March 2022: Holey, Holy, Wholly
As I replenished my water glass at the kitchen faucet, a cardinal fluttered past my window gaze paralleling a fleeting thought. Away the red wings flapped beyond sight, but my mind grasped the wispy words before they flew: “I am the person standing at the window, I am the person no longer alive, and I am the person not yet born, all at the same time.” Eternity wafted over me in that moment, sock-footed in my kitchen, pouring a drink from the sink.
I experienced a sense of infinite space, a completeness, a peaceful knowing, and like the cardinal’s trailing song the message sang true. I stood in timelessness, contemplating the universe and my place in it, with blissful anticipation. If the now, the after, and the before coexist then there is nothing for me to fear.
A month into 2022 brought two memorial services in my family spaced twenty-three days apart. First my husband’s aunt passed away, and then his stepmom, leaving his uncle and father—the pair of brothers—widowers. Soon after the matriarchs were laid to rest but prior my kitchen sink epiphany, I felt within me the spaces these women left behind.
Often in our grief we resist entering that vacancy, the place where our heart breaks for the lived beloved now gone, a palpable emptiness holding our pain and loss. While living, we can give and receive the love we share in real time, heart to heart, in chats over the phone, in hours spent together, in mutual presence beyond words. We assume with our parting hugs that this goodbye is temporary, that we will meet again as living persons sharing time on Earth and embrace again. When this potential vanishes, what now?
The hole. Each hole is different, every relationship unique, all people touch us individually, yet those losses share a similar hollow feeling reverberating with all the losses that came before. The hole cannot be seen but can be felt within us. At times the hole swallows us whole and we are both surrounded and filled with emptiness. Yet, despite my sorrow, something else within me desires to make the hollow hallowed.
I sculpt my personal grotto, a spacious cavern cathedral, from wept tears shed for all the precious loved ones whose disembodied souls flew before mine. And when my heart’s last lament echoes within the chamber then fades to silence, stillness remains. Within the quiet, a felt presence calms me, a static electricity permeates the emptiness like invisible stars, my senses attune to a divine embrace by a communion of souls. My hollowed sanctuary and all the holes therein are filled with the holy, making me whole. The “mutual presence beyond words” that I experienced with my beloveds in body, we now share in spirit, like soft whispers brushing my cheek and faint breezes lilting my hair.
“Holy, Holy, Holy” is a familiar hymn to those who fill pews in Christian churches on Sunday mornings. I weekly grew on one of those oak benches with a red cushion in my hometown LCA Lutheran Church, from a wriggling baptized baby to a squirming confirmed teenager, as the organ bellowed this tune. The lyrics celebrate the blessed Trinity, (Father, Son, and Holy Spirit) three in One.
On an ordinary day, performing a mundane task, I glimpsed a personal trinity (now, after, and before) three in one. “I am the person standing at the window, I am the person no longer alive, and I am the person not yet born, all at the same time.” There is nothing to fear. If this trinity brings you no solace, I offer you this blessing: May you find wholeness by filling your holes with holiness. Holiness can be whatever comforts you. Use this trinity as a mantra for when you long to fill your hollowed inside with hallowedness. “Holey. Holy. Wholly.”