A fundamentalist turned freedom chaser with an obnoxiously stubborn faith.


We take slow steps over gravel between the limestone blocks that hedge us in, keep our path like silent docents, guiding us in winding rhythm toward the center, then away, to the edge, then back in.

Sylvia taught me about labyrinths. While I was deconstructing my belief systems, she was building scaffolds, similar to the ones I’d build. She always seemed further ahead on the path than me, a comfort when I felt alone in wanderings near desert mothers, my hands reaching for liturgies that were never offered to me for free.

I take steps behind the place she worshipped with her flute and found community in borrowed traditions, claimed to keep. Where people sit and listen still to my grandfather’s wisdom, gleaning from a faith I get to call my inheritance.

I walk the ground I walked with Sylvia, and I miss her.

When I came I thought I might find what I’d been looking for here behind the church. Something like closure, maybe. Something like calm. Something like a final word.

But it’s not here. Not even in the middle which takes a while to get to. Nothing like closure, but I do find something.

Like grace.

A loosening grip.

I find an invitation from an old friend.


Let go. Be here. Allow it all.

There is no place to send an RSVP, no box to check. It isn’t something to be done, it’s something to attend.

In ebbs and flows.

In undercurrents and tidal waves.

As a background noise and overtures.

There are crescendos, there is thrashing, but there is also quiet and bitterness and confusion.

In many ways the loud parts are the easiest. When it is big and overwhelming it’s easy to name, it’s right there. The ambiguity is much heavier.

I don’t know how to do this, how to stay with it, how to bear up under it. I can’t reach for what I’ve done before because, it turns out, this one is different. Now I think they all must be.

So instead it bears down on me and oppresses me until it can be loud again. I think I prefer the grief that hurts precisely. I can’t name what I can’t see and that is a discomfort on despair. It seems excessive.

A name brings comfort, or the illusion of it anyway.

Though this thing is never entirely nameable. There are too many bits of it you must discover—and rediscover—as it goes on. There are too many possibilities snuffed out to number. Too many questions that you cannot test. To call it grief is to funnel a lot into a few short strokes for the sake of sanity. And it is not entirely sane either.

Hopeful to complete something, I stepped into the labyrinth where a compassionate awareness joined my slow, deliberate gait. Step, step, step. Gravel crunching, cicadas singing, a beating sun then welcome shade.

There is nothing to complete.

Grief—love and strain, hope and hurt, reunions and loss—create an open question. Delusions of what could have been, ghosts of words unsaid and hugs not taken, phone calls not made. Memories, too, of why it is so hard to end this part of the story.

Sylvia and I are on a beach with our flutes and reading from a Catholic mystic. We are laughing on her porch and tearing up at the things that stir our hearts. And I am walking on her path realizing that closure is a phantom, but love is more real than the solid earth beneath my feet.

My brother and I reach the middle and sit in a silence that is full of Texan charm and no ending here, no button to put on this, but there is peace in the settling. And I can’t escape the love here, which is the forerunner of peace and ushers it in with growing enthusiasm.

Nothing marks when to stand up and walk back out, the way we came, round and round, but a little more known this time. We just do and then we leave to walk the tangled maze of living. And I am no more “done” with grieving, but she showed me how to take my steps.

Leave a comment