The past week or so has been like "old home week" at Llangollen, our wee cottage on Rehoboth Bay.
The Hooded Mergansers have left but the Wood Ducks and Mallards have arrived. So have the Turtles. The Canada Geese have been here for a few days. I thought I saw a Copperhead Snake slither past the dock the other morning. Probably looking for a few tiny field mice for breakfast.
Last night, right after dinner, a huge Great Blue Heron appeared on our deck. He seemed to be inspecting the work we've recently had done and, it appears, he approved.
No, literally, my heart rejoiced at the mere sight of his long, skinny legs, huge beak and piercing eyes.
I've been thinking that I've been hearing the Red-winged Blackbird but I hadn't seen any evidence of their arrival. Yesterday afternoon, I finally saw him. I was instantly overcome with an inexplicable feeling of awe and excitement. There was nothing to be done but to stop in my tracks and gasp quietly like a teenager who just spotted a Rock Star.
This morning I awoke to hear the Canada Geese swimming by my house. It was not their usual sound. Something was wrong. I could sense it immediately. I got up out of bed and went directly to my window. There they were - a pair bond - swimming back and forth and forth and back around the marshes, honking in distress.
I wondered if they had, perhaps, misplaced their eggs. Maybe the tide moved them. Maybe the turtles ate them. Maybe "garbage gulls" plucked them from the safety of their nest.
Grief has its own sound. Its language is universal among all God's creatures. When you hear it, you recognize it immediately.
Maybe Hospice makes you more sensitized to the sound of it, but I don't think so.
I heard it in the voice of a woman I listened to on NPR. A single mother of three, she had been working in a Sporting Goods store in Baltimore that had been completely and utterly destroyed by looters and rioters. She said, "I've had this job for five years. The owners invested in this neighborhood. Now, they lost their store. I lost my job. But mostly, I lost hope. I lost hope that I can give my sons the education they need so we can take this city we all love and turn it around."
Her grief was unmistakable. And, it was inconsolable.
I was thinking this morning as I was praying for you all, as I do every morning, that the sound of grief has a way of making its way into our bodies. We bathe in it. We are drenched in it. It gets soaked it into the muscles and sinews and connective tissues of our bodies.
Which is why it's so important for us to also immerse ourselves in the sounds of joy. Yes, Hospice professionals are pretty (in)famous for our laughter, usually prompted by "gallows humor". Some of us counter death and grief with what is sometimes called "raunchy humor". (Yes, I hear you in the kitchen,)
My work in Hospice has led me to believe that the opposite of death is sex.
A few local high school marching bands combined with a few marching bands from local colleges, and they held a very large impromptu parade in the midst of the very places of destruction and grief.
The drums were drumming and the dancers were dancing and the pom poms were waving and the horns and tubas were playing.
It all sounded like a football team at half time.
And, maybe that's exactly what it was.
It was halftime in a contest between overcoming grief and getting on with getting on with life. It was a statement by these young people that the fight for justice is not over.
Far from it. You could see it in their faces. Determination was written all over them.
The young have not died. They are not dead forever. Neither are their hopes and dreams.
They are just grieving. It's half time in the game of Good vs. Evil. They will work through their grief - beat it out on the drums, dance it out on the streets, play it out through their horns - and then get up and live to fight another day.
To build on what their parents and grandparents and great grandparents have built.
To restore hope. To create a safe place to dream. To channel anger into action. To change rage into results. To transform grief into justice.
Or, the ancient, primordial "Gaaak!" of the Blue Heron which calls me to consider the deep mystery of God's creation.
Hope returns. If we dance through it. And, beat our drums and blow our horns and shake our pom poms through it.
Or, simply listen for it in the sounds of creation.
Nature teaches us that it has to get dark and night has to fall before you can see the stars.
Grief may well be the body's way of calling Half Time on the playing fields of life. We stop. We mourn. We wail.
We make noise to counter the silence of death. Our bodies dance to defy the stillness of death.
And then, we pick ourselves up, dust ourselves off, blow our noses, wipe the tears from our eyes, pull up our socks and get on with it.
Weeping may endure for a night, but joy comes in the morning. (Psalm 30:5)