The Migration of Mourning

by Elizabeth Sterling

A most brilliant thing happened to me the other day. I was driving in a car with a friend. We began talking about grieving. And she told a story of a man who shared his grieving process after his mother died. The man said, "first I tried to find her in her belongings, her stuff. Not finding her there, I continued to search. I tried to find her at the cemetery. She was not there either. It took me quite a while but I finally found her. She was in me!" As my friend was relaying what the grieving man shared, I smiled inside because I knew the ending before she told me. In searching for Bennett, I have found him in my heart.

Just after we had shared our understanding of grieving and mourning, we saw a huge, I mean gigantic, flock of geese flying overhead. And when the geese left our view, there was the perfect sliver of a moon in the shape of a smile just above the horizon. I believe that was God smiling at me for reaching this understanding of death and bereavement.

When Bennett took his last breath a goose honked overhead. I always see Bennett flying away on a goose with a smile and wave. John and I purchased a handmade mobile of geese made from birch bark flying in formation when we were on vacation, probably when Bennett was conceived. That mobile was hanging almost above Bennett when he died. I go to sleep each night and wake up each morning in the spot were John and I held Bennett in his last physical moments. That mobile still hangs in the same sacred spot. I was cleaning the other day (a rare event;), and the mobile changed directions. I had the mind to change it back, but something told me it was time for those geese to fly in a new direction.

The geese have really been on the move this month. And I just love to watch them. Their connectedness, fluidity and teamwork is something we can all learn from. I know some look at these birds with disdain because of the waste they leave behind and the problems of overpopulation. Recently, I saw a poster of invasive species of Pennsylvania that had Canada geese posted as one of the bandits. But to me, these are creatures of God. Birds have historically been symbolic of being of both the earth and heaven. Birds are often messengers of God in my life. My heart flies to heaven with them.

Right before Bennett was born I heard a mourning dove cry and saw an image of Uncle Tom (who died of cancer) holding my yet to be born son. It scared me because I thought it meant that when Bennett was born Tom would die. At the time of course, I had no idea what the real message was. I had no way of knowing both would die from cancer in less than a two-year span.

One morning this week during my time of prayer and meditation, I heard the cry of the mourning dove again. And a few seconds later, I heard the honk of a goose. In my mind, I saw my soul being carried into a new direction away from the darkness of mourning back into the LIGHT of life.

I think some of us fear leaving our mourning. We fear leaving the shadows of our caves means leaving our loved ones behind. In the darkness we find comfort for the sharp edges of pain and suffering. The shadows soften those sharp edges. Mourning is needed. We need to slow down to be healed. We need to explore the darkness of our pain and to face our fears. But eventually it is time to move onto a new land; one that has abundant warmth for our hearts, food for our souls, and joy for our lives. And when we take the step back to life, we don't leave our loved ones behind. In fact, we find them even more alive in our hearts and in our lives when we migrate back to LIGHT.

"There is a time for everything,
and a season for every activity under heaven;
…a time to weep and a time to laugh,
a time to mourn and a time to dance."
-Ecclesiastes 3:1, 4


The other side of darkness
by Elizabeth Sterling

I explore these caves hoping to find what I have lost
And those memories lead me further into darkness
An explorer in emotions deeply buried
Times I've tried so hard to remember
But quickly abandoned when it seemed too painful to continue
Here in the dark I examine each one

Safe in these caves I fear not
These tears, these sharp edges
Are softer in the shadows
How can pain be painful when it is all that you've got?
I creep along and tire easily
As I delve into these crevices of fear and pain

Like a frog in winter my pulse slows to a stop
My frozen tears form stalactites
And no longer able to resist the pull to sleep
My body tumbles into a heap
Before I close my eyes for what might be the last time
My simple prayer is… "I care not if I ever wake"

I slip easily into a long, silent slumber
The rest my soul needs to repair
The broken shards of ice that my heart has become
Mending fibers of my being
The core rebuilds the armor it needs to continue
And in the dream, I find peace once again

The sweet song of life awakens me
But I am reluctant to join after my comforting sleep
The cacophony that drove me into this abyss
Has now become a beautiful symphony
That seems to call me deeper still
To a song that only my heart hears

With the warmth I feel,
I begin to hear drip, drip, drip
And the slimy cave walls dissolve into luminous pools
Reflecting a LIGHT
A most brilliant LIGHT that swallows up this illusion I have created
Revealing the other side of darkness, absent of fear

Beloved One, thank you for giving us the courage to find our souls. You are a safety line that we need in this world. Thank You for revealing the other side of darkness through your Son. No crevasse is too deep and dark for You. Thank You for guiding us out of the chaos of death and darkness. Who can be afraid with You leading us through to the other side? Thank You for beckoning us with your beautiful symphony of eternal life. Let the Light of your love shine from our hearts to everyone we meet. Amen.

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