with the vision of the flowers Ted bought for his dad, and with the hum of the bees in my ears, I was able.
Grief is a thin place.