Sue Allen, heart friend and loving disciple of Betty, went up the mountain with us last Thursday to offer Betty’s ashes back to eternity. Her words joyfully capture what the seven of us felt so deeply on that holy day.
We walked in silence, spaced out as Betty suggested, “to get out of the vibes of each other”. I was second in line after one who had walked this way many a time, but our pace was significantly slowed by the chatter of a large group ahead of us. Waiting on the gabbing gaggle, we would stop often. Lifting our eyes to look more closely, we breathed in the sacredness. The golden light filtering through the changing fall leaves was absolutely astounding.
At one point I broke the silence, whispering to the woman in front of me, “Maybe they are the communion of saints welcoming Betty?”
The first in line chuckled back, “I think Betty planted them to slow us down since she knew my tendency to race up the mountain. In all of my years hiking here, I have never met a large group on this trail.” Ascending to a high rock face we finally passed the resting hikers, a friendly group of locals numbering about thirty.
With cautious steps, we trekked down the trail to Julian’s Rock through the squishy ground and uneven terrain. Ultimately arriving, we broke out bite-sized chocolate bars and passed around a zipper bag full of pistachios. Each of us had carried up symbols representing our love for Betty to bury in a hole by the base of her special tree. From Atlanta, I brought with me a heart rock and a feather I had found at the horse farm where I often walk and talk, two symbols representing all of the spiritual friends who have blossomed from my enduring friendship with Betty.
When the moment was right, we started the ceremony mapped out by Betty over her final years. We each took time burying our sacred items, one by one, whispering aloud thanks to Betty for all of the loving gifts given. When it was my turn, I surprisingly became a wordsmith with no words. I bowed my head for a reverent time of silence, privately lifting grateful thoughts for all Betty means to me.
Next, one friend read from Betty’s well-worn copy of Revelations of Divine Love written by Julian, which is the earliest surviving book in English known to be written by a woman. Then, sitting in a semi-circle, we passed around a book Betty had written, each reading a meditation she had selected from the book she wrote, Circle of Love. There were seven designated readings and seven of us bridesmaids. How could Betty have orchestrated this perfection?
In the presence of God, Julian, and Betty, we circled up and held hands to speak one final blessing. Again I was mysteriously mute, but this time gut-wrenching tears of thanks streamed down my face. Through Betty’s companionship in my own deep valley, God had awakened my true self. What feeble words could sum up such great gratitude?
In unison, we sweetly sang the chorus of “Surely the Presence of the Lord Is In This Place” before moving to the edge of the sturdy rock overlooking the mountains. Each with a palm-full of Betty’s ashes, we sang the Gator fight song and released her ashes into the cool crisp fall air.
In each ordinary life, there are mysterious moments of heightened perception, this is a truth Betty often taught us. On September 30th, 2021, together we experienced shared moments of heightened perception. Our sacred ceremony on Julian’s Rock offered us such sweet communion, on earth as it is in heaven. Having descended the mountain with joy, I trust more deeply that God, Betty, and our own beloved bridesmaids will help awaken us each to wholeness, forever and ever. Amen.
*Sue is Director of Women’s Ministry at Northside Church in Atlanta, a therapist, and a certified spiritual director. She rises in the middle of the night—every night—to write her inspiring daily blog, Sue2You.com