Tuesday, April 30, 2013

Singing in the midst of Grief

Cemeteries do not ordinarily make me sad.  Each stone holds a name; and the name is a prayer.  It is the prayer of the person who wore that name on earth.  The name is a memory.  The name holds a  story.  The name is a song.  Cemeteries are meadows full of stories, landscapes full of songs once sung.  Cemeteries are fields of memories.  

When I was a little girl I used to go through our parish cemetery laying flowers on  all the unmarked graves.  It is a treasured memory.  I was honoring the memory of some dear unknown name.  I was celebrating a life that would, perhaps, forever remain a mystery.  As a child I would not have used those words to describe what i was doing, but these are the words that come to me now in my wisdom years.

Holy Grief!  Grief has continued to keep me company during the month of  April.  This grief has held many faces: the loss of loved ones in death, unexpected violence throughout our world, loss of jobs and of hope,  broken relationships, trees splintered into pieces because of lightening.

I have made huge efforts to be aware.  I have tried, with some success, not to numb my feelings.  I have kept company with many kinds of grief.  Just at the end of March very shortly after my friend, Dottie, died, three of my Sisters in community died.  Even though two of them were elderly and certainly  ready to take leave of this world~~still, three in  such a short time period is shocking beyond words.

Something I have had to look at in the face of these many deaths is how all too often I put my work schedule before  my presence to others.   One of the Sisters who died was Sister Gabriel.  She and I had been trying to get together for tea, for about three years it seems.  Usually it was my schedule that got in the way.  One day, about a month before she died, she said (concerning our efforts to have tea) "Well, I'll be surprised if this event takes place before we meet in the Kingdom."    Little did I realize that was a fairly accurate prediction.   These deaths have spoken volumes to me about the importance of being present to others while there is yet time.

And so as April wends its way into May I leave this month still thinking about the holiness and necessity of integrating the grief with the blossoms, with the singing and the resurrection stories.   Joy and sorrow are sisters; they live in the same house.   Remember the temple that you are and invite grief and gladness to make their home in you.  As we listen to the poetic words of the poet, Gregory Orr. may we learn how to sing through our grief.

Grief will come to you.
Grip and cling all you want,
It makes no difference.
Catastrophe?  It's just waiting to happen.
Loss? You can be certain of it.
Flow and swirl of the world.
Carried along as if by a dark current.
All you can do is keep swimming;
All you can do is keep singing.
~ Gregory Orr ~



  1. I'm sorry for your losses, this past month!
    I have good memories of being present with you during visits at the monastery and here.

    Right now, my Mom is leaving us, we don't know the exact time, but hospice is here to ease the transition.

    This post about the grave stones is beautiful! thank-you!

  2. I'm sorry for your losses, Sister Macrina. I sympathize with the condition of having mixed priorities, and often putting work first. I made that mistake recently myself, with the loss of my own mother. We can't get back those hours, but in some cases they would never be enough; we would always want to relive them again. Now, not just singing but memory as well will have to be enough.

  3. Needed this, grieving my fathers recent passing, it has been tough.