A friend of mine lost her mother two weeks ago after a long battle with Alzheimer’s. I suspect we all knew the end was approaching. Not how long she had or how quickly that end would come, but certainly that it would and soon. Death, I think, is something we always fight against. No matter how much faith we have or how much we pine for heaven, the instinct is still to cling to this world. I don’t think there’s anything wrong with that.
But in cases like my friend and her mother, I can understand the opposite as well. Can understand that even though this is your mother, watching her let go would bring a sense of peace and calmness rather than pain and grief. There were signs, she told me, that everything was okay. That God was still in heaven and that her mother was with the angels. Little things that mattered much, like the two jets that bisected each other’s contrails during the funeral and left a perfect cross in the sky or the flock of geese that were huddled against her tombstone the following day. Her mother always loved geese.
Having to watch a friend go through this always gets to me. I feel for her. And as we’re both Christians, I share in that strange combination of mourning her loss and rejoicing in her mother’s gain. And I’ve also found myself pondering not just that loss and gain, but death itself. Isn’t it amazing how seldom we consider death? How we’re faced with it every day on the news and yet hardly ever really pause to consider that one day, maybe soon and maybe not, it will also find us?
I’ll admit I seldom do. I’ll also admit that even though I pray and read my Bible and go to church and am washed in the blood of the Lamb, death continues to be pretty high on my list of things to avoid at all costs. For me, yes, but especially for the people I love.
My friend had a curious thing to say when she told me about her mother. She didn’t say she died. She instead used another phrase—her mother passed on. As in, “We were with her all day, and we’re all very thankful. She passed on that evening.”
I’m not sure if that’s a expression used very often outside of the rural areas of our country. I’ve never heard a city person say someone has passed on. It’s always been died. Maybe I’m wrong about that. I don’t know a lot of city folk.
But I am of the opinion that regardless of who says it, that’s a saying should catch on more. There’s no air of finality in passing on. It does not signify a period at the end of a story, but a comma that says the story continues elsewhere. It’s a reminder that everything we can see and feel is but a small part of a larger picture that lies hidden on the other side of the frame.
That the opposite side of this life isn’t a conclusion, but a continuation.
I hope to keep that more in mind. And as morbid as this may sound, I hope to keep my own eventual continuation more in mind as well. There doesn’t seem to be much sense in avoiding what must happen at some point. Better, I think, to make sure my life is lived as it should be.
That my worries shrink and my heart grows.
That I keep my concerns with the things that matter rather than the things that don’t.