Washington Irving said, “There is a sacredness in tears. They are not the mark of weakness but of power. They speak more eloquently than ten thousand tongues. They are messengers of overwhelming grief and unspeakable love.”

Around the world, people watched as Notre Dame burned, and as the spire fell – the symbol of reaching for the heavens, stretching our souls up to God. It seemed like, if you were quiet enough, you might be able to hear nations of people weeping. You don’t have to be Catholic, or even Christian, to feel reverence for a cathedral that has presided over hundreds of years of history, that has sheltered those who have come to mourn, to ask for healing for either body or heart, and those who have come to rejoice.

Notre Dame still stands, although badly wounded. And those of us who watched and wept will dry our tears and go on with life. But I hope we remember; I hope we hang onto a piece of our grief, because it represents the best in us.

Grief comes from our softest places, the parts of us that are removed from judgment and anger, the parts of us that are willing to simply love, even though loss might be the result of that love. For a few hours, many around the world were not divided by political party, or race, or ideology, or even geography. We were simply human beings watching a magnificent, historical church in flames, all of us clinging to the hope that it wouldn’t crumble completely.

When I ran my Alzheimer’s support group, Beyond Alzheimer’s, I would frequently find myself encouraging people to surrender to the grief I knew they were avoiding. It’s human nature to do so, of course – grief hurts. But, as Washington Irving said, there is a sacredness to it. You grieve because you love, I would tell them. Your grief represents the best of you. And there is this about grief: it is not bio-degradable. It won’t disintegrate and blow away if you ignore it. It will simply wait for you and at its own appointed time, come find you.

For a day, on April 15th, much of the world was united in grief. For a few hours, we found what is best in us – a softness, a compassion, a unity that we lose sight of so often these days. Maybe, as Notre Dame is rebuilt, as ashes are swept away and people look up again to where a new spire will be constructed, we can remember that for a moment in time, we remembered who we are supposed to be. We stopped fighting and blaming and accusing. Instead, we paused, and grieved, and hoped.



  1. Daniel Amare says:

    Grief is good when only it’s not man made,all of us created in this time conscious world in the image of the creator and at least to do the common good at any level. Its not happening, the contrary has been slowly taking place for sometime now, the good thing is we were warned early on since the past century by many visionary leaders including Ronald Reagan in his early years supporting Barry Goldwater has been saying it, our greatest threat is much greater than a nuclear arsenal. As Notre Dame is being rebuilt and the ashes are swept away and people look up again what is to happen next? God forbid evil.

  2. Ken W. Brown says:

    Thank you!
    Plus an appropriate quote from Washington Irving, wow Patti.

  3. Mick Bysshe says:

    “Weeping may endure for a night but joy cometh in the morning.” Ps. 30:5 KJV

  4. Kathleen says:

    The day the cathedral was burning, I had just picked my fourteen and a half year old shih-tzu’s ashes after letting him go the week prior. I did not have a chance to mourn the cathedral’s loss because I missed my dog so much. Your post reminds me of why I grieve for him so much. Thank you Patti. I love your writing!

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