Signs & Symbols All Around
After my mom died, I took the glasses that she used to wear when she was reading or scrolling through Facebook on her phone, and put them in my office. I am not sure why I wanted her glasses of all the things she left behind, but I did.
They have been sitting on a credenza for the past four years on top of a book that she got me for my birthday the year before she died--- a book entitled "My Son I Love You Forever, for Always and No Matter What."
The other day on a whim I decided to try them on. They were completely smudged, and so I sat down at my desk with a cloth I use to clean my own glasses and started to wipe them down.
I realized all of a sudden that the smudges I was wiping away weren't exactly smudges---they were her fingerprints.
She would always dirty her glasses up by taking them on and off, picking them up wrong, dropping them, and grabbing the lenses. Her glasses were always cloudy with fingerprints.
I stopped cleaning them at that moment and just held them for a while, fighting back tears, and the onslaught of all of the emotions I was feeling.
"You don't have time to feel this right now," I said to myself. "Not now, anyway... maybe someday." Even as I said these things to myself, I knew I needed to let the sadness in, just for a bit.
Sometimes we think that grief is something that you are supposed to "get over." And sometimes well-meaning people will tell us this, especially if they are frustrated or worried about the fact that we are still feeling it.
But what I've learned is that grief can be cumulative. One loss feeds into another, and then another. You experience the loss of one thing, and it calls to mind all of the other losses and griefs.
This isn't always a bad thing, though. In fact, it can be extremely helpful if we are trying to remember things like a loved one's face, a dream we thought had faded or a world that has forever changed.
The fingerprints on the glass of my mother's glasses made me remember the selfie she took when she first got them, and the smile on her face in the photo. They also helped me remember how she would look over the bridge of them at me when I teased her.
You see when I let the sadness in, other emotions came with it---as they often do. I realized anew that the sadness was most definitely a part of me, but it wasn't all of me.
As I held my mother's glasses I knew then that I was seeing them for the first time as a sacrament--a sign and a symbol of something transcendent, and glorious. They felt holy to me. Everything felt holy to me.
I remembered a quote from Betty Smith from A Tree Grows In Brooklyn that goes like this:
Look at everything always as though you were seeing it either for the first or last time. Thus is your time on earth filled with glory.
There's a beauty to the impermanence of things that can draw out the best in us if we are strong enough and willing to let it. When we can feel all of our feelings, and still find the glory---we're beginning to understand the universal pattern of dying and rising more fully.
All our losses, all our griefs... they are part of what makes our time on earth filled with glory just as much as the joys and triumphs, the laughter, and all the other precious moments of sanctified memories that connect us with God and one another.
May you see this in your own life today and every day forward. And may the grace and peace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you now and always. Amen.