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Thin Places
Faith & Spirituality, Losing a Child

Thin Places

It was a spectacular June day in every way. My husband and I decided to take our kayaks out on Lewiston Lake nestled in the mountains of Trinity County, CA. We had never been to Lewiston Lake before, but we were definitely up for a new adventure. We were staying in a cabin in the area that week for one reason and one reason only: our son is buried in nearby Weaverville, an old mining town established in the mid-1800s.

Adam’s suicide death was so sudden and unexpected. Of course, we had no idea what his wishes would have been for a resting place. We decided the Weaverville cemetery was a perfect spot. Not only is he surrounded by eight other family members, including two great-grandfathers, his grandfather, an uncle, and their spouses, but the cemetery itself has a rustic, natural landscape with deer and other wildlife freely roaming. Being an avid backpacker and nature lover, I think he would approve.

On the way to the cabin earlier in the week, we visited the cemetery. I brushed off his headstone and re-adjusted the painted rocks each family member had decorated for him. Aside from the rocks, there wasn’t a whole lot of color bursting from the cemetery. It was mostly just dirt, dry clusters of wild grass, and a few shade trees hovering over to stand watch.

Our hope is to visit the cemetery at least a couple of times a year. It’s quite a long way from home, but definitely worth it. Meanwhile, we are exploring the area, staying at different places, and making new memories.

As we approached the entrance to Lewiston Lake that sunny June day, I had to catch my breath. I’d heard about “thin places” – even discussed the topic some time ago during a grief support group meeting at my church. But I’d never encountered one.

As my kayak moved through the glassy water, it was like entering another world. Fluffy white clouds poured out over the horizon, blurring the water and sky into one. I glided forward slowly, silently. God, are you there? I can’t explain it, other than to say it was like I found the entrance to heaven. It was so pure. So divine.

In his book, Understanding Your Suicide Grief, Alan D. Wolfelt Ph.D. writes, “In the Celtic tradition, “thin places” are spots where the separation between the physical world and the spiritual world seem tenuous. They are places where the veil between the holy and the everyday are so thin that when we are near them, we intuitively sense the timeless, boundless spiritual world.”

I would agree.

“Thin places are usually outdoors,” says, Wolfelt, “often where water and land meet or land and sky come together.”

There at Lewiston Lake, surrounded by deep blue sky and endless clouds’ soft touch, I knew I had encountered one. I closed my eyes and took in every moment. Hope settled over me like a cool blanket. One day, we’ll be together again. In the meantime, I got a glimpse into something astonishing and beautiful beyond my wildest imagination.

About the Author

Mary Gilzean

Mary Gilzean lost her 28-year-old son to suicide in May 2019. She joined the Alliance of Hope community the following year, which has been a safe port in this grief storm.Read More »