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Monday, May 28, 2012

On Grief ,and Bonfires, This Memorial Day

By Janne Karaste (Own work) [GFDL (
 or CC-BY-SA-3.0 (
], via Wikimedia Commons
For centuries in Slavic Europe, the tradition, born of necessity, was to build bonfires to thaw the frozen ground for winter burials.  The bonfire would burn for hours, and when it died down, shovels would come out, because the ground beneath had thawed enough to make some progress. Oftentimes, another bonfire would need to be built, and the process begun again, until finally, a depth adequate to accommodate a coffin was created.

It could take days.

In our modern Western culture, we prefer that grief, (particularly the grief of others), be neat, tidy, and quick.

But sometimes, it doesn’t work that way.  Sometimes the ground of the heart pushes back, like subzero granite, and it needs preparation.

In Enchantments: A Novel , the story is told of how, in early twentieth century Russia, Father Grigory Rasputin built a bonfire so high when his first son died, that the village still talks of the size of that blaze.  He threw everything he could find into that fire, 'the kitchen chairs, the table, the few books on the shelf, the shelf' keep it going...because he knew that when it died down, he would have to place his baby boy in the ground.

I get that.  I understand.  I wish I didn't.

Loss is painful; we shouldn’t pretend that it isn’t. 

Hope is Christ is a marvelous thing, priceless, an indescribable gift.  But, the recipient is still gone from us.  There is no shame, or inadvisability, in grieving the loss.

Sometimes the heart-ground needs to experience a conflagration, a beating of ones fists against the truth, ...and must absorb a shower of tears of fire, to be ready to receive an unwelcome reality.

Your Heavenly Father gave you tears with which to grieve, and taught your body to use them.

We each must grieve in ways that our heart dictates.  Our hearts are our own, and no one else can test the ground’s readiness for burial. Naysayers are not the ones who have to do the digging. So grieve, dear one, as you must, whilst you place your hope in Christ.

Pax Christi,
Peace, Peace...Be Well,

"Death leaves a heartache no one can heal; love leaves a memory no one can steal."
~From a gravemarker in Ireland

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  1. Hi Michelle,

    Heart felt quotes from the book Enchantments. Grief is a very personal, subjective emotion. Love the quotes too. I join you in prayer for this Memorial Day!

  2. Compelling post, and truth! Well said. We don't know very well how to grieve in our culture, or how to graciously allow others to grieve in their own needed ways.

  3. "Sometimes the heart-ground needs to experience a conflagration, a beating of ones fists against the truth, ...and must absorb a shower of tears of fire, to be ready to receive an unwelcome reality." Yes, you're so right. Whatever grief of your own prompted this post, I'm sorry you've suffered it. May the Father of mercies comfort you and lead you through that valley. Thank you for writing so beautifully for the comfort of your readers who so often need "permission" to grieve. The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ be with you and give you peace.

  4. I would like to build a big fire as an expression of my grief. Thank you for the reminder that grief is not neat.

  5. Very good, very clear, very straightforward. The description is something we couldn't question; is quite accurate and will be a good reminder when we face grief

  6. Again, a fascinating piece, tying history into our present-day need to grieve. Thank you for the gift of your words.


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