Before anyone could have predicted the coming drought, in the span of my final four summer days, I went to five waterfalls, a wedding, and a funeral.
On an August Thursday, I splashed behind a waterfall. At High Falls State Park, the waterfall quietly flowed. An intense stream, there was just enough room to breathe behind the veil of water. Though the waterfall itself was short, the thick flow made it hard to see the outside world. Reaching out, I felt the weight of the water as I attempted to make a curtain with my fingers so that I could see the world I’d just somehow escaped.
On Friday of that same week, I found myself behind another waterfall. This long waterfall at Fall Creek Falls was nothing like Thursday’s. It was the elegant skyscraper lit up at night compared to the cozy ranch cabin. Still, there were similarities in the falling flows. Water still glistened as it fell, laughter was muted by the comforting roar of river, and I felt a little bit more alive as I again tried to catch a glimpse of the clouds and trees from my perch behind the waterfall.
On Saturday, water fell from my eyes as I went directly from a funeral to a wedding. One ceremony marked the start of a marriage, the other a tragic and unexpected end. A wonderful man’s three daughters mourned the fact that their dad wouldn’t be there to walk them down the aisle on their future wedding days. Then, I watched a dad dance with his daughter at the beautiful wedding of two friends. Families gathered and friends were reacquainted. Weddings and funerals; these are the ways we creatures of emotion know how to mark the biggest moments.
On those Thursday and Friday waterfall adventures, I don’t think I could have imagined empty rivers. But now, it is autumn. And in this particular fall, for the first time anyone can remember, there’s no water flowing over so many of the waterfalls in Georgia, Alabama, and Tennessee. It’s a drought that I didn’t seem to notice until I saw these pictures of some of my favorite places. My friends stand where if once they’d stood, they’d be crushed by the power of the falling drops. Every hair on their heads remain dry.
On that Saturday wedding, even after such an encounter with death, I wasn’t able to imagine a world without the beautiful girl who smiled at me and introduced me to her sister. During the reception, she came over to say hello. I was a friend to her friend, so I was a friend to her. Though I knew in that moment that she was bravely fighting cancer, I caught a glimpse of life that completely overshadowed the terrible word “terminal.”
On this October Monday, this sunshine girl named Sarah is supposed to turn twenty-years-old. Victory came for Sarah about two weeks ago. Last Saturday, her family and friends gathered to sing her favorite songs and join together to celebrate her life.
On the Saturday before her birthday and after her funeral, I found myself again at a waterfall with friends. Though impacted by the drought, the river at Amicalola Falls was not completely dry. So I laughed with the glimmering drops and climbed the stairs to catch the sun before it set. A stranger passed me as apparently a smile escaped,
“You’re absurdly happy,” he told me.
I was. I was surrounded by life even as the trees accepted their temporary death with fiery, golden colors. The leaves fell with the water, and I was provided a glimpse beyond this world. In the same way that celebrations of life, weddings and funerals, allow a peak through the veil, these days of more intense emotion remind me of the greatest story.
In the abundance, the powerful waterfalls—the weddings, this beauty is just a shadow of the day our Lord will call us home to be his bride. I’m reminded in the letting go of my friends and of the leaves that there is a promise of love and hope that I can hold on to.
In the drought, the waterless waterfalls—the funerals, it is both harder and easier to glimpse eternity. We long for other side of this life when the other side suddenly holds someone who made us laugh. There’s never more desire for that one day wedding feast than at a funeral. But the veil seems so powerfully distant.
My typical days don’t actually usually include waterfalls, funerals, and weddings. A pattern of work and food and commutes and electricity bills and classes shape my schedule. So when the days do include these glimpses, I’m reminded of how I should live every day.
The veil has already been torn by a hand much stronger than mine. He reached out and held up his arms on a cross, and the curtain of the temple was ripped in two. His death that marked the turning of times was celebrated with a resurrection.
Veils of waterfalls. Ceilings of clouds. What is unseen becomes seen from behind the water and the caves. Funerals and weddings: they are celebrations of love but veils of what’s still to come.
May I live life like the veil will one day be lifted, the abundant water will one day be parted, and the joy will be made complete.
Happy birthday, Sarah Barr.