On Losing Lives
I have observed it for the past years and believe it will go on for the rest of my life: each year, there will come a period of losses in the physical realm of loved ones and people we deem important, influential, inspirational. As a single death comes without warning, so this series of deaths arrives without foreboding, and our loved ones go out of this world we know into a world we don’t, ourselves believing these two worlds, although not separate from each other, are different.
Apart from the winter months of snow and barren trees, this period may as well be called “the winter of one’s circle”. It is when death comes and visits more often during the year, choosing the set of losses it knows we can be most vulnerable to, the set of people whose deaths open us more to the idea of an afterlife. Each loved one we lose makes us more susceptible to the belief that we can meet them in another dimension and pick up where we left off in this dimension.
This is especially true for the likes of us who think that the relationship we had with our departed loved one wasn’t good enough, that some things left unsaid were meant to be spoken, some acts of kindness withdrawn and now regretted to have been held back.
One of our pastors at home passed away the other night, sending shocks to friends and family around the world. He was a vibrant man of 45, and each time I recall a death earlier than the average life expectancy, people would describe the person as “someone who had his life ahead of him”. A blueprint comes to mind, revealing the departed’s plans and would-have-beens, and then a hand snatches it out as a reminder that we will never have everything figured out.
Death knows no age, no religion, no potential. It just arrives and strikes where the Giver of life says so. The Giver has all the right to take, and who are we to complain? Who are we to beg and ask for another minute, a few more hours, a day from Him who created time and set a clock for each spirit He set free into the world? Is it our loss, really, when all we are isn’t of this world, when the moment Adam bit into the fruit, God lost us to the world? Is not death then an arrival, another form of being born, a coming home?
Let me not be too hard. A loss in this world is a loss still. Losing a friend equates to conversations we will never have, cups of coffee we will never drink together, places we will never get to visit on a whim, inside jokes that now, only a single soul will enjoy. Losing a mentor means questions unasked, never to be answered the way the mentor will had she been alive, book recommendations unsaid, debates one could only imagine.
C.S. Lewis put it best in his book, A Grief Observed:
“If a mother is mourning not for what she has lost but for what her dead child has lost, it is a comfort to believe that the child has not lost the end for which it was created. And it is a comfort to believe that she herself, in losing her chief or only natural happiness, has not lost a greater thing, that she may still hope to “glorify God and enjoy Him forever.” A comfort to the God-aimed, eternal spirit within her. But not to her motherhood. The specifically maternal happiness must be written off. Never, in any place or time, will she have her son on her knees, or bathe him, or tell him a story, or plan for his future, or see her grandchild.”