Tuesday, February 3, 2009

We Are Spirits

So far this year I've attended 2 funerals. There will be another on Saturday. Sometimes I go to funerals out of respect for a friend who's lost someone close. Or I go because someone in the church has passed away. If I believe we're one big family, then it's only right to grieve as a family and to celebrate as a family a life, even if I don't know that person. The home-going celebration this weekend will be for a person I've known for several years. We weren't extra close but I'll miss her.

I've watched her age; seen her body and strength gradually fade away. She spent the last few weeks in the hospital. For a couple of days, she rallied. Then she left this world and those of us who loved her are left with hurting hearts.

I don't know what happens when we cross from this plane to the next but I have an idea that works for me. I went to a psychic a few months after my mother passed away and she told me that when mom crossed over her parents were there and so was a man with an "M" name. My brother-in-law, Mick, died in 1975. My mom always thought he was special. I love that he was there to welcome her to the other side.

In my mind's eye the process is kind of like what you see at the end of a marathon with crowds of people lining the street cheering the runners home. Encouraging loved ones who have already finished the race smile and clap. As the runner crosses the finish line, and stumbles on wobbly legs, there's someone there to hold them up. Love adds the strength needed to get to the place where the eternal bowl of oranges and ice water await. I am comforted by this vision.

I like to think that when Anne was taking her last few breaths she wasn't looking back. No, she was staring at her beloved Jack who was there with open arms urging her home.

The funeral I went to last week was for the step father of a man I've known since we were in high school. That time in a kid's life when fathers, especially step-fathers, are at best necessary nuisances. I don't recall much warmth and understanding between Fred and Pete. Yet over the years, as Pete stood by his wife (Fred's mother) during her long battle with Alzheimer's, I think Fred saw a different side of the man who had been a thorn in his teenage side. In his eulogy, the Pastor spoke of a man of kindness, generosity and integrity. He didn't mention anything about Pete withholding the keys to the car for reasons unknown to the kid who felt deserving.

It made me wonder why it is that we have to go to funerals to find out about people. Why do we start reading the obituary page with great regularity after we pass the age of 50? I realize that the not-so-good traits of a person are usually not spoken at a funeral oration. [Although I have seriously considered saying, when the time comes, "you might not know this about my Dad but he could be a real horse's ass." I doubt I'll say it, but that doesn't make it untrue.] Why does a person have to die for us to take the time to acknowledge what he/she means to us? Shouldn't we be about the business of knowing and loving people in their lifetime, not just on the day they are laid to rest?

At Pete's funeral, the pastor quoted Benjamin Franklin. I came home and looked up quote. I think it is just about as good a way to say farewell as any. I share it with you for no other reason than I have funerals on my mind.

We Are Spirits
To Elizabeth Hubbart
DEAR CHILD, PHILADELPHIA, February 22, 1756.

I condole with you, we have lost a most dear and valuable relation, but it is the will of God and Nature that these mortal bodies be laid aside, when the soul is to enter into real life; 'tis rather an embrio state, a preparation for living; a man is not completely born until he be dead: Why then should we grieve that a new child is born among the immortals? A new member added to their happy society? We are spirits. That bodies should be lent us, while they can afford us pleasure, assist us in acquiring knowledge, or doing good to our fellow creatures, is a kind and benevolent act of God -- when they become unfit for these purposes and afford us pain instead of pleasure -- instead of an aid, become an incumbrance and answer none of the intentions for which they were given, it is equally kind and benevolent that a way is provided by which we may get rid of them. Death is that way. We ourselves prudently choose a partial death. In some cases a mangled painful limb, which cannot be restored, we willingly cut off -- He who plucks out a tooth, parts with it freely since the pain goes with it, and he that quits the whole body, parts at once with all pains and possibilities of pains and diseases it was liable to, or capable of making him suffer.
Our friend and we are invited abroad on a party of pleasure -- that is to last forever -- His chair was first ready and he is gone before us -- we could not all conveniently start together, and why should you and I be grieved at this, since we are soon to follow, and we know where to find him. Adieu
"A new member of a happy society - a party of pleasure that is to last forever" ... how can I be sad about not seeing Anne's smiling face or hearing her sing again. It sounds like she's in a good place.
Merry ME

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