November 8, 2008

This Is What Happens When You Die

I'm a people-pleaser, so I've been dancing around this death subject hoping not to offend my closest friends and at the same time, keep my kids from yelling at me, "I can't believe you said that, mom!". (My kids never yell at me.)

But, now that we're dealing with the intense sadness and emptiness with the loss of our furry child, Ching-Ching, I think it's time I took a stand loud and clear.

Thankfully, the loss is not my child or husband! I would need some more help getting through the grief should that be the case, but I believe my belief about death would not change.

Mind you, I'm not going into lengthy detail quoting Bible verses and explaining why I believe this way. It just IS - like I AM.

Have you ever bought something on clearance that had one of those testy, sticky stickers stuck right on the front of something otherwise just the perfect thing you wanted? And did you growl with frustration when you tried to peel off that pesky label as it leaves a little black smudge right in the middle? I think that deep grief is like that. A perfectly good something, but now it's gone and the feeling doesn't clean up when you wash your face or blow your nose! No matter how you try to wipe the tears away, or pull off that stickiness, or rub away the smudge of grief, some of it always stays right there spoiling a beautiful thing!

So that's the grief Jim and I are dealing with today. It's heavy. It's frustrating. It gets in the way of life right now. But, that part we know will ease with time. Something magical within, that all humans are born with. Something already there to eventually 'wipe away all tears".

I believe those who like to console others with the promise that "God shall wipe away all tears" could consider that maybe we already have that ability built into the innate within ourselves. I haven't ever heard a preacher or Bible person make that assumption, but that doesn't mean I can't believe what I believe.

Now that part about what happens when a living soul (person or pet included) departs the body we have come to know and love dearly...

As you may know, we decided to have our precious Ching-Ching cremated. That's what Jim and I say we want done with our bodies. Everyone has their own thoughts about this. But, consider this a trial run with Ching-Ching. After a few days, our flood of tears has diminished somewhat. Except for those moments when Jim tries to read my blog posting with Ching-Ching's picture, or we hear a sad story that touches our hearts on TV. You know how it goes. But now her ashes are ready to pick up, and I don't think either of us want to go there. (Sandy, could you come up here and do that for us?)

It's not Ching-Ching anymore. For me, it's not the comfort I thought it might be. But, in retrospect, we had no place to bury her and, with cremation, the ashes could be returned to the earth where we think they belong. So, that's that.

Against everything I was taught about death, and against what my closest friends believe about death, and against what I suspect the Bible even says about death, I just can't accept the belief that we are "sleeping" and awaiting the trump of the second coming to "rise from the dead and greet Jesus". Sorry, the picture just won't compute in my mind no matter how many good verses are explained to me.

Here's what I believe (finally, Linda!). The spirit that makes us 'living' (from the amoeba to ME), goes back to the universe. (The "universe" being another subject very closely related to life and death.) Maybe it can continue to make contact with the former life, and maybe (for reasons we do NOT know), the spirit can't came back to communicate with us. Who knows why some people seem to get mysterious 'signs' from departed loved ones? (Oh, that's right. It's the devil trying to fool us about God.)

For instance, when my brother-in-law, Tom, passed away, my sister Allison says she put one of the roses from the graveside into her purse. It was droopy and wilted, but she wanted a keepsake. When she later took the rose from her purse, it was fully bloomed and fresh as a new rose from the rosebush. She says Tom did that for her.

There are more stories like that that than we can ever know, and these days a search on the web could prove my point. But, I'm not here to prove anything. Just state my view. I don't care ('care' being a callus word, sorry) if you believe or not.

Actually, my belief really doesn't go against a belief in God or the universe or even an atheist. For sure, no one on the planet knows how to create life and no one on this planet can personally attest to what it is that makes the mind a living creature.

In the past, my friend Neil, who also leads a small Seventh-day Adventist Church in Minnesota has been especially concerned that I understand what the Bible says about death. Others who read the blog may like to take exception to my view, but I'm not here to argue the point.

Like my sister said when I was feeling a bit sorry for myself for having to deal with the physical issues of our pet's death and disposal - (another crass word).

She said, "But you're a nurse. You can handle it better."

Bless her heart. As a nurse, I've watched many patients' pass away. I've had to 'listen' to the last heartbeat and watch the cells of the body grow still and 'lifeless'. Yes, my experiences as a nurse have forced me to confront the question of life after death many more times than most people.

As usual, she is right. Every time I watch a soul leave the body and feel the strength of life completely leave the room, I am aware that the life we own is not ours to keep. It belongs to the universe who gave it to us and, as a chemical reaction, it will live on as a mystery that we may or may not ever know the answer to.

As a matter of love, we should willingly give it back and bow our head in thankfulness that it was ours for a moment in time. We will miss its presence for a little while, but time (another mystery) will help us forget (yes, forget) the unspeakable pain of its leaving.

Take Care in the Journey,


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