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Death Rituals, Funeral Services, and Coping with Loss
Last week I attended the funeral of the wife of a dear friend of mine…who had passed away after a very strenuous bout of cancer – something I am only too familiar with. It was such an amazing and beautiful ceremony...
This particular celebration of life was filled with more love than I have seen shared in one place in a very long time. The room was filled with smiles and sadness, laughter and pain, music and contemplation. Equally inextricable is that I learned more about this woman after she passed than I had during her time on this earth. Now of course, that is something for which I take responsibility, for in life beyond managing our responsibilities, we often neglect that which exists directly in front of us.
Isn’t it ironic that we often celebrate death more than we celebrate life? We spend more time and put out more effort to commemorate and mourn the loss of those we love, than we do to share the magnificence of life with those who surround us in our waking moments. Death is the only surety in our life…the only event which happens regardless of where or when we are born, how much money we have, or what we do for a living. No deference to the life we live or the service we provide – death is always on the horizon. We all inherently “know” and understand that our lives are terminal…with a finite beginning and end, but does that make it any easier when we lose the ones we love the most?
My grandmother reminded me consistently for decades that one day she would pass…and I am unsure if that knowledge made any difference in my actions, or even in the pain that ensued following her passing. Knowledge is rarely a substitute for pain, sadness, or the loss of those we love. Death defies reason; it exists beyond rational thought for it is not our mind or even our soul that suffers when we lose those we love the most – it is our heart that pains the most for obvious reasons but also as the presence of love is very much an “in the moment” experience. Love cannot reason, contemplate, or even comprehend – it is something that we simply experience and share. Even when death has been imminent for some time, when we lose those we love the most, we are shattered under the pain of inexplicable tragedy and loss. Our mind can attempt to reason with the loss, pain, anguish, and reality – but it is not our mind that help us find peace…it is our heart. As they say…time heals all wounds.
What is the appropriate etiquette for death when it involves those we love? Do we show courage and strength when inside we only feel their pain and anguish? As we witness their heart shattered into pieces, do we powerfully hold a space for their healing and resurrection?
Spirituality, we all have a finite amount of time in this life, without knowledge of when we shall depart but only the understanding that at some point we will. There is no right time or wrong time; simply in due time.
No one else can truly understand or fully comprehend the path we follow and the obstacles and challenges we experience along the way. NONE of us know how much time we actually have left. There is a spectacular gift in life, just as in death although not always so obvious or immediate. We must be patient and compassionate, primarily with ourselves but also with those around us. In this moment, we are given yet another opportunity to be present for the amazing moment before us, to share our love with our world, and to love, forgive and release those who have departed.
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Written by two-time cancer survivor David Chernoff, who by facing death learned to experience the fullness of life.