Love Persevering

Presented October 31st, 2021   by Rev. Fiona Heath

As Unitarian Universalists we have no single sacred text, but can find wisdom in many places – tarot cards, buddhist fables, poems, even television shows.

On the recent Disney show WandaVision, which is part of the Marvel Comic Book universe, the main character Wanda is struggling after the death of her brother, feeling like grief is a wave that keeps coming up and knocking her down.

She is afraid of drowning in that grief. Vision, who is an android, tells her no, it’s not going to drown her. Wanda asks how he knows.

Vision says:  “Because it can’t be all sorrow, can it? I’ve always been alone so I don’t feel the lack. It’s all I’ve ever known. I’ve never experienced loss because I’ve never had a loved one to lose. But what is grief, if not love persevering?”

Vision’s words give Wanda a way forward, and indeed resonated with many people, and have been tweeted and memed and sent all over the internet. In this pandemic year with so many people struggling with loss and grief, Vision’s words are validating.

We are sad and grief is love persevering.

We miss all that we have lost in these past twenty months. We miss our lives as they were. We miss all the people that we have lost, that we may not have gotten to be with at the end, that we couldn’t gather in person to celebrate and remember.

Our love perseveres and so it’s okay to grieve, to be sad, to feel sorrow. It’s part of the process as we adjust to loving someone who is no longer here.

I know that my grief over my mother’s death this summer is complicated missing more than a year’s worth of visits in the pandemic. And that the grief is made easier because she had a good death, dying at home, with family with her.

In these last few months I am learning how to be in relationship with her in her absence. In many cultures around the world it is normal to be in relationship with the dead. You might visit their grave regularly and tell them your stories. You might create an altar with their photo in the living room, or set them a place at the table. These are ways to modify yet maintain a sense of connection with loved ones now gone.

In Mexican culture the day of the dead is a time to go to the cemetery with flowers and feasts to pay respect to your dead loved ones. It is a celebration with processions and decorations and sugar skulls, a colourful affirmation of life and death forever entwined.

White Canadian culture tends to assert once a person is dead there is no longer a relationship, to look back is foolish and people must move on and more forward. Stiff upper lips are encouraged and breakdowns are discouraged.

But these prohibitions send our love and grief deep, buries it under our skin, and makes it harder to process.

There is value in being open about grief. As the poem I read earlier says:
let the pain be pain,
not in the hope that it will vanish
But in the faith that it will fit in.

Grief is as natural as a leaf and will find its way. Being able to mourn aloud, to cry and be angry and upset and scared, lets us see the shape of it all, and once those waves of intense feeling move through us, leaves behind the love.

Continuing our connections – through grave visits or altars or still talking to them – lets us live in the love.

My mother had a hummingbird feeder just outside the kitchen window, where comfortable in her chair, she could watch their shimmering wings as they hovered and fed.

After she died, Marc Silas and I used temporary tattoos to wear hummingbirds on our arms, lasting a couple of weeks. It was a way to keep her close, and I will be wearing a hummingbird again this first Christmas without her.

But what is grief if not love persevering?

Let us not be afraid to experience the grief of loss, so that we may find our way through to the love.

May we all find ways to honour those we have loved and lost, to process our grief with grace, to live into our love.

 

So Say We All.

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