It’s been a heavy week at our church. We are still reeling from J’s death and will be for a long time. People are almost desperate to find ways to help the family. Meanwhile lots of people, especially members of my guild, have asked, and how is the pastor doing? I’m thankful for that. The pastor is OK.
For me, this week has been about getting the kids into school, getting back into the swing of ministry, and working with Chalice to launch this book at the end of the month. But the loss of J is on my mind all the time.
Robert and I were staying at a B&B near Shenandoah National Park the night J died. It felt strange to be there, and I thought a lot about coming home. This decision is always a struggle for pastors. But the family was sitting vigil in Minnesota, and if I couldn’t be there, I guess it didn’t much matter where I was. And it had been a long time since Robert and I had gotten away together.
We went for a long hike, and as I picked my way over the rocks and tree roots, I thought about J, and about how death does not often come in a clean and simple way. There will be long, steady, sloping declines and then a sudden upward turn on the path, in which a new hope that maybe, maybe, the outcome will be different. There are moments of great beauty along the way, but also, it is true, moments of tedium, waiting for the landscape to change, for something to happen.
There is effort involved in a body letting go.
By the time we got back from the hike, the family was ready for scripture and prayer, which we shared over the phone. Thankfully, the speaker phone and cell connections behaved themselves for that short time.
That night I saw a single firefly, dipping and flashing above the lawn. I’m not sure, but I think it’s late in the season for fireflies. And I gave thanks for J. He is all free and light and beauty now.
And yesterday during my run, I came across two gigantic butterflies, and again, I gave thanks, but this time for the two brothers who, we hope and pray and audaciously and recklessly believe, are united again in the heart of God.
But mainly this week, my heart is broken for a fellow mother. Father too, of course, and sister. But it’s my mother’s heart that grieves the little lost ones.
In addition to fireflies and butterflies, I am also receiving good words at the right time. I am grateful for Rebecca Kirkpatrick and her recent meditation, called God is a Tower of Mothers. Her words are healing but the images she shares are especially poignant for me as I think about what it means for a mother to lose her child.
It reminds me of a work of art I featured recently on the blog, Dark Elegy, which commemorates those who were lost in the terrorist attack on the Pan Am flight over Lockerbie, Scotland. The artist created 75 sculptures of the wives and mothers as they heard the terrible news of their loved ones’ deaths. I wish I could walk among these figures.
Here is a link to Dark Elegy. A warning that each page has music that starts automatically—it’s fine, peaceful stuff but just be aware.
Peace be with you.