A Vigil of Remembering

Elul Day 4

Today I found myself thumbing through a book that was made for me by my friend Maureen, an artist, spiritual director and a religious woman who has been in the community of the Sisters of Notre Dame for many decades. It is a small 4 x 6 book, made by hand right down to the binding stitched with multicolored thread and ribbons. The book is titled "A Vigil of Remembering You: A Vigil to Honor My Grief." Maureen created this book as a twenty-eight day journey through a process of grieving, and each page has words of comfort, truth, and blessing. 

This book has been on my shelf right next to me for over five years; I reached for it today and turned to day 4 since it is the fourth day of Elul. Each page has a heading for the day, a few words of prayer and then some of Maureen's writing about the grief process. This is what she wrote for the fourth day:

I see so many things that remind me of you. How very deeply you touched my heart. I feel dazed and somehow less than whole. Often I hurt so much it frightens me. I am told that beyond these feelings there is a caring presence that can comfort me. I will be as still as possible and seek that comfort and calm.

I sit quietly for a bit after reading, considering how this is relevant to my own experience of grief, not only in terms of loved ones who have died, but also regarding aspects of my life and my self which have changed or ended.  I take note of any physical sensations in my body as I reflect on Maureen's words: remind me of you, touched my heart, hurt, fear, caring presence, comfort, calm

I hold a lot of energy in my sternum; my New Age and energy medicine friends tell me this is the heart chakra. In Kabbalistic teachings, this is where we hold the essence of Tiferet, which is often understood as the beauty of compassion and forgiveness. 

Closing my eyes, I breathe into my sternum, inhaling comfort and calm, exhaling hurt. Inhaling caring presence, exhaling whatever needs to be released. 

Walking through Elul, like walking through grief, is also a vigil of remembering and honoring. Holding vigil is a process of conscious attention and intention, awareness and awakening. My own spiritual tradition, as well as Maureen's, reassure us that there is a source of comfort and peace available. Sometimes I need to be reminded to lean back into it and be still.