A second postcard from the landscape of grief
I am learning that it is full of surprises, this landscape of grief. Some of its arduous climbs are undulating slopes, and some of its easy vistas are beset by hidden crevasses – just ready to swallow the unwary. At times I like to think I shall swoop across it like the Grey Goose – flying nobly on alone, as if untroubled. Other times I cross it more like a snail – propelled along on a trail of sorrow and a danger to anything that grows!
Sometimes it contains a mirror, this strange landscape – and you catch sight of yourself as you go by. They must be such narrow mirrors though, for they only show one person – never two. Like feet on an inexperienced pilgrim, you ache – but mainly in the heart. To experience grief as a physical ache has been a surprise.
And then there are the people you meet along the way. Many of them are unable to speak the language here. Some don’t even try – they resort to the universal unspoken gestures of the foreign traveller – a smile, a hug, a tear shed in sympathy. These things are instantly understood, and received with thanks. Others speak as if they have an old phrase book and are urgently thumbing through to find the right page. A bit like the phrase book – you usually know what they mean, even if it ends up sounding slightly off kilter, as if you want to travel by hansom cab or pay for your shopping with dubloons!
Others find themselves in this place promoted to the rank of prophet without ever knowing it. One such was the six-year old who presented me with the bracelet below. At a children’s service on Sunday, each child was making an ‘advent bracelet’ with different coloured beads to represent the different elements of the Christmas story. The idea was that these bracelets should be taken home and used in the weeks leading up to Christmas to retell the story. He came across, sat down next to me and explained that his had another purpose:
I have made this for you, because you don’t have Fiona any more. She has gone to heaven.
I thank God for all the people I am meeting in this strange place – but today I thank Him especially for that small prophet.