We lost one of our baby chicks, while I was out of town. I was gone for four days, two days of Christian writers’ conference and a day of personal retreat on either side. I wore cute shoes, and fixed my hair. My body missed my children like a drug.

I came home late, full and rich and blessed and also sucked completely dry. I stumbled, walking down the hill in starlight dark in my cute shoes. But I made the stairs by feel and opened the yurt door to candlelight, three sleeping children and a perfect, warm, small fire in the stove.

The baby birds in the cardboard box by the stove were sleeping, too. I opened the lid to look. But there were only five, where there had been six. It was the little yellow one, the brightest yellow one, who died.

My husband said he didn’t think it would have mattered if I had been there. He said, things just happen, sometimes. Sometimes there’s nothing you can do. It’s nature’s way.

I had just been reading, in a book my country-skilled mother had written, a passage about her own mother. My grandmother was a farmer’s wife with a special way of caring for sick birds. She would wrap the bird and feed it and ease it back to health. Work tiny miracles.

But I never met that grandmother, my mother’s mother. She died of cancer, young.

They buried the bird on Friday, my husband said, under the dogwood tree. It’s weary even saying, but that tree was planted years ago to commemorate another loss. Another woman, another cancer. And its being transplanted this weekend marks another kind of loss.

That day I was at a conference of Christian creatives. Clean and dressed. We were an attractive bunch. But there, too, we kept stumbling into one another’s tears. Deaths closer than a baby animal, losses more fierce than the failure of a bird heart in a cardboard box.

How can it be, Lord, that all these mothers have lost children? That all these children have lost mothers? That so many mothers and children have lost hope?

We sat in a retreat session, at a long shiny wooden table, several dozen writers of Christian faith. We were opening ourselves like packages, shining lights into cupboards. We were asking, what does it really mean to come awake?

And all day long our grief was like a drumbeat, underneath the melody of joy. Our song rising, but we couldn’t get it free unless we could somehow unleash lament, alongside and under and beneath the colors of the dogwood tree.

I found myself thinking this. That we of the church, and maybe especially we women of the church, have swallowed our tears.

And why? Because in our deep hearts we know there is no such thing as a small grief. For your beloved child, for a tiny bird, or for a civil war that rips the fabric of a nation. Each and any of these will bring you to the table of lament.

And oh! that table seems so far from grace. It seems so distant from the shining city. It stinks like failure, and it turns the blood like shame. It seems the very opposite of holy.

But I carry this conviction, that we meet one another at that table. Look and see. How they wind together, in the air, my grief and yours. This is dangerous work. It unleashes our compassion. It calls us to one another’s aid. It names our humanness, the common thread. It changes hearts.

And it unleashes Christ. Christ victorious, Christ irrational, Christ who makes all things new.

{{You guys. I really actually believe that.}}

I will not hide from your grief, if you will not hide from mine. I will not silence your anger, if you will not silence mine. Let’s come alongside each other. Let’s welcome each other’s lives in fullness, not skipping the chapters that render us mute or the ones that call for wailing. No human life is written with all those pages blank.

And this is faith, as much as I know of it. This is faith, to call up love enough to meet the sorrow, and to know of joy rooted that deep, deep place. This is faith, too, to feast even at the table where death has been.

It may be weeks before my dogwood blooms outright. It’s a bit of a risk, transplanting a tender tree as high as we are on the hill. I can’t guarantee that it ever will be the symbol of triumph. But I won’t wait, to claim the victory in Christ. Present in sorrow, present in the voice of sorrow, present in the hope of healing. The feast is now.