Some of you may remember that my brother died in May of 2010. My family scattered Rob’s ashes in the desert outside San Diego in June of that year and again in the Vermont woods in July. I knew at that point that I would be making a Holy Land pilgrimage the following December with the group from Christ Church, so I reserved a small baggie of ashes with the intention of spreading them somewhere in the Holy Land.

The Holy Land did not have any resonance for my brother, but it had rearranged my molecules when I came the first time in November of 2009 and it felt as if I was taking him home in a way.

As the Christ Church pilgrim band made our way around to the holy sights, following in the footsteps of Jesus, I kept waiting for just the right moment, just the right spot. About half way through the trip, we visited Mt. Tabor, the beautiful mountain where tradition holds the transfiguration of Jesus took place (Matthew 17: 1-8), the story where Jesus invited Peter, James, and John up the mountain to pray when suddenly Jesus starts to glow and Moses and Elijah appear. Before long a bright cloud forms and the voice of God says, “This is my son, my beloved, with whom I am well pleased. Listen to him!”  In ancient times, mountains were understood as the place where heaven and earth meet. There is an elegant Franciscan church on Mt. Tabor, built on top of the remains of a Crusader church. I knew last December that this was the place to spread my brother’s ashes and so I found a quiet place on the ruins of the Crusader church, said some prayers, and let his ashes go in the wind.

Today, nine months later, I returned to Mt. Tabor and it felt as if I was going to visit my brother’s grave. I sat in the same spot and wept at I’m not sure what: his absence, his presence, the thin veil between this world and the next, the beauty and pain of being alive, Rob’s transfiguration. When the disciples see the appearance of the prophets on the mountain, Peter says, “Lord it is good for us to be here.” I couldn’t agree more.