This morning as I gathered with others in my neighborhood to say goodbye, to be present for support, provision and prayer, I remembered my own mother’s death. I still miss her but the pain of the loss has long since diminished. The hardest part I think when death comes is that there are no more face to face encounters, no more sitting and talking together, no more sharing news that you would otherwise do, so very naturally.
And then of course for those of us who are curious there is the wondering… What is it like to experience death? Where do we go and what is it like there? Those of us with faith traditions likely have ideas that are informed by those traditions. Some people I know do not believe – or accept perhaps – that there can be a heaven, and heavenly reunions. I cannot believe in a God who would not provide more for us than this life; for me there has to be something more. And for me, if love is indeed Love (with a capital L) then Love must bring us back together with those we have loved on earth.
I did look up to see where the phrase “when death comes” came from – and oops, I should have known, it is a poem by Mary Oliver. This is it – and it is a comfort as I cherish the memories of this woman who indeed was both “full of curiosity” and “married to amazement”:
When Death Comes
When death comes
like the hungry bear in autumn;
when death comes and takes all the bright coins from his purse
to buy me, and snaps the purse shut;
when death comes
like the measle-pox;
when death comes
like an iceberg between the shoulder blades,
I want to step through the door full of curiosity, wondering:
what is it going to be like, that cottage of darkness?
And therefore I look upon everything
as a brotherhood and a sisterhood,
and I look upon time as no more than an idea,
and I consider eternity as another possibility,
and I think of each life as a flower, as common
as a field daisy, and as singular,
and each name a comfortable music in the mouth,
tending, as all music does, toward silence,
and each body a lion of courage, and something
precious to the earth.
When it's over, I want to say: all my life
I was a bride married to amazement.
I was the bridegroom, taking the world into my arms.
When it's over, I don't want to wonder
if I have made of my life something particular, and real.
I don't want to find myself sighing and frightened,
or full of argument.
I don't want to end up simply having visited this world.