An unintended central theme of several of my early posts has been adulthood. Recognizing it when it comes to steal you away from the blissful ignorance of youth and thrust you into a world fraught with tarnished heroes and early baldness. Unfortunately, one such sign that reveals itself to us all, and for some at a far younger age than could possibly be deemed fair, is loss. I touched on this briefly in an earlier post when I lamented the passing of two critical public figures of influence in my life, author Harper Lee and Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia, who left this world less than a week apart. The question I posed was is this part of growing up? The answer I’ve come to is sadly, yes.
Adulthood means the passing of time, it means the maturation of one’s self, and a terrible consequence of this maturation is that the farther we go on the paths The Lord has laid for us, the fewer people we will have with us that were there when we began.
If loss is such a critical element of our lives, how is it that we are still so unprepared for this part of our growth? For as long as I can remember I’ve heard and repeated the cliche that the only certainties in life are, “Death and taxes,” yet I’ve received precious little preparation for dealing with the former. The past few weeks I’ve observed the passing of several figures, both public and private. I’ve seen peers struggle with comprehending the occurrence of these losses, as well as others, myself included, become upset when someone else does not handle said loss in the manner we would prefer them to. It seems in fact that the coping, the, “grieving,” is the only portion of death that does have a consistent expectation. At the time of loss, we are expected to, “properly grieve,” or, “appropriately console,” those closest to the departed individual. Those connected to the deceased at a predetermined level of closeness are to pay their respects through a visitation to a viewing, funeral, or wake, and possibly all three depending on how close one is to the dead.
From my observations I realize it is this part of the process of death that I myself struggle the most with. Not only do I lack the necessary articulations to comfort someone who has lost a loved one, but I lack the societal customs required for discerning the appropriate actions to take when participating in any step of the grieving process. Furthermore, why is it that we have constructed such an incredible amount of pomp and circumstance for our departed loved ones? Many will say it is to, “honor them,” to celebrate their lives and remember all they gave us during their time here. But if we are all being honest with ourselves, is that really the reason? Do any of us truly believe that there has ever been an instance where a deceased individual looked on from beyond this world at the amount of reverence given their passing and felt scorned because they thought those in charge were not doing them justice? For that matter, why do we feel such sadness when someone we love so dearly leaves us?
Are we to believe that the sadness during loss is because we would prefer that person remain in an imperfect world? Do we feel grief because we would rather them stay on Earth and continue to know pain? If we could, would we assuage this sadness by stealing them from a place of eternal love and joy, and return them to a world that will forever be unsatisfactory to our souls?
Or is it more likely that all the pomp and circumstance, all the sadness and anger and confusion we feel, is the manifestation of our own mortality. Is it possible that all of what we do and feel for someone posthumously is our own attempt to comprehend an element of humanity that despite its presence since our inception, is still the most unknown and fearful parts of our lives. Do we feel this sadness not because we lament this person’s passing, but because we lament their passing from our own lives, and if we are again being honest with ourselves, we selfishly feel assaulted at having this done to us long before we were ready. Now I firmly believe that God has a plan for all of us, I think he lays a path for us, I think the processes and the ways in which He works are perfect, as Marco Rubio so excellently put it, “God makes no mistakes.” Therefore, I think for us to question the departure of a loved one is to yet again reveal our humanness, our mortality, our imperfection, our inability to operate at the level of our Father. I think those that would deny the existence of our Lord because of a seeming injustice enacted upon someone through a particularly cruelly perceived loss, operate too wholly in the Earthly realm, and are incapable of understanding that there exists actions beyond the individual. Thus, I believe these paths The Lord lays our for us are ours to walk, not His to place us on like baggage handlers categorizing luggage. It is our job to recognize our road, and to follow it. I think the better we follow it, the better we understand our Creator, and the closer we get to achieving a more eternal comprehension of the process of death. Ultimately, I think that is a greatly deciding factor in determining what so many refer to as, “their time.” When you understand the temporary nature of our time on Earth, and that death is not a finality but an introduction to eternity with our Lord, then I think the pomp and circumstance of lavish funerals and hysterical emotions lose their significance. You begin to understand death as a necessity, that one cannot achieve anything more than mere mortality, and you stop selfishly pining the continuation of an imperfect life.
I hope this post assuages some of the emotions you may experience at a time of loss. I hope from these words you take comfort in knowing that the pain you feel is not pain that is shared with the deceased, that they know only love and happiness, and that as unrealistic of a notion as it seems at the time of occurrence, we should celebrate their departure from a world of suffering, acknowledge the fulfillment of our Father’s perfect process, and understand that soon too our time will come to begin our own forever in His embrace.