"I have come home at last! This is my real country. I belong here. This is the land I have been looking for all my life, though I never knew it till now…" CS Lewis, The Last Battle
Someone I love is changing. We have walked through life together and now our paths are bending different ways. Mama Lyn is dying and I cannot go further than the edge of this life with her. I will stay and she will go ahead.
When I am full of thinking about something, I have to write. Like a painter, I start with a line that becomes a picture. I had this line,
"Time has bent our paths away, like branches bend the willow tree."
In England we describe the striking way that willow branches bend as ‘weeping’. A weeping willow - there is a picture of bent over grief. But the willow is much more than simply weeping.
The wood from this tree is strong enough and supple enough to be used to make all manner of useful and playful objects. You can even weave willow into a roof to shelter your head.
Before we had Asprin, the leaves and bark of the tree were widely used as a remedy for aches and fever. In many religions, the willow is a sacred tree, it speaks of compassion, of safety and protection.
So what has all this to do with love and death? Because despite all the bent over grief, the weeping willow encourages me to remember this - we have a place to shelter from the storm that rages all around.
"For in the day of trouble he will keep me safe in his dwelling; he will hide me in the shelter of his sacred tent and set me high upon a rock." Psalm 27 v5, NIV
Hidden away in God’s compassion, safety and protection. So that even when everything is changing, when we feel just loss or lost, when we cannot comprehend or make sense of it all, when we are walking towards the edge of life, one staying, the other going – we are always and forever safe. And here are the lines that became a picture,
Time has bent our paths away,
Like branches bend the willow tree,
We hold each other close and love,
But now time shapes just you, and me.
I am here and cannot stray,
Along the path that leads you on,
The light is there for you, my love,
But never will your light be gone.
Although the rain makes petals fall,
The rose will keep her grace,
And soft my love with gentle hope,
I look upon your face.
Your face will light the morning sun,
And light each day I’m given,
You rest my love, safe with the Son,
And I will do as bidden.
You are safe here in my heart,
Come with our beauty shared,
And time will bend the willow tree,
And I will follow there.
Like the willow that bends but does not break, God will never allow us to be utterly broken or destroyed. Death is not the end and the path from Earth to Heaven is fully lit up by His love. He is the same God yesterday, today and forever, outside of the minutes and hours that define our life here. He has gone ahead and He is closer than the next breath. And we will be with Him, just as He is with us.
"Death is no more than passing from one room into another." Helen Keller
We will be with Him, just as He is with us. There is real peace in that.
He believes in you.