Every Wednesday

Every Wednesday I will post something about grief. Sometimes it will be a reflection on an aspect of grief’s landscape. Now and then I will share from my own journey of grief, because in the sharing of our stories we find strength and build a community of people that support one another.

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Thursday, October 2, 2014

Brother Sun, Sister Moon: The Little Things

Grief has made it obvious that something has gone wrong. It constantly reminds us of everything that we’ve lost. The journey of grief moves us away from death to where we become aware of what is left, and for a long time, it doesn’t seem like much.

It was half a year before I could perceive the simple, physical pleasures of the world again, like the taste of food and the scent of roses. It was a full year before I felt anything that could be called a moment of joy.

The feast day of Francis of Assisi is this Saturday. In this harvest season when I drive past golden corn and soybean fields, I think of him and his Canticle of Creation in which he praises the beauty of the natural world, including giving thanks for brother Sun and sister Moon.

In the background, I hear Donovan singing the soundtrack to the 1972 Zeffirelli movie, and see Francis running through the fields of the scenic Umbrian countryside composing his words of praise as he goes – lyrics of glorious flowers, singing birds, and glowing fields of wheat.  
Except that Francis began this poem when he was seriously ill. How was he able to sing praises of joy when he felt so horrible that he couldn't get out of bed? 

In exile from home and family, perhaps he began his canticle after days of being cold when a single ray of warm sunshine touched his skin, like the comforting touch of a friend, and this was enough to inspire him. Rather than moan about all that was going wrong in his life, he looked around and discovered the simple glories of the day and celebrated what he had left.

We look for bits of light after a tragedy. We weave the tattered scraps. We listen in the silence for presence. With roots in the Holocaust, Yitzhak Perlman said, “Our task is to make music with what remains.” 

It’s hard to give thanks for what we think are little things because the loss of someone we love seems so huge that it negates everything else. Then like Francis, one day we take stock of what is left, and find there are a lot of little things that we enjoy. We also realize that it was the little things about the person we loved that added up into someone wonderful.

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