I received a call earlier this evening from a woman who had just been told that her husband had died. I went with her to the nursing home to which he had been discharged this morning. Now the body was still and pale.
I can only describe this as holy ground, that place where life is wrenched apart and the unimaginable stands before us. It is holy ground, because it is so distant from ordinary life. It is other. Wholly other.
Holy ground is dangerous ground. Grief and guilt and fear and anger and sorrow and loss, memory and hope and all the heights and depths of life, threaten to tumble out, to overwhelm us, overcome us, drown us, destroy us. We never leave such a place the same. Like Jacob, we walk away wounded.
Holy ground is sacred ground, ground where heaven meets us, where fire burns without consuming, where footsteps not our own bear our cross, share our sorrow, hold our hand, wash our feet, forgive our sins, heal our hearts.
Time and not-time touch here, the present and the eternal, the seen and the unseen. Borders are crossed. We glimpse across the far horizon. Lives are changed. One never forgets having stood at the rim of the Grand Canyon.
Childbirth is also holy ground, outside all normal experience. There, too, unimaginable emotions overwhelm us. There, too, is awe and stillness and wonder and incredulity and joy and fear far beyond the everyday. There, too, life is forever changed.
Holy ground is beginnings and endings. Birth and death. Dying and Rising. Alpha and Omega.
I come home. I turn on the TV out of habit, but it has no power to entertain or amuse or distract. I am still on the pilgrimage home from the holy place. It will take a while for the ordinary to reappear.
And my thoughts are still with the woman I have left at her husband’s side waiting for her son, whose journey back to ordinary will be a long and difficult one.
And even when she makes it back to the realm of ordinary, there will be a limp. We have walked on holy ground.