Monday, May 20, 2013

The Meaning of Life and Death

Today I attended a memorial service at the DeGraff Skilled Nursing facility.  It is an annual service for families of residents who have passed away in the previous 12 months.  It was short, it was simple, but in many ways, it was profound.

There was a choir comprised of a little group of 8 residents of the facility.   They were fairly beaming as they sang, and their director informed us that they had been practicing since January.  There was something life-affirming about the music that they made,  something beautiful in the rudimentary sounds.

The pastor focused on Jesus's words "Truly, truly, I say to you, unless a grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies, it remains alone; but if it dies, it bears much fruit."   His message was simply that we are the fruit of our deceased loved ones and that it is the natural process of life that we must eventually die and that our "fruit" will continue to flourish and grow - perhaps even more so - when we have passed on.

The service concluded with a release of balloons - a loved one released a balloon for each one of the deceased.  As I watched the baby blue (her favorite color) balloon rise to the clouds above, I could hear her voice in my ear, telling me that she was ok.  I think she would tell me honestly that she did want a few tears shed for her.  I think she would believe that she had earned at least a few.  Frank honesty was her trademark.  But then she would tell me that more than a few tears would just be a waste, and "isn't there something more useful I could be doing?"  

My mother wasted a lot of the final years of her life dwelling on dramas in our family that she had no control over.   I feel a certain amount of guilt in the realization that I was probably her main enabler, and once I realized this, it was pretty much too late to get her to focus on anything else, try as I did.  All I can do is to learn from this and realize that I have a lot of years ahead of me to spend without her, so it would be best if this fruit continues to grow and "ripen" - I would like to be the fruit that people buy at the roadside stands rather than the rejects that end up being fed to the farm animals - I know that my Mom was an animal lover, but there's a limit...  


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