This Side of Eternity

A beautiful bit of interior space recently opened for me when I read a friend’s reaction to the death of Jean Vanier, founder of the L’Arche community. She posted the announcement and commented—A great loss for this side of eternity. That way of putting it washed over me with an exquisite tenderness. Ever so true and ever such an invitation, really. An invitation to considering that if there can be loss to this side of eternity, and surely Jean Vanier’s death is a keen example of it, then there can be gain as well. 

During these recent weeks, I have been able to see some of that gain in my ambling about on errands and taking advantage of the Public Gardens being an optional way to get from here to lots of theres. The azalea on the corner that will eventually offer a brilliance of electric salmon colored flowers is beginning to green. Magnolias are peeling free of winter layers and drinking deeply of spring air. The forsythia has come dancing with skirts hoisted for a raucous showing of yellow, much to the delight of birds newly alive with hope for the future and busy about finding mates. The mother walking her well swaddled two week old son, showing him the beauty of his city, holding him to the sun. New scientific discoveries and young children learning to read. Gain for this side of eternity…

And yes, there is loss yet beyond that felt at the death of a man many have already been proclaiming a saint. There is unbridled violence all around our world. There are tensions, abuses, deprivations, deaths of many kinds, loss of justice, loss of dignity, loss of safety, respect, hope, place, potential…

There is gain and there is loss on this side of eternity. And I’m not sure I can say it balances out…at least not in a timeframe I have yet lived…nor am I always sure which way it tips. What I know and believe is that both are present. And that God is present. And that the veil between this side and that of eternity is extraordinarily thin. Things change and they can change slowly or quickly, sometimes drastically, sometimes for loss and sometimes for gain.  Somehow, it feels like being sensitive to that, to the gains and losses and the reality of God and a wavering veil, is a good thing. 

The poet Mary Oliver wrote, Attention is the beginning of devotion. We are called to be devoted to the grace and the challenge on this side, while we are here. We are called to pay attention, to be open, to offer, to try and heal, to understand, walk humbly, act justly, to love, to be the face and the hands, the heart, mind, and actions, that speak of that Love, within the reality of our world, until the end when the thin veil shifts aside and we are welcomed home and all…all…is gain. 

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