Many years ago I visited a friend in South Dakota. We both like to hike. One day we climbed Harney Peake elevation 7,242 feet, the highest point in the Black Hills of South Dakota. The view was breath-taking. Four states are visible from the top: South Dakota, Nebraska, Wyoming and Montana. Knowing some of the history of the conflicts of the area, I looked out over the vast lands feeling the joys and sorrows of the lands and the human struggle to seize something of beauty and not share it.
As I sat quietly on top of Harney Peake I experienced a gentle breeze and a sense that in the midst of the struggles of these lands, a Greater Spirit hovered over creating a beauty not readily understood and not fully grasped. My camera could not pick up the subtleties of the land whose beauty is not in the contrast of color but in the depth and expansiveness of humanity and divinity coming together.
From the Gospel of John in the Christian scriptures we hear a story of humanity and divinity coming together. Jesus died and the disciples recount ways they experience his presence. However, each new encounter startled and terrified them. What they experienced was so far removed from anything they had known. “Why are you troubled, why do questions arise in your hearts?” Jesus said to them. What could they say? They were walking on new ground. They had never experienced this kind of presence. What will this new experience ask of them. Jesus shakes them into the moment when he says, “Peace be with you.” The disciples knew what they knew yet were reluctant to move beyond that moment. It was difficult to embrace beauty that was right before them.
We are sometimes reluctant to embrace beauty that is right before us. In our experience of dying or walking with someone who is dying we see only the decline as the body begins to shut down. The person we once knew is no longer the same. We feel sadness and loss. Where before we offered nourishment through food, a body shutting down does not want food. As the person loses weight they seem only a shadow of their former selves. As they begin the transition to the next life and a new way of being, the body is not needed. There is beauty in this transition to the next life that is not readily apparent and sometimes difficult to see through tears. Yet tears can also bring a deeper place within to see the transition in a new way.
In other aspects of our lives we may experience dying–hopes, dreams, expectations–all inviting us to look deeper and to embrace beauty
Blessings and peace