Beauty for Ashes


Our grief can be disorienting at times and facing the day-to-day “familiar” of our lives can be painful. Finding beauty in our lives again can help ease the pain.

Did you know President Roosevelt’s journey with grief is the reason our country has so much land set apart for enjoying the beauty of nature? His story is documented at the Theodore Roosevelt National Park for all to read. When Roosevelt was 26, his mother and his wife died within a few hours of one another. His wife died after giving birth to their daughter, and he was so grief-stricken that he left her in the care of his sister and headed west.  

Roosevelt spent time in the Dakotas, where he hunted the land, drove cattle, and worked as a frontier sheriff.  Eventually, he was drawn back to New York where he remarried and re-entered political life again, eventually becoming the vice-presidential candidate for McKinley. And when McKinley was assassinated, he assumed the presidency. 

As president, Roosevelt set aside vast amounts of land as national parks, so all Americans could enjoy the beauty and ruggedness of nature and find peace, as he did during a time of grief.  

People are drawn to beauty…a beautiful painting or piece of music; we decorate our homes in pleasant ways; the beauty of the changing leaves in autumn; the first snowfall; a beautiful sunset or sunrise. For “self-care,” a man who was caring for his wife as she suffered with cancer would rise early each morning to photograph the sunrise and find strength for the day.

Isaiah 61:2-3 reads, “to comfort all who mourn, and provide for those who grieve in Zion – to bestow on them a crown of beauty instead of ashes, the oil of gladness instead of mourning and a garment of praise instead of a spirit of despair.”  

Beauty can be found in many places. When people pass away, loved ones receive beautiful bouquets of flowers; a ritual for the purpose of bringing beauty back to our lives. The Minnesota Arboretum is a wonderful place to find beauty. When you wander through the gardens and fill your eyes with beautiful sights and colors, smell the roses in the Rose Garden and hear the birds sing, it can make you feel refreshed and renewed, like balm to the soul.  

Beauty has also been captured in the words of poets. Victor Hugo wrote, “To love beauty is to see light,” and Ralph Waldo Emerson penned, “Never lose an opportunity of seeing anything beautiful, for beauty is God’s handwriting.” 

In this New Year, look for beauty. Ponder it, embrace it, saturate yourself within it. Allow it to soothe the ache within, to cleanse your senses, to be touched by God. Exchange your ashes for beauty.  

This blog was written for publication by Deborah Pope, MT-BC, an Our Lady of Peace music therapist, in the community.

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