Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted. - Jesus in the Gospel of Matthew 5:4
Sitting on the granite tombstone of my great grandfather; it always seemed so big. On this day it was a seat that held me up when my body was overwhelmed with grief. My shivering from the freezing cold had subsided under the heaviness of my crying.
I was broken. There in the middle of the deep Golden Pond woods where no one could hear, I lay my flowers on my brother’s grave and sat on the tombstone of my ancestors. And cried. I couldn’t stop. Every breath was too deep and too hard. How would I ever be able to stop?
She walked out of the woods and straight to the flowers. The dirt still looked fresh on his grave, even though the frozen ground and flurries held the space. She smelled the flowers, as if to acknowledge their beauty. And then, she held me. She stared right at me, and my heaving sighs stilled. She didn’t look at me with fear as if to jump quickly away if I made a move. She held my eyes. Her compassion surrounded me. My tears stopped. My breath became so slow and present. She wasn’t leaving. I couldn’t move.
She kept holding my gaze. As if to say:“Why are you crying? He is not here. He has gone on. You will see him again.”
Her presence was comfort for my breaking heart. Her compassion immeasurable. She lingered.
Just as quietly as she arrived, she turned and walked slowly back into the woods. It has been a long time since that moment. I still remember her compassion. When I pause to think of this kindness, I am deeply comforted. People also reached out to us during those early months of our grieving. And still…nearly 42 years later, people are still reaching out to say, “I remember”. Whether it is a word or a faded picture or a story he left on their lives; presence of spirit brings comfort.
On All Saints Day we remember the people of faith who have gone before us. In our church we will celebrate them with banners and singing and joy in worship. When we gather this Sunday, we will share Holy Communion with the shared belief that one day we will all feast together at the heavenly banquet. It is a glimpse into heaven on earth. One of our most holy days.
I got up from my great grandfather’s tombstone and stood over the dirt where my brother’s body is buried. The flowers were beautiful even though I knew the cold January air would only hold them for a little while. I walked slowly back to my car. Comforted and in peace.
I knew there would be more days of mourning, some of which would still leave me holding my stomach and heaving with tears. But this moment with God and a doe who came to visit me in my grief is also part of my story, and it never stops giving peace.
God, please bring comfort to your people who are grieving. Open our minds and spirits to receive you in whatever ways you offer your love and compassion to us today. Help us to celebrate the lives of all who have gone before us, and to honor the lingering gift of their love. Amen.
What to do when someone you love is grieving:
You don’t have to have the perfect words to say. Sometimes presence is enough. Often, it is enough. Write the letter. Make the call. Stop by. Offer your hand. Give a hug. God takes care of the rest. Trust.