I got one of those calls that breaks your heart this evening. A member of the parish let me know her husband had died. The long struggle was over. But there were things yet to do and she needed to stay strong. I told her I would come; but she asked me to wait. She wanted her pastor to know, but she wasn’t yet ready for the visit that would inevitably access the wellsprings of grief and loss.
So I will wait.
And I will grieve with her from afar.
I know what she is talking about. There are tasks to be done, phone calls to make, family to care for, and somehow the tasks keep you moving – there is a hidden fear that if you stop you will never get going again.
So I pray from a distance that the Spirit will bear her up and surround her with whatever she needs. I pray that the angels will stand quietly at the doorways keeping the darkness away and breathing peace into her home. I pray that the long road of grief will not be walked alone. I pray that she will soon come and the songs of the community for which she will have no voice will nevertheless envelop her in what is true and ancient and enduring. And I pray that the bread broken will remind her of everything.
We are drawing near to Christmas. The season of hope and anticipation is about to begin. Our eyes will search the horizon for the light of the new dawn and find it shining already in the child of Mary. We will be reminded that this is not a mere birthday; it is the mystery of the incarnation – that the author of life lives among us, is one of us, breathes and weeps and laughs as we laugh. The timeless is time-bound. The all-knowing must learn to speak and walk. Our mortal flesh is revealed a fit vessel for the holy. And in him all things are made holy.
Even our dying.
And our grieving.
The tears that are wrenched from us are holy tears, the fruit of love. The ache is a holy ache, the product of the miracle of lives entwined and bound in mutual care. Even the strange emotions of regret and guilt are sacred, for who regrets what was done or not done to one for whom they did not care?
Holy grief, the fruit of holy joy and holy love and holy daily life even when it did not seem holy. Holy because it was held in the hands of God, the incarnate God, the God with us, Immanuel.
The manger, the cross, the empty tomb, the breath of the Spirit; the healings, the mercies, the challenge and forgiveness – all this is there for us in the bread, even when we cannot see for tears.