Saturday, October 07, 2006
Like most people, I was horrified at the recent slaughter of young girls in an Amish school; following, as it did, a week of violence in schools in America. In Britain, we are still reeling from recent news of military deaths in Afghanistan. And then I was saddened to see on Naomi's blog that her old friend and co-conspirator on Spoon River Anthology, Hal Lynch, has passed on.
I am often contacted by bereaved friends with a need for comfort. The secret is to separate the actual grief and the selfish feeling of bereavement, which is completely natural. To be honest, a lot of bereavement is selfish; 'I'm never going to see them', 'I never said such and such', 'how will I cope?'. I know, I have said these things myself, this is the definition of bereavement - loss.
Dealing with loss of loved ones is not religious or secular. Bereavement transcends belief and how we deal with it rarely differs.
When people come to me, I usually give the following advice; go to the funeral, celebrate their life, commune with other people involved in the life of the person you loved, grieve, and then leave. But always keep a small part of the deceased in your heart. A memory, a glance, an image. Carry this little piece of them with you through your life and they will not have ceased to exist, merely moved their spirit into someone worthy to continue. And if you need them they are always nearby, in your heart. The essence of Spirit.
This is an excerpt from Quaker Faith and Practice which I think is very comforting.
Death is not an end, but a beginning. It is but an incident in the 'life of the ages', which is God's gift to us now. It is the escape of the spirit from its old limitations and its freeing for a larger and more glorious career. We stand around the grave, and as we take our last, lingering look, too often our thoughts are there; and we return to the desolate home feeling that all that made life lovely has been left behind on the bleak hillside...
Yet the spirit now is free, and the unseen angel at our side points upwards from the grave and whispers, 'He is not here, but is risen'. The dear one returns with us to our home, ready and able, as never before, to comfort, encourage, and beckon us onward.
William Littleboy, 1917