Letting Go of Balloons
Thoughts from a committal of ashes service on the sight of a half dozen balloons taking flight.
Today there weren’t as many as in the picture above. But there were balloons. About a half dozen of them. Released to the sky. A stunning sight.
I was asked to lead a gathering by a family for one whose funeral I had officiated a month, no more than two, prior to the day. A committal to final resting place on earth of a beautiful spirit now among the saints in heaven. The angels, as it were.
One of the family members, a niece technically, was there holding balloons. Several shaped like stars, and one like a heart. Pink. And perfect.
If you’re from this part of the country, then you know that it was a record day for warmth, with a cold front pressing in from the west, making for a beautiful yet breezy afternoon to be at local cemetery. In its newer section, still with rolling green field ever being populated by concrete memorial stone after stone.
The inevitability of a temporal existence.
The balloons, held by niece, as we waited for late arrivals, beat against each other in the breeze with the anxiety of a cat yearning to be released from a hug imposed by her human. The anticipation of kindling waiting for a spark. Of doves waiting to be released to fly.
And so it was decided, even though we were minutes upon minutes of the official ceremony, to grant the balloons the release of their yearning. And set them free.
I was humbled that, after family had taken theirs, there was one for me. A blue star. To hold by string until the moment was declared. To let go.
What a feeling to let something go. And watch it be taken by invisible force.
God’s Spirit blows wherever it wishes. You hear its sound, but you don’t know where it comes or where it is going. ~John 3.8 CEB
When I released my balloon, it tried to cling to the earth. Stubborn against the prevailing winds. To brush the meadow, and perhaps skip memorial stone. In defiance of the inevitable. Yet eventually, it surrendered. And as I had let it go, it let go as well. And it began to soar.
High to the sky, radiant blue with clouds as if brushed from the beginning.
Hesitant at first, but then conceding to its ultimate destination, wherever that may end up being.
Perhaps in neighboring state. In someone’s front yard, and ultimately their rubbish container. Discarded as a nuisance, even if intended as a celebration.
In life, I’ve learned that we have to let go.
As the cliche goes, we have to “let go and let God.”
Maybe that’s not as cliche as it is true.
We have to let go, knowing that there is a ruach — Hebrew for “breath” or “wind” or “spirit”— to carry us, no matter what.
And so we cling, until life’s final breath, to the hesitation of living. Yet ultimately we must learn to concede, like balloon soaring from clutched hand, to the winds of prevalence, the spirit of holiness, the very breath of God breathed above the temporal to lift us to the eternal.
I don’t know where my balloon released from these frail fingers will land in the end, when all its helium is spent. But I’m learning to trust.
To let go, and let God lead. If only but to that place God has prepared, where there is still, and will be always, enough space for one such as me.
And with the hope that when my time comes to be taken to that place, that others will release a balloon for me.