It starts tentatively. The tendrils emerge and begin to sink into the dirt. And then, they spread. It doesn’t look like much from the surface, but follow the threads of the taproot and see just how far the base can go.
Entire systems take their place in the network.
I lay on my back, resting, held by the earth, and followed the root system to the water. There, that’s the creek behind my house. There, that’s the overflow pond for the mill. There, that’s the place where everything runs to the yadkin. There, that’s the edge of this lake, and that one.
A tree’s roots expand far further than it’s canopy. Trees, even the ones you see overturned after a storm, only show their closest ball of dirt, their roots sink far further and much wider than you can perceive.
Deep and broad, sinking and spreading, settling in and branching out.
Entire forests talk with each other.
I can feel the waterways moving together.
We are all downhill and upstream from someone.
I am settling in to where I am. There are so many unknowns, but here is one known: the trees taste the sunlight. And they rest in the darkness.
I can feel the ground holding me up, and my roots sustaining me, as I feed back into the ground. The waters around me, they flow and rush and trickle by, and I am sustained by them. This network, of mycelia, of fungus, of ancient things releasing their lives back into the soil, this too sustains me, as we all turn back towards the earth.
Another ring takes shape, telling a story of another year, new wrinkles that show where the laughter and tears have taken residence and made their home in my form.
The lawyer will be in touch with the arrangements.
If I have my math right, I have had a grandmother die when I was 9, 29, and 39.
I was 23 when GG died. I don’t know when Granny Ruth died.
And perhaps that’s part of it. That we didn’t know where Sara was. Couldn’t know. Weren’t allowed to know. The hospital, maybe, probably, but no clue which one. And so, dredging up 30 years of trauma on top of continued biting words and relentless refusals to communicate. Everyone’s individual versions of their own story they are telling themselves.
Relationships wielded like power.
This is part of my grieving.
I don’t have any grandmothers left to lose. Though I will grieve when my grandfather’s wife dies, she’s been in our circles for ages, and married to my grandfather for 3 years.
We are losing our oldest generation.
I read scripture, Isaiah 35, at Janet’s funeral. I sang at Ted’s.
And by chance, we’re singing the hymn I sang at Ted’s funeral in worship this sunday.
How great thou art.
I broke, when I was copy-editing the slides.
I have been holding the images of the love that they were able to share, in the way they knew how: conversations, bargain hunting, good food, opening up their home once we were part of their family again, the high school “graduation” party they threw in my honor for their friends. Love always on their terms.
I last saw Sara in May of 2019. I took my two children down to the place she was living, and gave my elder daughter a puppy stuffy to give to her, to remind her of one of the dogs she had most recently. I did it because my only memory of my great grandmother B was on a porch in Florida, a rainbow sun catcher, and a screen door. Our visit was difficult inside it’s vagueness. I don’t know if she knew who I was. But I told her I loved her. And let my eldest make a memory that she might remember.
I wonder, if I’d met Sara before I was 13 if I’d feel different. I remember asking my parents to ask them, when I was around sixteen, what I should call my grandparents.
My loss is complex with words that went unsaid, with relationships left unfinished.
I’m grateful for the love that was shared. For laughter. For river walks and spanish moss and mountain hummingbirds. For Ted getting extra gas so I could make my way home after a visit when it was $4 a gallon 13 years ago. For finding the perfect skirt with Sara. For garlic butter and canned sweet tea. For a pool that looks more like a swamp and a Norfolk Pine that stood taller than the two story house. For Soft Baby. For sleeping in the twin beds in The Manor House. For the hospitality that was shared.
I’m grateful for the love that Sara shared.
In her honor, I wrote the verse that a friend pointed out years ago that is missing between 3&4 in How Great Thou Art. Because between the cross and the revelation there is life, still.
We live with God, in Christ now resurrected,
and live and breathe, and work to love and serve.
And as we share, in faith-filled work and practice,
Dear anger, thank you for showing me the injustice around me.
Dear grief, thank you for seeing the world in it’s brokenness.
Dear loneliness, thank you for reminding me how I need community.
Dear solitude, thank you for leading me to my own self.
Dear patience, thank you for showing up when I get too frustrated.
Dear weakness, thank you for giving me other people to rely on.
Dear limits, thank you for revealing where I need help.
Dear tummy, thank you for holding me up. Thank you for your soft reminder of the children borne inside of me, the way your gentle give and faint scars display the care you held for my children born and unborn. Thank you for holding the food that sustains me, the way you balance against my back, the breath you take in when I breathe deeply. Thank you for reminding me that softness is also a gift, that the place where I laid my children as they grew can still be a place of comfort and rest for them. Remind me to take this as an invitation for my rest and comfort, too.
Dear feet and knees, thank you for holding me up. Even when you crack and break, or slip out of place, you return to supporting me. Thank you for reminding me that healing doesn’t always have to be linear. That support can be best as it curves along your contours.
Dear self. You have done so much. Thank you for what you have learned, for who you have been in the past, and who you will be in the future. Thank you for learning to have grace for yourself, in the present and the past, for knowing that what you have learned has changed you, and for withholding judgment for your decisions from when you had a different set of options available to you.
Remember to carry this grace with you, not only for yourself, but for those around you, your friends, kids, family, neighbors, and co-laborers. We are all still learning.
I’m needing grateful to be a theme of my week. So I’m making it so. I wrote my midweek family message on gratitude, and in my preparation, I decided to get into the psalms, because they’re usually good at giving me grist for my family work. There are just so many emotions in there. And gratitude is one of them.
Something that I didn’t specifically share with the kids, but that I still alluded to is that gratitude happens, that people are thankful, even when the world is not perfect, when the situation is not the best for the folks involved, when there are still challenges to be faced and oppression still to be fought against.
The psalmists drench their bed with tears and are still grateful. (Psalm 6:6)
The psalmists praise God from prison. (Psalm 142:7)
The psalmists cry out for justice, and with the same breath they call out their thanks. (Psalm 9)
I’m not saying that there is no reason to despair. I am saying that despair is not all there is.
There is gratitude. I can, we can give thanks. To God. For things small and ordinary and large and momentous.
I’m grateful for the prayers that I hold from the young folks I met on Saturday.
I’m grateful for the temporary cool weather that has given us a break from the sweltering heat.
I’m grateful for ice pops in a rainbow of colors and scissors to open them with and the ability to be extravagantly generous with them, sharing them with one pair for at least four return trips.
I’m grateful for the first time I got to lead worship as an ordained elder in full connection, for the prayer I shared, and the story I told to the kids present.
I’m grateful for a community that is willing to explore new ways of practicing ministry.
I’m grateful for coffee, and leftover cake, and impromptu tea parties, and kids bursting with a surprise.
I’m grateful for a night of unbroken rest, after two weeks of restless early mornings.
I’m grateful for diverse stories, and libraries, and ebooks, and authors who give resources right after the dedication, before the story even begins.
I’m grateful for colleagues who are navigating a bunch of different expressions of a shared situation, where we can share our experience and learn from various iterations around us.
I’m grateful for people who use exclamation marks in emails, even if we’ve never met, with exuberance and extravagance.
I like to play my music loud. I was riding in my car recently, listening to a new song that lets the base line rip and thrum and wondering who were the first people to experience this vibration, rattle, and hum, where the sound is felt in your chest and your bones more than your ears.
Was it the birth of rock in the ‘60s? When was the first electric base and when was it amped so high that the crowd felt it in their bones? What about punk, the Stones? What could it have been.
I kept wondering.
I was sitting on the stage of stuart auditorium on Saturday morning, waiting to participate in leading worship for the last time before being Ordained. (What a gift, by the way, to offer to the Ordinands, for us to lead worship, a celebration of Life service, together, as the final liturgical act we participate in before we are ordained in full connection. The last time to lead worship with a robe and without a stole.)
So I was on stage. Sitting. Minding my own business, listening to the prelude and preparing my heart for worship.
The music swells.
And I can feel it in my bones.
I’d taken my mask off because we were getting ready to lead the call to worship, and someone caught the utter joy shining out of the grin on my face. I noticed them noticing me. They laughed in joy with me. We delighted together.
The stage resonated with the music rolling out of the organ, filling my body with song.
And I realized something that should have been obvious to me.
Organs and drums.
I’ve been in a worship service that was composed entirely of drum work, of the percussive rhythm of beating against a skin stretched tight across a wheel or a gourd or whatever is hollow and handy.
Before literacy there were organs. Cathedrals held organs that swelled the space with music, where people came in contact with the sublime as they came to know the presence of God.
Like the space of Cameron Indoor on a chapel hill night, or the notre dame on Christmas eve, we are not the first ones to have experienced the way that sound can sink deep inside and bring your soul to the surface.
It makes me want to sing back to back with someone, to see if that could have been one of the first shared songs. How old is this experience? Is it older than language?
Are we creating music that reminds us of being in the womb, when the parent who conceived us rocked us to sleep with their body and sang us a lullaby with a heartbeat?
We need each other. To sing, to dance, and to feel alive with each other.
I’m so glad the God who created the universe gave us voices to sing and lift each other up. To hold each other in song. To find joy, together.