Seeing: Colors of a Tear-washed World

The vivid shade of the sky that day, prismatic and pure, the blaze of waving wheat fields , those hues mingled, bled together and percolated down into me, deep and permanent. Heaven’s sapphire leached down on a July afternoon into amber waves of wheat’s heads, ripe and bowed, and, yes, forever changed the tone of me.

I wonder. No. Maybe, somewhere, I know. The ebony black of that hearse we followed throughout the countryside that third Wednesday of summer’s hottest stretch, it intensified the colors of the world. As the stretched black turned down the 8th line of Elma Township, gathering clouds caught a glimpse of their ancient white reflected off the polished steel’s inky gleam. All I could think, whisper, see in those few miles from church to country graveyard was the realization: “So this is your last ride through this world, Mom. Your last ride through.”

Was it just me, or had the world turned out in its most radiant attire for my mother-in-law’s final voyage? The verdant maples, fluttering leaves of emerald , respectfully lined the route. Pristine daisies punctuated ditches of rippling grasses with hope. No, I don’t remember firmament and terra ever meeting in such lustrous, brilliant clarity. That day following the hearse through the wheat fields, I faced the fragility of life and world grew into a deeper grandeur, more full-bodied and sweet.

So when a frame flashed on the screen during my photography class last week, something within resonated, knew. The autumn flash of poplars reminded me of that day and summer’s burst of gilded wheat.

The instructor’s voice navigated: “The colors here of the leaves, the trunks, the grass, the table, are all rich and vibrant. I doubt you can guess exactly why. No takers? Well, this shot was taken in a light rain. You’ll find you will capture some of your best photographs on a grey, wet day. Want glowing, deep colors? Wait for rain.”

The hues and shades of the photograph shimmer, seep, saturate. Can it be that some of the most moving photographs are snapped in a morose drizzle? Who would have known?

Perhaps the Psalmist David.

“My eyes is wasted away from grief,
my soul and my body also.
My life is spent with sorrow and my years with sighing…
great is Your goodness…
Blessed be the Lord, for Has has made marvelous
His lovingkindness to me in a besieged city”
(Ps. 31:9-10, 19, 21).

Terror rages on every side. Armies encamp, circle, leer. Sorrow sears David. His tears have failed to soothe the piercing burn. And in the carved out, gory ache of it all, David’s taken with the depth of color, the greatness of His goodness. The besiege gives him eyes to behold. God’s lovingkindnesses to David are rendered marvelous, wondrous, deep against the backdrop of conspiracies, strife, the haunting specter of death.

Is this what Isaiah refers to as the ‘Valley of Vision’ (Isa.22)? That in the valley of dark shadows, with its ominous clouds of pressing low bellies and bursting showers, we have the gift of vision? Is it true that the deeper and blacker the well, the more brilliantly one sees heaven’s stars glimmer?

Days later, I am still thinking on that frame of color-drenched leaves and glistening trees, heavy sky leaking through and down, and I wonder:

Do our tears saturate, intensify the colors of our lives?
Do we begin to see all as gift, when we stare face to face with our losses?
When we see how much it hurts to lose, when we come to the stark realization of how much there is to actually lose, do we begin to see how much that is good and filling beyond measure?

No. Maybe I know: We begin to see when the eyes of our hearts are washed clean with tears.

The most eminent researcher in the field of gratitude, Richard Emmons, reflects on decades of study and concludes:

“The more I study gratitude, the more I have come to believe that an authentic, deeply held sense of gratefulness toward life may require some degree of contrast or deprivation. One truly appreciates a mild spring after a harsh winter, a gourmet meal following a fast….Some blessings are not known until they are lost.”

The tears that brimmed and fell as my mother-in-law’s coffin passed down these county roads for the last time bathed me with the beauty, wonder, miracle of an ordinary day of breath, wind, sun and sky.

Loss brilliantly backlights blessings. Fragility heightens beauty.

Father? I want to see… I am scared to pray it, scared to walk it. But I desperately want to see. Do what is necessary: wash the eyes of my heart clean with tears.

Part two to follow