Do not stand at my grave and weep.
I am not there; I do not sleep.
I am a thousand winds that blow.
I am the diamond glints on snow.
I am the sunlight on ripened grain.
I am the gentle autumn rain.
When you awaken in the morning’s hush
I am the swift uplifting rush
Of quiet birds in circled flight.
I am the soft stars that shine at night.
Do not stand at my grave and cry;
I am not there; I did not die.
–Abigal Van Buren, 1932
Precious in the sight of the Lord
is the death of God’s faithful ones.
- Psalm 116:15
I share these words of inspiration because the connect with a conversation I had with another grieving soul. Grief opens up I believe, as does all pain, to new ways to view our world.
I shared this with another person who, like me, is grieving the loss of a spouse and trying to make sense of it: I read some professional literature on grief before my own wife suddenly passed, in order to help further my work with the grieving as a hospice chaplain. The counseling literature said that they used to encourage people to kind of “move on” and “lay aside” who the person was, but found that doesn’t work. Instead they now talk about helping people change their relationship with their lost loved one, even deepening it, but in a different way.
For me the poetry I write which I have now shared on my blog helps that. I feel this is what Abigail Van Buren’s poem above is about. I feel I’m learning new sides of Kat now, but not as my wife anymore. Now as two people whose lives have moved in very different directions — mine to continue whatever work God sent me to this world to do; her as one now present in all the things that are holy, as my grandmother whose presence I sometime still feel is and my friend Rabbi Jernigan for whom the same is true. In the communion of the saints, there is a type of relationship and knowing there, deeper than words. But it is spiritual knowing, one that frees her to the life she has in the next world and me to a new life in this world. That I can do. Laying her aside? Never. She will always be a part of me. I am the man I have grown to be, I feel a good man, largely because of her. But she would challenge me to live, to love, to serve, to share with the same passion and freedom she did every day of her life. It is not easy, but is the task set before me.
Whatever you are going through in grief, know that moving forward does not mean laying aside all the good and loveliness your lost one brought you. It means instead knowing themself and you in a new way. It means embracing that they are entering into another realm of life, one it is not your time for, and you are now called to embrace a new realm of life in this world. The days ahead may be hard, but they are never alone. In the communion of the saints, they are present. And you are surrounded by so much love, the love of God, the love of all who pray and stand with you, the love of all who have gone before you into glory, and who go ahead of you as angels of mercy preparing your next steps.
Blessings on that journey!
Your progressive redneck preacher,