Impossibly hard, grief is. Wonder what Yoda would say next?
Grief overwhelms and deflates. It disorients and defeats. Grief rages and weeps until spent, and then somehow continues weeping on into the night. Grief during the holidays feels like the world’s worst roller coaster ride. Endless climbing. Too fast falling. Too fearful “what’s-around-the-next-bend-ing?” Too. Too. Too much.
Cairns are physical reminders that someone has traveled this path before. Someone at some point walked this way. Not the exact same steps, different footprints, but moving in a similar direction. Paths change; grief changes; we change. When we find cairns, we are reminded once again that we are not alone. Three or four or five stacked stones, standing one on top of the other. Tiny towers standing strong, stretching from the ground up. Three or four or five stones of intention. Whoever left this message was marking a moment for themselves and for each weary soul who came afterwards. Whoever had traveled this same path had the wherewithal to collect stones that s/he would stack and build a timeless message: You are not alone. I was here, too.
Cairns are ageless symbols. The word cairn is said to come from a Scottish Gaelic naming. Cairns are human-made piles of stones marking trails or water/food sources, marking burial sites or places of revelation. Flat rocks – largest one on the bottom, building up with smaller and smaller ones. Marking moments, standing tall enough to be seen by all whose hearts invite their eyes to see.
The holidays make up such an emotionally over-powering season. In addition to this new, raw loss that feels as close as my next breath, I also carry with me the tender memories of past losses and past tender holidays. In these hours when I am literally trying to put one foot in front of the other, it is a gift of grace and of mercy to find a cairn. In this season there are poems I can’t read, and it comforts me to hear another voice speak them. There are songs I just can’t sing, and I’m comforted to hear another voice or two find the melody. Likewise, when it’s all I can do to take the next step on this moving-through-grief journey, I am comforted and sustained by the cairns along the way.
I know that these three or four or five stones can’t heal this grief. They can’t resurrect my weary soul and take all my pain away. But by their very presence they bring grace beyond measure:
Someone before me
has taken similar steps. They
somehow kept going. I am not alone.
(thanks Betsey Ann)