Saturday, July 27, 2019

The Burning of Grief and Love

This is a strange time of life.

Lately, as I go through the "usual day," I keep bumping into things that remind me of my Dad: a picture, an old book, some music, or even some things not directly connected to him - common things like ivy (because Dad always trimmed the ivy and kept it neat along the side of the house I grew up in).

When this happens, a whole line of memories gets tapped, and with them come a variety of emotions that I don't even understand, and the awareness of the deep presence of a person in the history of my life, and an apparently gaping absence of that person "here-and-now" ... though not entirely. Past and present seem almost to merge for an instant, and I feel a sense of melancholy, but also peace.

Is this "grief"?

It hasn't shaken my faith, though it has made me more aware that faith depends on God's grace and that it adheres to mysteries beyond my comprehension. Clearly, faith does not provide a cheap escape from the pain and the strangeness of grief. I am grateful for my faith, which is a gift that takes me beyond myself. It brings consolation, but it is also the adherence of a frail human being who lives within the fragility of the present, with the fluxuations of internal and external changes from one moment to the next.

It's a mysterious experience that, sooner or later, everyone passes through.

We miss the people we love so much! When people die, they seem to vanish from the realm of everything we know from our experience of life, all that we see and feel and touch, all that we can measure and analyze scientifically or engage with on an ordinary practical level.

But there is still love - a light and a fire greater than the sun and all the stars. Stars burn out, but love burns through to something more, something larger than this universe and its limits. When I say "I love you" to my Dad (I feel dizzy and lost in the fog of all this, but still "I love YOU, Dad!") and whenever we say "I love you" to those who have passed away from this life, our hearts "find them" in their very reality as persons; and our hearts know that they are living in a new way.

They live in the Universe of Love, which our eyes are not designed to see (at least, not yet) but our hearts know it.

Our hearts long for it!

Maybe the pain of grief is part of our own "burning through" (beyond the limits of what we now know and measure) to that definitive world, that definitive life that our hearts whisper about, that is the promise of all our efforts to grow as persons - that Universe where Love is everything, where the embrace is all-sustaining, all-fulfilling, and never ends.