Annie Dillard said, “I think that the dying pray at the last not, “please,” but “thank you” as a guest thanks his host at that door.” She knew some secret about a life of gratitude at the moment of mourning; that our exits would be exposed for their wonder, and elicit appreciation – not apprehension.
In “The Contemplative Pastor: Returning to the Art of Spiritual Direction,” Eugene Peterson tucks in this poem-prayer under the title “Praying with Eyes Open.” He too, knows something about how weeping erodes forgotten strata to allow us to use “pick and shovel prayers” to turn up fossils of hurt seen in the light of God’s Mercy:
Blessed are those who mourn.
Flash floods of tears, torrents of them,
Erode cruel canyons, exposing
Long forgotten strata of life
Laid down in the peaceful decades:
A badlands beauty. The same sun
That decrease each day with colors
From arroyos and mesas, also shows
Every old scar and cut of lament.
Weeping washes the wounds clean
And leaves them to heal, which always
Takes an age or two. No pain
Is ugly in past tense. Under
The Mercy every hurt is a fossil
Link in the great chain of becoming.
Pick and shovel prayers often
Turn them up in valleys of death.