Not our typical blog, but if it helps you feel better, it helps you move better.
I went to a funeral the other day. The role of the priest, minister or rabbi is always a tough one when someone dies. They have to console the inconsolable. The priest at this funeral wasn’t great. He kept insisting that the dead person was just sleeping, and that it would be accurate to tell kids the dead are merely sleeping. As a child that would have terrified me. I’d never go to bed again.
But then he said something that filled me with happiness. Ultimately, his words were not overly profound, but I’d never had someone put death quite this way. Full disclosure: I’m not religious or spiritual—a fact people are often surprised to learn. I don’t have that gene. But like Mark Twain, I appreciate people who do. There are moments I wish I could believe in something to experience a glimpse of comfort when tormented by grief, but more often than not I’m happy believing in the fallibility of science.
I’ve heard many people say we should be comforted to know that when we die we will be reunited with the person whose life we are gathered to celebrate. Often, we are told we’ll get to see that person again. I don’t know if that’s true. I presume not, but I try to let it comfort me anyway. I like the idea that it could be true. If you believe it, feel lucky. I’m truly happy you do. When I’ve heard those words I’ve always had a simplistic view—someday maybe I’ll see the person I’m mourning today again. In the moment, it has never helped me feel better. Even if it’s true, I miss them now and reuniting in the future doesn’t make my current pain fade.
But this priest changed my somewhat ego-driven view. He said we’d all get to see our friend again and then he added, “And now, just think about how happy she is today that she gets to be reunited with everyone she has loved and lost.” That image, even though I don’t believe in it myself, filled me with such warmth and overwhelming happiness. Picturing her smile and bliss at seeing everyone she’d been longing for throughout her life was consoling.
Joy can’t describe how I’d feel if I could see the loved ones I’d lost again—something close to weightlessness, an emotional weight lifted. I’d be happy to have ten minutes with one of them, but to imagine that I could be with all of them again in the same moment made me so happy. And somehow I don’t have to believe it will happen to feel good about it.
Recently I was telling my Grandma about an elderly friend who seems lonely. And my Grandma said, “I understand. You’re not lonely because you’re alone and miss people around you. You’re lonely for the life you used to have.”
Imagining a moment where you finally get to stop missing all the people you’ve spent a lifetimes longing for. They are there. What relief to have the feelings of missing and longing dissolve. I don’t begrudge the family and friends I’ve lost because I miss them. It’s part of life and a symbol of my love for them. But, oh, how nice it would be to get to have a moment where you see all the people you’ve missed. Truth or not, I can picture it. I can picture my newly departed friend overjoyed. I can imagine it happening now. It’s seeing her so happy, so elated, that makes me feel better. And like a good dream, right before you wake up when you don’t yet know the difference between dream and reality, I can enjoy the ecstasy of loved ones being reunited on a massive scale.
Maybe everyone has already pictured this and I’m slow to catch on. No matter, I hope the idea can comfort you a little in the moments of loss when not much can.