Posts Tagged With: death

Grief and Cultural Cliches

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There is an ongoing battle occurring as I sit down to write this blog.  It is over the death of a soldier and the response of the current President.  

 

In our present, ever-changing, lightning speed culture we have pushed and squeezed death into a tidy box or urn, as far away from us as possible.  We no longer know how to comfort those who mourn.  As a people who have lifted the value of physical comfort high on our list of our God-given rights, death makes us very uncomfortable. We do not know what to do with it.  Death takes too much of our valuable time.  We no longer go to those who have lost a loved one and sit with them in silence or tears.  We send cards or perhaps flowers.  We rarely go to funerals or memorial services.  When we do, the focus is often on celebrating the lives of the ones who have left us and leaving out the grief.

 

When confronted with grief we often don’t know what to say or do. If we speak we use clichés and platitudes. Instead of entering into the grief with our friend, neighbor or coworker we distance ourselves from the grief with phrases such as, “She died doing what she loved.” or “He knew what he signed up for when he joined the army”.  These unthinking, unfeeling phrases roll off the tongue and put the blame on the person who just died, for their choice.  I don’t need to be uncomfortable, it wasn’t my fault.  These kinds of phrases do not help the grieving person.

 

Living in Central Asia with people who value the observation grief has helped me understand it. They do not leave relatives, neighbors, or friends alone with their grief, they enter into it together.

 

What helps a grieving person is to enter the grief with them and feel the pain they are going through.  Silence is better than saying something that distances us from them.  When someone acknowledges my pain with words like  “I’m so sorry you lost your son”, they enter into my grief with me. When someone let’s me cry or even wail it makes my grief just a little bit more bearable.  Often those grieving need to process with their words what they are feeling or talk about their loved one.  If my goal is to listen and help bear their burden I can truly help instead of shoving their grief away.  

 

Maybe one thing this president is doing is highlighting the unhealthy, even dangerous places in our society. We need to pay attention! Let’s take another look at our responses to death and grief, sexual abuse and harassment, racial injustices, greed, idolatry and poverty, to name a few.

 

 

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Categories: grief and death, growth, Life, pain, Uncategorized | Tags: , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Cleansing the Land

The earth had been defiled. A young couple had attempted suicide in the park on a dark winter night.  A few old growth cedar stumps anchored the path reminding us that ancient forces of life have been here a lot longer than we and our people.  Our ranger friend lead us up the path and then off the path, bushwhacking down to a spot under a cedar tree.  He had asked earlier if we would come and help cleanse the area.

 

That dark winter night one person had second thoughts, and called 911 on a cell phone with a fading battery. It was enough for the first responders to know generally where they were. Attempts to return the call failed, but they set out with a Search and Rescue dog.  One group came in from the top of the park and another from the bottom.  The rangers house was at the bottom.  They knocked on the door and were able to get the Ranger couple’s help since they are the caretakers of this land and know it better than anyone else.  Eventually the couple was found, thanks to the efforts of all, including the dog who was able to locate them. They were evacuated and taken to a local hospital with life threatening wounds.  Later, word got back to the rangers that they survived.

 

When we got to the spot, Psalm 24:1 was read: “The earth is the Lord’s and everything in it. The world and all it’s people belong to him.”

 

We prayed for the young people who came to this place so desperate.  We gave thanks that their lives were spared, that the forces of life were stronger than those of death that night.  We understood that because they came to the park, they were able to be rescued. If they had gone somewhere else that may not have been the case.

 

We took pure water from a spring that bubbles up near the path then joins the creek that runs through the park. We poured the water out as a symbol of life and cleansing. We prayed the water would be cleansing to the earth and renew it along with the gentle rain and our prayers.

 

We ended the ceremony with this Celtic prayer:

 

In time of sorrow:

 

May you see God’s light on the path ahead,

when the road you walk is dark

 

May you always hear, even in your hours of sorrow

the gently singing of the lark

 

When times are hard may hardness never

turn your heart to stone

 

May you always remember when the shadows fall

you are not alone

 

Walking back to the bottom of the trail where our cars were parked we noticed the sun’s setting light in the tops of the trees and remembered the first stanza of the prayer: “May you see God’s light on the path ahead, when the road you walk is dark”. We talked about the Japanese and Korean custom of “Forest Bathing”. It is a walk in a forest as a way of relaxing and managing stress, while breathing in the healing aromas of the forest.  This whole experience was indeed cleansing for both the land and our souls.

Categories: God, Hope, Life, Paths, Prayer, Trees | Tags: , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

The ache in our hearts

The ache in our hearts

Is the call

To come deeper

Come closer

To the One

Who sees us

Knows us

Loves us

And satisfies us

Beyond all measurement.

 

We don’t always

Recognize

The voice

In our pain

We run

To another

Temporary comfort

That leaves us

Hollow and unsatisfied

Self-hating and

Aching for

The true source

Of all that we need.

 

It is a learning

To be turning

Towards that faint sound

Of the rushing river

To be seeking

In desperation

For that Living Water

Like a deer

Panting

A matter of life or death

To find and

To know that

We have been found

And we are known

And brought safely

Home.

 

© 2012 Julie Clark

 

Categories: Faith, God, Life, Love, Poetry | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Leaves aflame

Leaves aflame

With sun light fire

Seen through

The stained glass

Reminds me of

The night sky

Falling

With shooting stars

Falling, falling

All is falling

It is time for the earth

To renew itself again

Aided by time and gravity

Keeping it all here

The death and the dying

The brokenness and the shame

They aren’t going with us

When we fly

© 2011 Julie Clark

Categories: Autumn Poems, Faith, Poetry, Trees | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Communion wine

Communion wine

Spilled on the floor

It was messy

The cross

Not a sweet, sedated

Crucifixion

Messy and raw

Death

Nothing our messes

Can even come close to

He can take care of it all

Then the bucket of water

To clean the mess

Spills

Even our attempts

To clean up

Make a mess

Best to

Just come as we are

Leave the cleanup to Him

© 2011 Julie Clark

Categories: Poetry | Tags: , , , , , | 3 Comments

Selected Poems for November

Snow Day

I listen to the soft crush of snow under my boots.

The snow muffled quiet brings a much-needed peace to the frantic city pace.

Enforced rest by steep, frozen roads is a hidden reprieve to many.

Why does it take an act of nature to teach us to be still?

Why do we shun silence and rest?

Are we afraid if we stop, our world will fall apart?

Are we afraid if we stop, our long ignored feelings and thoughts will rise in rebellion once we have slackened control of them?

It is like long ago we stepped onto a merry-go-round in the park.

At first it slowly turned, but with each revolution it gained speed until now it is moving so fast we can’t get off.

What is this hidden hand, pushing us at this frantic, out of control, speed?

The snow day reminds us:

We can get off the merry-go-round,

And our world won’t fall apart.

Rest will help our minds and bodies work better.

Letting go of control is good for us.   We really can’t control everything anyways.

Maybe our suppressed emotions have something to say to us, need our attention.

Maybe we won’t die if we listen to them and deal with them.

There is a good chance we will find healing.

© 2010 Julie Clark

The Great Exchange

 

You want this?

In your light I see

what I thought was good

To be full of holes

Like a worn out cloth

Hanging from the line.

You want this?

And what is this you offer in exchange?

A radiant purity that I cannot achieve.

A gift you say?

But I cannot release my filthy rags

Unless I move from my smug self-centeredness

To the center of that red-hot core

Called love.

How is this possible?

I will die at that core.

Yes, and live again,

Twice born.

Clothed in that radiant purity

You attained for me.

© 2007 Julie Clark

Fear

Fear has stocked me from childhood.

Like a restless tiger, it waits to pounce on its tired prey.

I’m done with it.

Realizing any fear leads back to the fear of death.

What’s so bad about dying?

It’s the only way out of here at present.

Out of here and into there.

Not that I want to rush things.

But in my time I to will follow my ancestors and every other man, woman and child before me.

I am facing that tiger and saying, my life is in stronger hands than yours.

I believe

I am beloved

And that Love that loves me is stronger than death.

© 2010 Julie Clark

Categories: Life, Love, Poetry | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

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