Wednesday, September 24, 2014

facing sacred moments

Every bereaved parent that I have ever talked to has recalled moments when they were overwhelmed by sadness at some unexpected time.  In fact, it is so common to the experience of losing a child that it becomes one of the characteristics of this particular type of grief.  Such moments are sometimes called “triggers” because they inadvertently bring up our deep sense of loss.
            “I was simply walking through the grocery store, thinking of
            our menu for supper when I faintly heard that song being played
            over the din of shoppers’ noise.  And I broke down and cried right
            there in the produce section.” 

If it weren’t so familiar, it would be funny. 

Every bereaved parent that I have ever talked to has struggled with trying to control those moments and expressing frustration and embarrassment with “falling apart” that way – especially in public. 

But, I think of these as “sacred moments”.  

Abraham Heschel (one of our generation’s wisest spiritual voices) says, “The higher goal of spiritual living is not to amass a wealth of information, but to face sacred moments.” 

If we believe this, then overwhelming moments like this,  expected or unexpected,  are worthy of our attention,  not our embarrassment or frustration or even our control.  In fact, I think of them as the moments when the memory of our beloved child is suddenly available to us with a rare clarity. 

Who wouldn’t cherish such a moment? 

Moments, objects, and people are “sacred” when their significance for us is beyond what is obvious – when they mean more than they appear to mean.  So, maybe these unexpected overwhelming emotional experiences are sacred because in that instant our child’s spirit breaks through the barrier of time to be with us. 

Who wouldn’t jump at the chance to “face” a moment like that ? 

Friday, September 12, 2014


Blessings can sneak up on you.  In fact, I think that is part of the definition of a blessing – a moment in time you could never have imagined that gives you comfort and a sense of freedom from all worry – a moment when you know, despite everything, that we are all held in a Compassionate Tenderness.

I have been grateful for many such moments . . . small and not so small.  One of the not so small moments happened earlier this year.  I was given a photo of Matt that I had never seen.  So, right off the bat, a blessing !  When you think you have seen all the pictures that exist of your loved one and then . . . you see a new one !  Oh, that is wonderful.   But a little background, first . . .

Soon after Matt died, I took one of my favorite of photos of his beautiful smile and framed it in a special frame.  Then I wrote on a small piece of paper . . .

May you be free.  May you be at peace.  May you always remember that we love and will never forget you.  

and included it beneath the photo. 

The photo that was new to me was taken a year or so before Matt died while he was taking climbing lessons that I had given him for Christmas.  He was tethered to a harness and was about to descend from the side of a cliff.  His arms were spread wide and his smile lit the whole mountain  - it was pure joy.

So, I decided to frame it where I could see it often . . . it was the very way I wanted to remember him and to be reminded that he was an intimate part of that emotion now.  So, I created a close up of it,  then decided to add the blessing to it.   I stepped back to look at it and was struck with the realization that this was no longer my blessing to Matt, but was now his blessing to me.

            May you be free.  May you be at peace.  May you always remember that I love you and will never forget you.”