ImageI subscribe to this e-column, appreciate Jim Taylor’s seasoned wisdom, and often forward his column to a few friends. Last weeks’ column on losses hit such a chord that I asked for his permission to share it in my blog. If you like it, you may want to join his subscriber list. softedges@quixotic.ca

 Subject: Losses: Wed. May 8, 2013, Soft Edges column


 I don’t know where I saw it. It might have been a Harry potter movie. Perhaps I even dreamed it. But what I saw made visual the connections that unite us, one to the other.

In my vision, those connections turned into lines of light. Some people had only thin lines linking them, in pale colours. Other people had great pulsing umbilical cords, throbbing with vitality, binding them together as if they shared a single bloodstream…

The fact that we can’t see these connections doesn’t mean they aren’t there.

There are lots of things we can’t see. Radio waves, for example. But with the right equipment, we can pick up those invisible signals and listen to music or watch television. We can’t see radioactivity, even though it can kill us. We can’t see, smell, or taste oxygen — although we die without it. We can’t see the gravity that keeps our planets from flying apart.


That notion of invisible connections between people helps me make sense of grief. Someone has died; part of me has died with them. If our connection is only a thin tendril of life, I won’t feel much loss. If our connection is one of those pulsing umbilical cords, I will feel that loss as I would an amputation — the phantom limb still hurts, even though it’s no longer there. Those missing toes still itch; that arm still tries to reach for the doorknob.

We delude ourselves when we think that we stand alone. We are not separate entities, ships that pass in the night. We are a vast network of life and living.

Occasionally we glimpse this truth, through the metaphors of poetry. John Donne wrote, 400 years ago: “No man is an island entire onto itself… Each man’s death diminishes me.”

A friend, Marjorie Gibson, composed this poem as a lament for the death of her friend Elizabeth MacLeod:

  I lost my friend

      did I tell you?

          She died.

 An ache gnaws my heart, persistent, sadly reminds.

 She walked early, loving

      morning light

          early walkers

              fresh crisp air.

 Late afternoon for me

      light warm golden

          from the setting sun

              late walkers with dogs.

 We spoke our minds

      bared our fears

          our joys

              our questions.

 In the end, no world problems solved

      no personal stances altered, just

          two souls lovingly understanding

              one another.

 For both, the end hovers in sight

      the final battle cannot be won

          in our hands only the skirmishes before the end

              our fight to make our last days good.

 Our challenges?

      Her failing heart

          my dementia

              trivial things like that.

 Then we look into one another’s eyes


          clasp hands

              sit close together

                  and remember.

 I lost a friend

      did I tell you?

           She died.


No one can read that lament without the sense of a connection broken, severed, gone.

Marjorie wrote “A Lament” for her own loss. But it also speaks to me, and to Ray and Muriel, to Frances, Suzanne, Arlene…

 The invisible umbilical cords of love and friendship that nourished us, fed us, sustained us, have been severed. We will continue, but we will never be as whole again.



About Elsie Hannah Ruth Rempel

As a young senior whose life could easily have ended in a nasty car crash in 2012 I live with an extra dose of gratitude to God, humanity, and the wonders of our human bodies. I am a passionate advocate for ministry WITH children and seniors in the life and ministry of the church. I started working in Faith Formation with Mennonite Church Canada in 2002. Thinking and writing about faith helps me see God at work in all kinds of surprising places. I'd like to be remembered as one who encourages others to live into God's good dream for our world. My book, Please Pass the Faith: The Spiritual Art of Grandparenting, is one big way I'm trying to share that encouragement with my peers. This blog is another way I'd like to engage people who care about growing in faith across the generations.
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