“We are separated by continents
but share the same vast, beautiful, and sunlit sky.”
Some years ago, our daughter-in-law’s family shared images of a funeral outside Tehran. Held to commemorate the life of a grandmother on her father’s side, and as customary in the Middle East, the funeral procession took place outdoors. Surrounded by family and friends, several men, including our daughter-in-law’s father, carried the deceased. Wrapped in linen cloth, the body lay on a narrow platform hoisted on the shoulders of men who brought her to her final resting place.
The palpable grief of those during the procession and subsequent burial all took place against the backdrop of a vast, blue, sunlit sky. As the funeral came to a close, our daughter-in-law’s father took the body of his mother into his arms and gently placed her in a freshly dug grave.
Death comes to all of us. Yet the images of these past weeks from the land of Israel and Palestine are saturated with atrocity. There is death that comes after a long life, and then there is the kind of death that is senseless, depraved, and malevolent. No matter what side we may find ourselves on, can any of us justify the annihilation of children and youth? Can any one of us excuse unleashing weapons of mass destruction aimed not at military targets but at whole neighborhoods and cities?
I ponder these questions in the face of the mayhem that continues in what is also known as the Holy Land. Located between the Mediterranean Sea and the Eastern Bank of the Jordan River, a land of significance for Jews, Christians, and Muslims for decades, it is also a land saturated by war and grief. But lest we forget, every single one of us shares the same vast, beautiful, and sunlit sky.
Prayer: Divine Maker, when we find ourselves consumed with anger and grief but at a loss for words, compel us to lift our eyes to the hills from whence your help comes.  Through your grace, may we have the courage to refrain from violence, instead asking the difficult questions that persist. For just as grief comes to every single one of us, You hold us in the embrace of the same vast, beautiful, and sunlit sky. Amen
 Sunset off the coast of Rhode Island, January 2021
 Psalm 121