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Celebrating Everyday Spirituality

Sunflower Seeds

Celebrating Everyday Spirituality

“The Place Where Lost Things Go”

Last week I saw the new movie, Mary Poppins Returns. I loved it! Although nothing can replace the original Mary Poppins, I still loved this sequel with its beautiful music, lively dancing, and its array of memorable characters. I loved the creative scenes—swimming underwater, flying in the sky with a balloon, dancing in a topsy-turvy world with Meryl Streep, and watching the lamplighters dancing wildly with their lamps and doing acrobatics on their bikes.

The new songs were wonderful too. But my favorite one was “The Place Where Lost Things Go.” It is a lullaby that Mary Poppins (Emily Blunt) sings as she is tucking the three Banks children into their beds. The children, John, Anabel, and Georgie, are missing their mother who died within the past year. Mary understands the pain of their loss, and sings the tender song to them.

This time of the year, we may be missing “lost things.” Perhaps at our holiday gatherings, we were missing a loved one who was no longer there. I know I was….Mary Poppins begins the song with these words: Do you ever lie awake at night, searching for the things you used to know?

I thought: such things can be people… places… memorable experiences… or perhaps just the way things used to be when the world seemed to be a simpler place.

She continues: Do you ever dream or reminisce, wondering where to find what you truly miss?

How many people today are truly missing things such as a slower pace to daily life… less “stuff” … greater unity… more civility in discourse… Or how many people are missing parents… children… grandparents… a sibling… a beloved friend… a dear pet… a cherished home… good health… or even energy and vitality?

Mary continues: though they’ve disappeared, nothing’s gone forever, only out of place…. Spring is like that now, far beneath the snow.

When I gaze out my window this time of year, everything looks dead. The trees are bare… the grass is covered with snow… many birds are gone… the chipmunks are hibernating… the insects have vanished. Sometimes it takes great faith to believe that spring will ever come.

Then she tells the children: Maybe all you’re missing lives inside of you!

How true for those children. Their dear mother’s very DNA lives inside of them. And can’t we say the same thing about the loved ones we are missing? Those who played such significant roles in our lives are living inside of us in a very real way simply by the influence they have had on us.

Mary ends her song with these comforting words for the children about their mother: When you need to touch her… trust she’s always there, watching as you grow… Find her in the place where the lost things go.

As I watched the movie, hearing this song for the first time, my eyes filled with tears. At my age (74), so much of my life has already been lived. So much is behind me, in the past. So I have more “lost things” to miss, to grieve, to mourn. At the same time, I have more “lost things” to give thanks for!

Our Christian faith can help us deal with all the “lost things” in our life–especially loved ones. It tells us that death is not the end. It is a transition to a new and everlasting life. Death is not a wall separating us from those we love. It is a door through which we will pass one day and be reunited with our loved ones. The poet John Shea describes eternity in this way: it is the place where the laughter of reunion leaps on the far side of loss. He also says we must trust the larger Mystery that connects us beyond separations. That Mystery, of course, is God. In one very real way we can say that God is the place where lost things go.

Now let’s listen to Emily Blunt singing the song by Marc Shaiman and Scott Wittman, “The Place Where Lost Things Go.” Reflective questions will follow the song.

Reflective questions:

Are there any “lost things” that you are missing right now? Would you like to share any of them with us?

Do any specific words from the song catch your attention today?

What helps you grieve your losses?

I welcome your responses to this reflection below:



57 Responses

  1. Just yesterday evening I wept for at least twenty minutes remembering a specific kindness paid to me by a friend who died last summer in her mid-40s, of sudden and ruthless cancer.

    I was grateful afterwards to have been close to that pain of inexplicable loss. It meant that I hadn’t forgotten her, hadn’t allowed the hubbub and fiddle of daily life to induce a callous amnesia.

    Grief is good. It is the prayer of a heart that cherishes the induplicable and irreplaceable treasure that a human soul is, all the noble qualities that the mourned-for person made manifest.

    A lively faith in the communion of saints, in the life of the world to come, mitigates the pain of loss mightily.

    Miss you, Jen. Rest always in splendour, light, joy, and peace.

    1. Dear Tom,
      My sympathy to you on the loss of your dear friend, Jen. Your words are filled with beauty and wisdom: “inexplicable loss… the irreplaceable treasure that a human soul is… noble qualities the mourned for person made manifest…” Thank you for sharing the goodness of Jen and the pain of your loss with us… Melannie

  2. What a beautiful reflection Sr. Melannie!

    Last week, I watched my 83 year old mother-in-law find her lost things by visiting with her childhood friend of over 75 years. For over three days, they reminisced about their lives together. It was such a beautiful journey to watch unfold. Such joy in finding so many memories!

    God bless you.


    1. Dear Kathleen,
      What a beautiful little story! You have described the “up side” of loss… what precedes our experience of loss: the treasure of the gift of friendship and companionship. Thank you!

  3. When our mother died in 1963, I was six and my sister Zita was eleven. Our mother’s favorite holiday was Christmas, but since she died on Dec. 12th, Christmas that year was marked by a single candle in one window.

    But Zita soon took over the tradition of making Christmas magical. In essence, she became my surrogate mom, making sure I got to school, always telling me stories, and even dragging me out of bed at times to brush my teeth and wash my hands.

    Zita died in 2016 of pulmonary fibrosis. The other day I came across a condolence card from my sister-in-law. I wept and wept and wept.

    Once when we were small, I think it was summer time, she found a tiny pine needle behind the couch. She showed it to me and our hearts glowed!

  4. Dear John,
    I can’t imagine losing a parent at such a young age. Probably only when we’re older, do we realize the magnitude of such a loss. Zita must have been one sensitive, creative, and loving sister. My sympathy for your loss of her too. Melannie

  5. Thank you! Tomorrow is the 7th anniversary of my dad’s death. I miss him. This was just what I needed this morning!

  6. This young year I have already seen two losses in our family. A dear brother in law who lost his battle with dementia and a nephew who is gone way to soon in a tragic accident. As I prepare for a memorial service for my brother in law I am happy to be gathering with other family members on the other side of the country to celebrate his life. I’ll be happy to see my family all in one place.

    1. Dear Mary Ann,
      Two losses in 2019–and the year has just begun… My sympathy to you on the death of your brother-in-law and nephew. I will pray for them, you, and your family. The “plus” side of wakes and funerals, is our oneness with others who are grieving the same loss. Pain has a way of uniting us as nothing else can. Thank you for writing, Mary Ann… Melannie

  7. Happy New Year, Sister,
    From a fellow Chardonite living in SF now. Sometimes I miss seeing that snow.
    Thank you for your Monday morning inspirations.
    I’m thinking of Chardon now and of my parents, gone now, but, all the beautiful memories growing up there.
    All the best to you in 2019 and looking forward to next Monday.

  8. Today is my father’s anniversary. He is lost to this world but his goodness remains alive in my heart. Thank you for sharing this particular song as I celebrate my father’s life in God.

    1. Dear Suzanne,
      I’ll say a prayer for your dad today on the anniversary of his death. Yes, as you imply, our grieving should always include a celebration of our loved one’s particular life… Thank you for writing. Melannie

  9. Dear Liz,
    It was good meeting you and your sister when I was in San Francisco giving some talks a little while ago. It’s always fun meeting a fellow Chardonite. For those readers who are familiar with Chardon, Liz’s family lived in the house on 5th Avenue that is now “Chips,” the miniature golf place… I’m glad you have such fond memories of your parents and of growing up in Chardon…Melannie

  10. Lovely words this morning, Sister, now this song speaks to me, too! The medicine I am now taking (@71 years) allows little sleep, but I must have gone back to sleep last night because when I opened my eyes this morning these pre Vatican 2 words that were in a lost place in my heart, we’re on my lips.
    Come, Holy Ghost, Creator blest,
    and in our souls take up Thy rest;
    come with Thy grace and heavenly aid
    to fill the hearts which Thou hast made.
    I share them in case they provide peace for others, too, who are grieving.

    1. Dear Rita,
      I agree that sometimes it’s the old memorized words of a prayer or a song that come back and bestow comfort. A simple Our Father… or Hail Mary… or Angel of God, my guardian dear… or “Oh, Lord, I am not worthy, that Thou should come to me”… (my old first communion song. Thank you for reminding us of this… Melannie

  11. Thank you, Melanie for this wonderful reflection. I can’t tell you how much I look forward to “Seeds” every Monday morning. As I read the text this morning, I found myself stopping at the end of most phrases and thinking about my mother. She was the single most influential person in my life…I suspect that there are many people who could say the same. And the song made me fill up in gratitude for her…I treasure her memory. Thank you! I am VERY much looking forward to the cruise retreat!!!

    1. Thank you, Kate, for your response. It’s good for us to pause sometimes and recall the goodness of the individuals who have made such significant impressions on our life… And to express our gratitude for them and to them… I’m getting excited about our retreat cruise too, Kate… I look forward to meeting you aboard the ship! Melannie

  12. Good Monday Morning Sister,
    Your morning reading and song were just what we need on this dreary and wintery day. They will be my sunshine as I remember all “the lost things”. You again provided a perfect slant for our loved ones lost. Thank you.

  13. Thank you, Sister, again, a beautiful reflection.

    It strikes me that my “lost things” are times and experiences with my parents. They are both still with us, but Mom is in what appears to be early dementia, and Dad is in declining physical health. It wasn’t too long ago that they were going on short trips with us, and actively participating in the lives of the grand children. Now, at 87 and 88 their lives have become much more sedentary and with Dad’s many physical problems, we are realistically looking at end of life issues. I try to treasure the times we do have, and look back fondly on the long lives they’ve enjoyed.
    On the up side, my first grandchild is due to be born within the next month, so an entire new set of memories will fill my life. However, I know I will treasure the “lost things” forever.

    1. Dear Kathy,
      Thank you for your words. When my parents were in their late 80’s, I remember watching as their world became smaller. It was hard to witness. I also learned about “anticipatory grief.” Sometimes we grieve the loss of our loved ones long before their actually deaths. Amid all that, you have the birth of your first grandchild to anticipate. You are wise to speak of the “new set of memories” that will fill your life…Thank you for responding so beautifully to my blog… Melannie

  14. I was in a book store on Friday evening after work to purchase a wall calendar and a day-by-day calendar for my cubicle at work. The act of looking at calendars reminded me of past Christmases when I would purchase calendars for my children and my late husband. I so enjoyed these searches for the perfect calendar for each person— as much as I enjoyed watching the looks on their faces when they unwrapped the calendars on Christmas morning. For a brief moment, I was transported back 20-some years to that wonderful chaos of Christmas morning—the family room layered in ripped wrapping paper, and empty boxes, the aroma of turkey roasting for our Christmas dinner wafting through the air, and the excited, happy chatter and laughter of my children and my husband. I could even feel the mild sense of fatigue and occasional sleepiness that I experienced on Christmas morning from being up late for midnight Mass and then the last minute gift wrapping after Mass (and after the children were snug in their beds, as the poem states…) and ‘Santa duties’ that I dearly loved doing.

    Nothing’s really left
    Or lost without a trace
    Nothing’s gone forever
    Only out of place

    That is the hardest part of memories—having that feeling that they are out of place. I don’t think they are out of place—sometimes the moment that I am remembering them can be out of place—I am guessing I had some goofy expressions on my face when I was in the bookstore! I have come to look at the memories as a reminder of the life I have been privileged to live—how God has been with me—buying calendars as well as remembering buying calendars and framing those moments as good. A friend of mine calls these God winks.

    I think I tend to think of losses not so much as losses but as the time allotted to me to enjoy whatever is was—be it people and/or my experiences with people. Being a bit greedy, I often think the loss happened too soon—I am usually NOT ready for the loss part! But, that in turn (most of the time!) makes me conscious of savoring whatever happens in my life. (It’s a shame that I had to live over five decades to figure that out!)

    Thanks for a wonderful posting!

    1. Dear Paula, I appreciated your response to today’s reflection. I could just picture you picking out the perfect calendar for your loved ones… I liked especially your words: “I have come to look at memories as a reminder of the life I have been privileged to live.” What a beautiful attitude to have! I also like your friend’s phrase “God winks.” Thanks so much for your words today! Melannie

  15. What a beautiful reflection. I am printing it out, and intend to spend more time with it and with the song, especially tomorrow, when I will remember my father’s birthday (he died in 1999). I help to facilitate a bereavement group in my church, and will also share it with them. Thank you!

    1. Dear Mary,
      I’m glad this reflection spoke to you so deeply… and you will use it to reflect on your dear father on his birthday tomorrow. I’m sure the song will also speak to the members of your bereavement group. What a beautiful and important ministry you are involved in. Thanks again! Melannie

  16. We (My wife and I) have lost 2 grandchildren. One we didn’t really get to know. I met him at birth and 3 months later at his death. So we feel we have our own special angel. The other commited suicide at 34 due to drugs and left a wife and 6 year old son. We had partially raised him and were pretty close. We to have seen Mary Poppins returns and loved it as much as the original, lncluding all the music and special effects.

    1. Dear Jack,
      My sympathy to you on the loss of two of your grandchildren–an infant and a young man. How difficult those losses must be for you and your wife. I promise a prayer for your grandchildren and your whole family. I’m sure my readers will also hold you all in prayer. Melannie

  17. I look forward to your reflections every Monday. I could relate to all that was shared by others because I miss my mother and some family friends, especially around the holidays. But the reflection today made me think in another direction. This one was so appropriate because of what is happening in religious life today. The religious life that we all knew is dying and now we live in the in between time as religious congregations mourn and grieve the loss of the familiar and try to discover how religious life is going to be lived in the future. Congregations are looking at what are the essentials of religious life as related to their mission and charism and looking for ways God might be calling them today, to make them relevant today and into the future.

    1. Dear Sue,
      Thank you for reminding us that we grieve many losses–including the “loss” of a way of life as we knew it. The diminishment of our numbers in our religious congregation is a challenge for all of us. We are burying so many of our sisters, our mentors, our friends. Also we’ve had to “let go” of so many things–ministries, schools, hospitals, convents, motherhouses. But our faith tells us that the God who has always been with us, is still with us–and will be with us in our future too. Thank you for your wise words. Melannie

  18. This beautiful reflection brought tears to my eyes. I know that the spirit of my dearest is with me at all times. I do wake at night searching for the things I used to know. Dealing with the me instead of the we brings such loneliness. I think I want to be in the place where the lost things go so that I can feel complete. Thank you for these awesome thoughts.

  19. This brought tears to my eyes—both your words and the tender, beautiful song. It was good to hear the song from the movie again. I’m missing Dad, and living far from Mom isn’t easy sometimes. I can’t even imagine how hard it will be when she joins him in heaven. Mom and I are so close. I just keep telling her not to get any ideas; I still need her! Needing someone is no guarantee that they will be here, I know. I just have to trust that the grace will be there when that time comes. Thanks for choosing a beautiful topic and writing from the angle you did, instead of missing socks from the dryer. 🙂

    1. Dear Annie,
      Thank you for sharing your thoughts and feelings with us. Since I know both of your parents (and you!), I appreciate your grief even more. Yes, it must be hard to be so far from your dear mom during this particular time. Your words enriched our understand of what it means to be in mourning… Melannie

  20. My mother died in 2001 on December 22 so Christmas has become bittersweet. As a few other commenters have ssid, for me too, this is the anniversary of my father’s death (44 years). I am so grateful for their example of faith and for choosing for me the gift of Baptism. When I become a “lost thing” they will no longer be lost things and we will all be reunited in God’s loving embrace “in the place where lost things go.” I saw the movie with my son (a Capuchin Franciscan friar) over the Christmas holidays and we very much enjoyed it!

    1. Dear Barbara,
      Many of us reading this blog are, like you, grateful for our faith-filled parents. I thought it was “special” that you saw this movie with your son, the friar. What a blessing for both of you!… Melannie

  21. What a beautiful reflection today Sr. Melannie, thank you. I am also touched by such sincere and beautiful responses from readers. Thank you to them as well. I live every day now with the “slipping away” loss as my 70 year old husband of 48 years who has Lewey Body Dementia. While his short-term memory is fragile and he is often confused, he still has the gift of his long-term memory, and he reminds every day of the wonderful life we’ve had together. I’m thinking that today we will venture forth to see Mary Poppins Returns. I think he will enjoy that. Thank you again!

    1. Dear Mary Therese,
      I’m glad you enjoy the responses from our readers. Thank you for adding YOUR response to this reflection. My sympathy to you on the “loss” of your husband to dementia. What a cross that must be… It sounds as if you’ve had a beautiful life together, though…. Thanks again! Melannie

  22. What a Beautiful song, Dear Melanie.
    It touched my Heart and Soul. I always speak to those people that I loved and who helped to Form me into who I am today. I will celebrate my 80th Birthday this August!!!! Like Jack Benny, 39 always appealed to me
    Now I give Thanks and Praise for another wonderful day.
    God is Good…Always
    Love your messages,

  23. Wow! What profound Sharing.
    As each beloved elder has passed from my life, I have been painfully aware that they take with them so much history, so many stories that they treasured so deeply and shared so generously with me and my contemporaries. Even when I try to retell their stories I have a sense that so many of the details have been left behind.
    However, as I find myself in that “storytelling” stage of life, I am sensing that my stories are also a legacy worth sharing with the generations behind me.

    1. Dear Tom,
      I agree that when our beloved elders die, they often take with them so much history. I always regret that I didn’t ask my grandparents more about their childhoods in Bohemia and their decision to come to this country as mere teenagers, never to see their parents and other siblings again. So when my parents were in their 80’s I interviewed them a number of times, asking questions about their childhood and beyond. I took notes and then typed them up for my nieces and nephews…
      May you continue to share your precious stories with others, Tom. Thanks for writing again! Melannie

  24. Dear Sr. Melanie,
    What a lovely reflection! I got sidetracked after reading it on Monday morning with my husband. Maybe I was temporarily one of those lost things! I didn’t get back to it until today and was surprised to find my husband had already responded!
    The first lost thing that came to my mind on Monday when a snowstorm was blanketing Indiana and the rest of the Midwest was snow. How I miss that first snow of the season……
    After 62 years of marriage, we have lost a good many of our friends, most to death but some to relocations to be closer to their families…..
    Our active way of life after my husband had a stroke on Christmas Eve of 1998……
    Becoming an “orphan” at the age of 32 when I lost my father much too soon….
    A simpler way of life……
    After almost 80 decades of life, I have lost a lot of things. Think my husband and I should watch “Mary Poppins Returns” again and pay more attention to the words of that beautiful song.

  25. I must have lost more things than I can imagine in those “eighty decades” I claim to have lived! I’d like to revise that figure to 8 decades. At least I don’t think I have lost my sense of humor!

    1. Dear Jean, I’ll respond to both of your responses. First, I did chuckle when I read you had lived for “80 decades”! Glad you corrected it and made us smile… But 62 years of marriage! Now that’s something to celebrate…Thank you for writing and sharing the words and phrases that you resonated with the most. Melannie

  26. My husband of 58 years died in July. I one day realized that instead of thinking about how much I miss him, I needed to thank God for loaning him to me for so many years. I was blessed by God and by this good man.

    1. Dear Peggy, My sympathy to you on the loss of your dear husband… I applaud your attitude: to accept the pain of missing him, but also to give thanks for the gift he was to you all those years–and continues to be. Thank you for writing. Melannie

  27. I saw the movie yesterday. What a beautiful movie and Emily really did do justice to Mary Poppins. Thank you for posting this song for us. It made me think that often I do not take the time to really grieve my losses.

  28. In response to my original comment, I did take my husband with dementia to see Mary Poppins Returns. He knows nothing of this column or about the lullaby “The Place Where Lost Things Go.” As Emily Blunt was singing that song he reached for my hand and with tears on his face he said “What a beautiful song.”

    1. What a touching moment that must have been for you, Mary Therese… I’ve heard that one way “to communicate” with individuals with dementia is through music, through songs… Somehow the songs sometimes penetrate the dementia… Thank you for sharing this tender moment with us! Melannie

  29. My only sibling, Susan, passed away in 2012 after a 4 year battle with Multiple Myeloma. My husband, Dennis, supported my request to care for her in our home until God called her to join Him in Heaven. It was a privilege & honor to be her caretaker but it tested my faith in God’s plan for us.
    I can’t aptly describe my feelings….frustration, anger, resentment? that God would take someone so good with so much to offer to others away at such a young age. And, her death left me alone, with no one to ground me to my past. Who could I talk, laugh, share, seek advice from now that I had no parents & no sister? I felt so alone & I was mad at God for not answering all my prayers, for allowing such a disease to wreak havoc on an individual & her family!
    So, I turned away from Him….I didn’t want to talk to Him or ask for anything….what was the point? After all, He wasn’t there for me when I or my sister needed Him.
    On an intellectual level on knew that wasn’t true, but my loss & grief blinded me so deeply that I succumbed to that dark abyss of selfishness.
    In time, the darkness lifted and I sheepishly asked God to forgive me my mortal shortcomings. I resumed an improved relationship with the Trinity….for they had not abandoned me but brought me to a new level of divine awareness.
    I miss Susan every day. I wear something of hers everyday. And everyday I thank God for the time I had with her. Now my hope & prayer is that God welcomes me home some day & will reunite me with my beloved sister.

    1. Dear Carol,
      I am so sorry you have “lost” your precious sister. And I understand your pain and anger. Thank you for sharing your story. In time, our anger can be transformed into gratitude–as yours seemed to do. Susan must have been a beautiful woman! May she continue to be your support and encouragement for the rest of your earthly journey… God bless you! Melannie

  30. Thank you Melanie for this powerful Sunflower Seed January 14. I buried my brother on January 16 and prayed with this Sunflower Seed after the funeral Mass. It gave me some peace. Someday I hope to share this with his wife. I treasure all your writings.

    Thank you for sharing your gifts.

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Hi and welcome to my blog! I’m Sister Melannie, a Sister of Notre Dame residing in Chardon, Ohio, USA. I’ve been very lucky! I was raised in a loving family on a small farm in northeast Ohio. I also entered the SNDs right after high school. Over the years, my ministries have included high school and college teaching, novice director, congregational leadership, spiritual direction, retreat facilitating, and writing. I hope you enjoy “Sunflower Seeds” and will consider subscribing below. I’d love to have you in our “sunflower community.” Thank you!

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