All in Good Time

Today, I attended the funeral of a woman who died far too early, and quite unexpectedly, at age 51, leaving a loving husband and two wonderful sons, extended family, and a wide network of friends.

An untimely death can bring more sorrow, anger and more urgent “why’s” , in contrast to the expected passing of an aged relative who “had a good long life”.

During the service, I struggled to remain open to the classic passage from Ecclesiastes:

For everything there is a season, and a time for every matter under heaven: a time to be born, and a time to die; a time to plant, and a time to pluck up what is planted…. 

I struggled because this passage is so commonplace that it threatens to become pablum, a “let me help you put this in perspective” Hallmark card for the newly sorrowful. How can the 3 men she left behind even begin to hear these words through the shock blast of a premature death? More to the point, how can I hear these words in a way that allows them some traction?

Grief is blinding…I have experienced this, years ago. The sense that all that is before me is loss. A void; a vacuum. Until, the day came when I got myself into a church because, well, where else does one go on one’s lunch hour to unload buckets of tears – Starbucks? Banana Republic? Maybe Bed Bath and Beyond, where one can find oneself alone for a moment amidst vertical displays of window treatments.

It was only then, safely ensconced in the dark, in a pew toward the rear, that I asked for my sight back. For the ability to see beyond my grief, beyond the void, to whatever was coming next. Or frankly, to whatever was right in front of me that I might be discounting.

This, I think, years later, might be the essence of gratitude….the gift of counting, not dis-counting, all that is in front of me. And, all that has passed as well. But I wasn’t ready to be grateful until I was ready to be less grief-stricken.

Which brings me back to Ecclesiastes. It doesn’t suggest that we hurry through our grief; or that we put it on the shelf before we’re done. Or that we beat our breasts for being ungrateful when all seems lost. No. What Ecclesiastes suggests to me, and seems true from my own lived experience, is that everything (especially the bigger life events) has its (sometimes unfathomable) cycle.

The comings and goings follow patterns we don’t set, or timetables we don’t understand and sometimes chafe under. Which implies that we can surrender or fight. And by surrender, I don’t mean check out. Rather, to act as if the only way out is “through”. Through the grief, and eventually, to the gratitude.

Through the blindness, to sight.

Through the littler deaths, to the resurrections.

And, as Ecclesiastes suggests, from the mourning, to the dancing.


…When it’s over, I want to say: all my life

I was a bride married to amazement.

I was the bridegroom; taking the world into my arms.


When it’s over, I don’t want to wonder

if I have made my life something particular, and real.

I don’t want to find myself sighing and frightened,

or full of argument. 

I don’t want to end up simply having visited this world.


From When Death Comes, by Mary Oliver

About Soul Intention

"Spirituality is, ultimately, about what we do with...desire. What we do with our longings, both in terms of handling the pain and the hope they bring us, that is our spirituality." from The Holy Longing by Ronald Rolheiser. Paraphrasing what Gerald May has said, in his book Will and Spirit, spirituality is our experience and interpretation of our relationship with the Sacred. The intent of this blog is to explore for myself, and to invite others to explore with me, just what is it we do with our desire? What is our spirituality? Mine has been shaped by many my formative years, by the Roman Catholic church. In the last decade, by the 12 steps. Most recently, by the Episcopal Church. And, always, always, by the sense that Nature helped to reveal the Great Mystery, of which we are all a part. So, my spirituality includes concrete practices, like the Steps, as well as probing more philosophical matters. I was certified, in January 2011, as a Spiritual Director by the Haden Institute. During those 21 months of study, which included a broad range of topics from Celtic Spirituality, to the Christian Mystics, to Jungian Depth psychology, I was given the space and time to ponder my own spiritual journey, hear about others' paths, and benefit from participation in an intentional community. My hope is that this blog can engender a similar conversation. Peace, Paul
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1 Response to All in Good Time

  1. Thanks, Paul. Enlightening as always.

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