Rest in Peace

My father-in-law was found dead this week at the home of my husband’s brother with whom he had lived for the last year. Though he was in challenged health, this event was totally unexpected. When my brother-in-law came home from work, after a quick search, he found Woody motionless on the laundry room floor. The medical personnel suggested he had had a heart attack and “never knew what hit him.”

Death is a fearsome subject for most people. It’s one of our common bonds. We will all die, we’re told. The Grim Reaper is a scary specter.

One of the facets of this story that could make it tragic is that Woody had seemingly died alone. However, my mother who had been a nurse to the dying told story after story of the greetings offered by a dying person to the previously departed. “Mother, there you are.” Or “Here I am, Daddy.” Smiles on weak faces and hands outstretched to passed-on loved ones. These stories, while not universally shared, I think are universally encountered. Mary Baker Eddy spoke candidly of this: “In the vestibule through which we pass from one dream to another dream, or when we awake from earth’s sleep to the grand verities of Life, the departing may hear the glad welcome of those who have gone before. The ones departing may whisper this vision, name the face that smiles on them and the hand which beckons them, as one at Niagara, with eyes open only to that wonder, forgets all else and breathes aloud his rapture.” Just as we won’t enter this life without at least one other person with us, we don’t leave it alone, either. I think some are simply more showy about it.

Another more embedded belief about death is that it is the END. I saw an inspired teaching once in which the teacher had a five-gallon bucket and a hula-hoop as a visual. He put the hula-hoop upright into the top of the bucket. If you imagine the bucket as this material existence, and the hoop as your actual life, you can see that 1) it has no end, and 2) only a portion of it is inside the bucket. You might think of it linearly—as you travel the hoop, there is a time when you’re in the bucket and then when you are out of it. I prefer to think of it as an already-eternal existence some of which is in material form but most of which is not. Contrary to the popular adage, we are spiritual beings having a spiritual existence, in material form. (Gives a whole new meaning to ‘kick the bucket,’ no?)

Finally, probably the most frightening false belief about death is that it’s all powerful. We don’t know when, we don’t know where. Life could be snatched from you without notice or your permission. It’s irreversible and unstoppable. It’s capricious and final. Well, my bible says that “Thou shalt have none other gods before me.” To fear death as all-powerful and all-encompassing is to make it a false god in competition with God. We’re later told not to bow down to or serve false gods that we have made because God is a jealous God. Anything we put up next to God, even our ideas of evil and death, pale in comparison until they simply vanish.

While it is practical to make plans for one’s body that will remain after one’s transition, it is a complete affront to God to believe that death can separate you from Him, and through Him, his spirit children. Literally, there is no place else to go. The kingdom of heaven is within you and “at hand.” You can’t have more of heaven than you can right this moment, and the mortal idea of death just can’t mess that up. One pastor I knew described death as going from one room in a house (God’s house!) to another. Death, as Mrs. Eddy writes, is the passing from one dream to another or an awakening from sleep to life’s “grand verities.” Everyone’s had the experience of coming home from a trip and finding overwhelming comfort and familiar surroundings. What could be sad about that?

“Rest in Peace” is the message for the REST of us.

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6 thoughts on “Rest in Peace

  1. Jenna – lovely thoughts. And many sympathies to the family.
    I love the ‘kick the bucket’ image. And have my own story about that phrase.
    We were giving permission and assurances to Tony’s father who was hovering on that mortal threshold to go ahead and walk through that door. In the small hospice room someone bumped into the metal wastebasket. Witty to the end, his father whispered “Who’s kicked the bucket then?”. It still makes me smile.

  2. Of all the animals roaming this planet we call earth – or sometimes ‘home’, humans are the only species that recognizes the concept of death. Made worse, is that when a death hits near, humans explore the aspect of death. They theorize, attempt to rationalize, and find ways to feel some form of comfort from the inevitable transition.
    Religion offers a variety of information – whether true or not, for the majority they find comfort in knowing what to expect. Regardless, it often times offers up concepts of ‘humanity’ – ideals that instruct followers to act in a certain way, most often it’s in the interest of general civilization.
    The opposite end – “Science” – the first anti-christ as it were. Renowned scientist Albert Einstein argued that death is but a transition – as energy may change form, but never ceases to exist.
    In remote regions that have had little to no exposure to influences from ‘outsiders’ – death is just a door to pass through. There is existence beyond. But one has to wonder if they are just in place to shut those up that are dying.
    Reincarnation – that everyone has been on this planet before in one form or another. There is a religious aspect that states if you are true to your existence and do no harm, only good – you’ll come back as a higher life form. There is also the idea that if you were a bad person before, you will have to pay the price this time around. I have issue with that, since you don’t know (or recollect) who you were before – and have to deal with karma crap that sometimes directs one to find shortcuts.
    I myself conduct myself on a karma system, a touch of chinese, with a side of kimetic (ancient egyptian). I also recognize science as you’d have to be a fool to not accept anything it has to offer. In terms of religion, or religious choices – I find them to be benefitial as well as just flat out feeling good. Regardless I suspect that while my life energy might disapate into the universe as it should, my consciousness will no longer be.
    Yeah – I lost hours of sleep on that one. Life energy going out but no consciousness to speak of. It actually answers the long questions of if we were here before, why don’t we remember? Our soul is not our conscious – it has never been defined that way, sometimes implied- but never defined.
    I can already feel the hate mail. Send it direct to tgaaptheted@verizon.net as I relish those discussions.
    The way that I look at it, and frankly the way I think all should at least consider – we are here now, and now should be all that matters. You can think about the past, and have regrets – but then correct those as best you can, as you can’t move forward if you have any emotional attachment to the past.
    Think about the present. Are you who you should be, who you need to be – who you want to be? If not, get moving in that direction because we don’t get the consideration of knowing when we won’t be here anymore. You could be dead before you are done reading this, or last another 50 or more years on this planet.
    Personally, I was moved by the movies “Yes Man” and “The Bucket List”. Between the two movies is messages to grow as a human, sometimes unexpectedly – so when faced with death, you might have a few things left on your list to attain or accomplish – but you relish the chances you took, the experiences you had, and the relationships created.
    Only those that have passed through the transition knows what lies ahead, if anything – but it’s my goal in this life to explore as much as I can, touch as many as I can, and experience as much as I can before I go. And love every possible minute of it, even when it feels like hell.

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