I attended a funeral last week. A sudden, random, unfair death robbed my friend of her son.
The service was beautiful—not glib at all, yet still daring to offer hope. A hope that my friend knows but probably can’t yet feel.
As it happens, I also spent time at a Retreat House last weekend, and I think in some way my friend’s son’s funeral helped prepare me to explore some grief and loss in my own life. It was an interesting time, and I left understanding that sometimes it is necessary to retreat in order to advance.
In my solitary room at the house, at the tiny desk where I spent time journaling and praying, this small, framed poem silently affronted me:
The Guest House
This being human is a guest house.
Every morning a new arrival.
A joy, a depression, a meanness,
some momentary awareness comes
as an unexpected visitor.
Welcome and entertain them all!
Even if they’re a crowd of sorrows,
who violently sweep your house
empty of its furniture,
still, treat each guest honorably.
He may be clearing you out
for some new delight.
The dark thought, the shame, the malice,
meet them at the door laughing,
and invite them in.
Be grateful for whoever comes,
because each has been sent
as a guide from beyond.
Now, I believe that this poem cannot speak to my friend yet. Her pain is too fresh, too enormous. All she can do is retreat for awhile.
And I, with my lesser losses, will also have to retreat now and then. It takes a unique courage to see change and grief approaching and still “meet them at the door laughing.” It’s even more impossible when they show up unexpected. And no one wants “some new delight” when we are deeply connected to the old delight we’ve always loved.
My prayers are with my friend and her family. I know that healing will eventually come, but it will be a long, slow journey of advancing and retreating.
God be with you in that journey.