“Where Does the Spirit of God Hover?”


The cover of Sonali Deraniyagala’s book “Wave” is black with the simple title printed in the center a turquoise color fading to white on the “v” and “e” letters. The cover image reminds me of a Tim Lowly painting, titled “Face of the Deep.” The painting is of a young Temma Lowly sleeping and two side panels with a black rectangle in each, a barely legible image of swirling water as with the Spirit of God hovering over the face of the deep in our Creation story. Sonali’s powerful book helps me to wonder again with my heart in my throat, “Where is the Spirit of God hovering?”

In the thirty-foot wave traveling twenty-five miles per hour that came over the coast of Sri Lanka in December, 2004, Sonali’s entire family–husband, two young sons, and her parents–were washed away leaving Sonali swirling in an eddy of mud when she was rescued, barely alive. Written in prose that rips apart and sparkles both, the book is a testament to the remarkable and powerful strength of heart within community to heal after such a loss. I read, sometimes hungrily going on even when my mind was screaming, “Stop.”

I cannot claim to understand a loss as great as Sonali’s, yet in many instances while reading I was propelled into experiencing again some of my own heart complications after Temma’s near-death and resulting severe brain damage.

“…as I shudder on this bed. I recoil at my desolation. How I have fallen. When I had them, they were my pride, and now that I’ve lost them, I am full of shame. I was doomed all along, I am marked, there must be something very wrong about me. These were my constant thoughts in those early months. Why else did we have to be right there just when the wave hit? Why else have I become this shocking story, this wild statistical outlier? Or I speculated that I must have been a mass murderer in a previous life, I was paying for that now. And even as I have discounted such possibilities over time, shame remains huge in me.”

“It seems shallow, my shame, all about being trounced and not having, but that’s how it is, and it won’t dislodge.”

“So this is me now, loitering on the outskirts of the life we had.”

(“Wave”, pgs. 112, 113)

Such language is too high for me. I cannot attain it. Yet I’m trying. Thank you Sonali Deraniyagala for your extraordinary effort.

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