One for Sorrow
In memory of Pamela Helen King
There is a low-slung mist hanging in the grey skies this evening. It lingers among the tree branches, shrouding them with an air of mystery. A solitary magpie pecks around in the grass below. One for sorrow, as the old rhyme says.
The veil between what is seen and what is unseen seems very thin just now; like I could reach out and push my hand right through it. Our Nana walked through the valley of the shadow of death last night, and now she has gone ahead of us and found her way out into the glorious sunshine. If I listen hard enough, I can almost hear the sound of her laughter.
We who are left behind still occupy the shadowlands. We can’t see beyond the mist. The weather is subject to change and we are almost certain to be faced with dark nights and unexpected storms. The valley has steep, rocky walls and we are too exhausted on some days to carry on climbing.
In the shadowlands, what we most need is company. The journey is too difficult to make alone. We need people who are brave enough to sit with us, hold our hand, listen to our stories and bear witness to our grief. The greatest gift you can give someone in the valley is your presence. As Anne Lamott often says, ‘we’re all just walking each other home.’
Our Nana is home now. She’s in the arms of Jesus, where there is no more tears or pain. As she crossed the threshold, surrounded by her children, my Granddad held her hand and sang to her, ‘it is well, it is well with my soul.’
Life and death; sorrow and joy; suffering and peace. These seeming contradictions are held together in one unified whole of a life well lived. ‘Death is a transformation,’ so Thomas Keating writes, ‘life reaching out to a fullness we can’t imagine from this side of the dying process.’ Only in death can we finally experience the fullness of love and resurrection in all its beauty.
Outside the window, another magpie appears in the mist. One for sorrow, two for joy.