a thin place In the Celtic tradition, a thin place is the meeting of something spiritual with our earthly time, a glimpse of the divine…Heaven and earth kiss each other.  Where two worlds intermingle, something happens; inexplicable, sacred and people describe a sense of “walking on holy ground”.

For those who sit with a dying person, these thin places often occur at the bedside.  In spite of how a person describes their own spiritual practice, or even an absence of such, I have been a witness as they visited the thin places. 

I sat listening to Howard, seeing the look in his eyes, feeling the pervading sense of other-worldliness in the room, as he described his grandmother’s visits.  He’d had several, with her black skirts swirling in the hallway like a hologram in some Hollywood version of Wuthering Heights- that was a thin place.

Bill had many months on hospice with a loving family that hated to see him go. He’d spent Thanksgiving shortly before his death surrounded by his children and grandchildren.  When the time came for a hospital bed, he’d had it placed right in the middle of the living room where the wall of windows looked out over the Sound.  In Bill’s final moments, the sun slipped behind the horizon with a burst of bright golden light and an eagle flew overhead- another thin place.

Harold had built his home with his own hands.  The furniture in his bedroom had been lovingly crafted, sanded and rubbed by this master craftsman.  An avid fisherman, even his fishing rods had the mark of his talented hands. As I remarked to him, the pleasure these surroundings must bring him, Harold said pensively, “I have bigger fish to fry”…  In search of a thin place.

Jeanette was a devout Catholic all her life.  We were distressed at her look of terror as the family and I spoke of the changes taking place, and she expressed the necessity to live, even for a few more weeks, when we all knew she had but a few days at most.  With a furrowed brow and twisting hands she told us she needed to be a better person before she died. Her faith seemed lost in her need to avoid the end of this existence, and the fear of what lay ahead. Her daughter and I were observers the afternoon Jeanette found a thin place, and saw the transcendent expression on her face as she whispered to us that love was all around and her face relaxed with a peaceful, wistful smile that remained even after her last breathes were taken.

I know I am one among many, to have rested in the gazebo at the park, a memorial to the daughter who died too young, and heard the wind’s voice whispering through the gold-flecked leaves, or gazed at a glorious sunrise that seemed to say “it’s a good day to be alive”, or perched on a mountaintop -below me a broad expanse of misty, heather covered hills- and sensed the thin places- times to recognize the ethereal in our mundane life.  I don’t want to miss these times.

I see trees of green, red roses, too

I see them bloom for me and you

And I think to myself, what a wonderful world


I see skies of blue, clouds of white

The bright blessed day, the dark sacred night

And I think to myself, what a wonderful world


(What a Wonderful World, by George Weiss, Bob Thiele)

About Amy Getter

This entry was posted in death bed vigil, end of life care, letting go and tagged , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

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