How do we make sense of the loss of loved ones? When I was child, I found myself one evening cycling to the local Roman Catholic church my mother and I attended. Okay, two things need to be clarified here:
- Firstly, being made to attend catechism (Bible School) every Saturday did not make me in any way inclined to give up my Sunday as well.
- Secondly, my mother’s inability to get up in time to attend church often meant that I didn’t go either which was pure joy for me.
Okay – on with the story: Now, although I don’t remember much about the journey to the church on my little bike, I do remember the weight of confusion I felt when I arrived there to find it locked and no priest in sight. Thinking someone would arrive, I waited for what seemed like hours before returning home with my issue unresolved. And what was that issue? What might trouble a child of that age? Put simply….
‘Doesn’t God realise that one day my mother will die and I will be left alone?’
Basically, the realisation that one day my mother would die, shook me to the core. Years later, after the death of a close friend, I came to liken this type of mindset to the sort of unpleasant ‘fairground’ ride that you long to be over and away from, except this one involved no way out of it. One in which the words:
‘Stop the world – I want to get off!’
…seem wholly appropriate due to the impossibility of the situation and sorrow one experiences. Now, while the phrase (above) doesn’t do justice to the turmoil I was anticipating nor my inability to sidestep the sorrow and loneliness that separation from a loved one would bring, it does highlight something of the sense of avoidance and deceit that resides within each of us. A desire not to face the reality of death for ourselves or for those we love. And yet – as we saw in the last post – death of every generation in the physical world is a necessity in order that future generations are enabled to grow, flourish, bloom and (as they die) make way for the generation that will follow
Not that this makes the death of a loved one any easier to bear – it can’t nor will it ever. However, confronted with the reality of death as the great leveller, we – like those before us – might question what follows at the end of our finite existance on earth? Surely this is the most important question that humanity faces and yet the one most likely to be ignored or sidelined.