Wednesday, May 27, 2009

To Those Who See Thestrals in Real Life

I'm veering onto a path of popular culture to share one of the ways I try to explain to others this phenomenon of recognizing death. The lens I use since Caitlin's death, and what I see when I look at the world through my eyes--the eyes of a bereaved parent. It's a little like Harry and Luna in "The Order of the Phoenix," one of the Harry Potter movies.

There's a scene where Harry is on his way to Hogwarts with his friends and he turns around and looks behind him.

HIs friends remain fixated at what lies ahead, but Harry turns around and sees what was and what is. Thestrals. Ugly creatures and yet gentle, because they know what they are. Visible reminders that death is real.

He asks, "Don't you see them? What's pulling the carriage." And his friend answers, "Nothing's pulling the carriage, Harry. It's pulling itself just like it always does." Ah, the luxury of ignorance.

He meets Luna, who assures him that he sees what he sees. She's quite calm about it as she can see them too. We find out later in the film that Harry and Luna see the Thestrals because they have witnessed death. And that's a bit what it's like seeing through bereaved eyes--We recognize each other. We know the look of seeing death. Other's will look past it, but we will see it in the eyes of our fellow bereaved. We will hear it in the careful words they choose to use in answering "How many children do you have?"

Other's who without this death experience believe that life gets pulled by itself "just like it always does," and those who have seen death know that sometimes what pulls us through life is the knowing that it (death) does and can happen. We need the Thestrals to pull the carriage, because left to ourselves we would melt in despair on the forest floor.

To those who see Thestrals, I echo what Luna says, "It's OK, you're not crazy. I see them too."


  1. Ah, Harry Potter!
    Harry had so many little gifts due to the death of his parents. While no one would ever trade their loved one for those little things- like new insights, greater empathy and a different perspective, those are the little nuggets of goodness that can come out of great sadness sometimes. My sympathies for your great loss. Thank you for sharing your writing.

  2. What a great way of describing it! Lovely post as always.

  3. Thank you. As always you so eloquently describe the life that has become our "new normal". Thanks again for being so willing to share your wisdom and journey with us.

  4. I just read the passage where Harry sees the thestrals (that's what they are called in the book) for the first time, though he doesn't know what they are or why he can see them yet.

  5. Thanks all for letting me go a bit pop culture here. And Sara, I fixed the name. I got confused because in that clip, Luna mentions Nargles, but turns out she's talking about other creatures that live in mistletoe. Ah, so many creatures, so little time! Peace.

  6. I love this idea from Harry Potter (I only read the first book) -it is a very real picture of grieving, thanks for sharing it for those of us who didn't see the movies.

    And I don't know where else to write this because I couldn't find an email for you, but you don't have to apologize for your beliefs...I think from the sola scriptura idea from Luther to the Catholic ideas of the Word of God in art and writings and revelations from the one can claim a perfect understanding of how God works and speaks here.

    Though I am in a protestant church, and grew up in conservative Texas, I very much appreciate and even believe some of the views of orthodox, traditional, and even emergent faiths. So feel free to comment/write what you think. Because I'd like to know!

  7. I'm curious about JK Rowling's life experiences too. How can one write in such detail without personal insight? It seems impossible.

    Thinking of you. :)

  8. Beautiful post. I love JK Rowling and was just thinking of re-reading the whole series (again--so re-re-reading?). Our pain definitely seems to much more easily re-shape our world-view than our joy--I think I need to think about that one a little more. Thanks for giving me a lot to think about.

  9. Great post. I'm sad to say, I've never seen or read Harry. Bad, huh?

  10. One of the themes I loved most from the hp books was the sense of loss and grief evolving as he did and how it became a great love for him inthe end.

    I see them too...

  11. Amazing post. Thanks so much.