I have somehow stumbled into a Sunday evening without feeling like I had a weekend. Sue was on a retreat and I was home with the girls. Except when I wasn’t. Two assignments yesterday, one today and a number of other smaller things I had to do kept me hopping.
Sleep is always a bit difficult when Sue goes away and so Friday and Saturday night were mostly broken bits here and there. I also had to attend yet another funeral yesterday and while it was a fine remembrance of the man, it was an open casket funeral and that always unnerves me–to the point where I had a great deal of trouble sleeping last night, succumbing like a child to primal and basic fears and sleeping with my light on.
Combine that with the simple loss of Carl Thompson, a retired colleague with whom I worked for a few years, and you get a bit of unhinged. I fought through it as best I could–but while Carl was 76 years old, he was still young, still vital. In December, he was diagnosed with two types of leukemia and he succumbed last week. His wife, Susan, was a close colleague of mine with whom I worked very closely for more than a dozen years. She’s sad, though not broken, thank God-and I have faith she’ll be alright.
I understand that there are traditions and that people have unique beliefs and I want to value those and hold them sacred. I really do. But all of this stems from 1973 when my grandfather, Ora K. Doney, passed away. We traveled from our home in Chicago back to Ohio and my grandmother insisted, apparently, or at least asked with serious intent, that all three of us boys go to the funeral home to “see” him. I was 8 years old.
I. Was. 8. Years. Old.
And it was too soon. So my memory of grandpa, the guy who used to tell me he was going to jump down my throat and dance on my liver–the guy who used to buy me play power tools and taught me how to enjoy building things (and I’m sorry, grandpa–I never did get really good at it)–who used to feed my fascination with trains by playing with trains with me down on the floor and who used to let me light the fire when he burned the trash-my last memory of him? Hands folded over his dark suit, eyes closed, ubiquitous glasses nowhere to be seen and the smell. I remember a chemical smell that I have since aligned with the smell of formaldehyde, though I don’t know that that’s what it was. I just don’t want that to be the last memory.
Maybe it is closure for some people, but for me-it’s more like ignoring the opportunity to celebrate life. Instead, it makes death final-gives death the final word, so that we sit in the church, a gathering of people staring in morbid fascination at the lifeless corpse, with nearly no reference to the risen Christ, who tells us that death does not have the final word.
That’s what I want to focus on, I guess. Life. Even when death happens, it’s the life that counts. Both now-and forever.