A Blossoming of Hope
By the Rev. Bobbie McKay, Ph.D. This article originally appeared as the July 1 blog entry from United Church Homes’ Parker Center for Abundant Living. It is reprinted here with permission.
In the last five years, death became the center of my life. Uninvited and not sought, this intruder entered my life space and appeared to have a permanent plan of residency. Until then, death had been an occasional visitor. My dad died when I was 5 years old, but I don’t remember him at all. My mother died when I was in my 30s and too busy with raising children to recognize the loss I was experiencing.
Waves of Grief
Then, suddenly, as if my name had come up on a list of prospective mourners, the tempo changed. My sister succumbed to the terrible asthma that had plagued her life. My sister-in-law struggled with multiple melanoma until she couldn’t fight off the power of that disease. My beloved husband unexpectedly was the victim of stage IV lung cancer, which ended his life much too quickly.
My extraordinary grandson, father of my two great grandsons, died of colon cancer in his 40s after a prolonged and determined fight against the disease. And my brother, with no symptoms, died of lung cancer only a few weeks ago.
I found myself engaged in strange dialogue with God with words I had never used before. Struggling to create a language of grief, I could come up with only one sentence:
Death is SO Big! Over and over I would repeat those words. “Death is so big!” Trying them out on my friends didn’t offer an alternate language.
Death is So Big
Death IS so big! As inadequate as those words were, they were the truth of my experience. I wanted to find a more adequate language, but the words never came. In my life, death IS so Big. It encompasses all of life lived and surrounds us with the total ending of that life.
Death quiets the “noise” of life, but it enters the body of the one who dies and travels into the lives of those who are living in grief. It is so total, so complete … SO BIG!
I found myself alternating between tears and those strange words. “So big” began to mean so powerful; so all encompassing; so final. “So big” meant “times up” — that part of your life has ended. “So big” meant silence, no more conversations, no more hugs, no more time together.
I knew I had encountered the reality of death. In response, I became more quiet. I walked inside my heart and felt the new silence of my life. Tears came with no warning. Sorrow spread its reality like a blanket that covered the nakedness of my feelings.
Reality of Death
Enter God to affirm my experience. Death IS so big. It covers so much life territory. It takes away choice and presents us with an immovable object we cannot restart. It is permanent and costly and empty, devoid of possibilities and new plans. Even ideas of life after death do not change the reality of death.
But gradually, inch by inch, I have discovered another truth. My tears, my heart break, my silence is also a testimony to the life of those I love who have died. I am demonstrating the power of their lives by the extraordinary impact they continue to have on my life. Each time my heart reaches for tears that are always present, I am reminded of how much those tears reflect the power of my love and the gift of my beloved’s life.
As death IS so big, so is the power of the life that I am grieving. As death IS SO BIG, it demonstrates the power of love in the world that allows a lost life to be alive again in my heart.
The Power of Life
Perhaps that is the real meaning of resurrection in our lives. A life ended in grief brings us into the awareness of the power of that life. Death is not the end of the reality of life. My tears continue to bless this life lived; to affirm the power of that life; and to recognize the gift of life that was given in each of these relationships.
And I am also filled with gratitude. Death IS so big. And so IS life.
Praise God and Thanks to God. Amen. And Amen.
Join Our Mailing LIst