The Temple of Grieving and Loss…

There’s been only one thing on my mind all day today – my extraordinarily spiritual experience yesterday inside the walls of a Smithsonian Museum. I’d wanted to see the Burning Man exhibit since I first learned it was coming to the Renwick Gallery in D.C. I knew that it was an exhibit usually displayed in the dessert, but as soon as I stepped into The Temple, the centerpiece of the exhibit, I realized how much I didn’t know about the exhibit itself.

According to the information posted at the entrances to The Temple, it was “a place created by many hands to honor the universal human experience of grieving and loss”. The sign asked for respect for the solemn place. I remember thinking “uh oh”.

I stepped inside the usually bright and colorful centerpiece room of the Renwick Gallery which had been transformed into an all white Spiritual Mecca. Each piece of the Temple is a small block of wood joined together to make incredible altars, walls and sitting areas.

I immediately noticed that on many of the blocks of wood people had written notes to or about someone they had lost. Right away the tears started to run down my face and I was barely inside the room. As I looked around the room filled with maybe 30 people, I definitely wasn’t the only one crying. There was a small area with stacks of the white blocks and pencils you could use to write a note. At least 10 people were writing. I was stunned at how quiet it was in there.

I sat down on one of the benches and just started to reflect and take in as much of the spirituality as I could that completely filled the room. Before I knew it, I’d been there an hour. It felt like 5 minutes. I was trying to estimate the number of wooden blocks in the room but I could even begin to guess.

I wrote my note to Tim and then walked around for about 10 minutes deciding where I wanted to put it. I was upset that no matter how many photos I took I couldn’t capture the feel of the room, the sense of calmness wrapped around love and peace and stunning beauty. Nor could I capture the grief and loss. But I accepted the fact that that was the way it was supposed to be. It’s something you can’t capture, you can only experience it. I felt like God was there, holding each of us up like the little wooden blocks we wrote our notes on.

While I did get quite a bit of reading done today, after every other page or so in my textbook my mind went right back to yesterday. Tears welled up in my eyes several times. I can’t think of the last time I’ve been as impacted by an exhibit as I was by this one. But I didn’t try to stop my feelings, I just embraced them… and then I got out my own little blocks and tried to build a LEGO version of my favorite part of the Temple, the altar in the front of room.

I’ll be going back to the exhibit before it leaves at the end of the year. I feel like the Temple was made for me and it has given me a sense of calm and peace. The rest of the exhibit was incredible too with lots of color and sound and movement. It’s the perfect compliment to The Temple. Every bit of my emotions were stirred up and it was probably just what I needed as the two year anniversary of Tim’s death approaches in a month. My love for him and my memories of us are still as strong as ever!

8 thoughts on “The Temple of Grieving and Loss…

  1. Another powerfully poignant post, Loretta. What has captivated me is what captivated you…the widest range of emotion (i.e., “being upset…that [you] couldn’t capture the feel of the room”, [your] “sense of calmness wrapped around love and peace and stunning beauty’, and on and on) and your allowing yourself to experience it all, verily, to be present with yourself, and, as I am wont to say/write, your self.

    Thank you especially for sharing your note to Tim. Truly, as I read your words, it is a note to Tim for and from all of us who hold in tender, life-long embrace his memory. Again, my thanks.


    • Thank you so much Paul for totally understanding the feelings I was trying to convey in my post!! I actually thought of you while writing it because I had a hard time trying to even find the right words to describe my experience!! I’m going to send you a couple of short videos so you can actually get a small sense of the experience. It’s a shame y’all live so far, as I think it’s an exhibit you wouldlove. How Burning Man works in the dessert is that they burn everything from the exhibit at the end of its run as an act of letting it all go!!

      I felt I needed to share the words I wrote about Tim because I’ve always known there are many people who miss him as much as I do. Thank you again for being on this journey with me!

      Much love!!


  2. Thank you for sharing. I need to plan a trip to DC to visit the museums and exhibits

    I pray you have a blessed Father’s Day.

    Blessings, Belinda

    Sent from my iPhone


  3. Dear Loretta,

    You so beautifully conveyed a profound experience of grief and love. I wish I had known Tim (although to some degree I feel I do from what you and Paul have shared of his wonderful personality and heart). I’m so glad someone is present enough with the world’s grief to know that such a place as “The Temple” are needed to welcome, accept, honor, and enfold people’s feelings about the absences they feel so deeply every day. Thank you for sharing your note to Tim. I do believe your souls are forever joined to each other. Your expression of it recounts such truth about you, about Tim, and about your relationship. I love your beautiful Lego altar. I hope it finds a permanent place in your home.

    I hope Father’s Day became easier as the day went on, Loretta, and ended with you feeling peace and Tim’s presence.

    Much love,


    • Thank You, Thank You Karen!! I’m sooooo glad my description of my visit to the Renwick shined through. As I explained to Paul, it was so hard to put into words. I’m going to go back again before it ends, maybe more than once! The next time I’ll leave a note for my father. Though he delivered me when I was born, we never met.

      I wish I had something positive to say about my Father’s Day but it was pretty bad. I spent a really long day working at church so dads could be celebrating with loved ones and not working a church service, but the time was filled with chaos including our entire sound system dying before we had to baptize three children over two services. The day never got any better after church and I was so sad by the end of the day that I went to bed about 7:30pm. Not only was it Father’s Day but it was the 23rd month without Tim so I just needed the day to end early. That was how I chose to get peace and I think it helped!!

      Thanks again for you words!!!! Much love back to you!!


  4. Oh, Loretta, I feel so bad about the very hard day you had yesterday. I know the fathers you helped to free up to be with their families appreciated it, even in the face of the bad things that happened. But I’m glad you finally were able to let go and just surrender to sleep and, I hope, good dreams. I wish I could share half of my good day yesterday with you – consider it done, if such a thing is possible – sitting in a lakeside pavilion in St. Paul with my husband and daughter, drinking iced tea on a very hot, breezy, damp, threatening afternoon listening to a New Orleans-style jazz band and watching older couples dance. You would have loved it!

    I hope your week is good. And I hope you make it back to The Temple.

    Love and hugs,


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