The recent deaths of some people I loved have brought a sad turmoil in my mind: lots of memories, of these people, of other loved ones who died, worries about the immediate family, existential questions, thoughts about the fleetingness of life and gratitude for love. All these thoughts tumble about in my head, and I don’t quite know how to keep myself. I suppose it’s grief.
One thing I’ve learned early in life, is that my way of grieving is very different from most people, which makes sharing difficult. But let me try. Writing always helps me untangle the confusion, so that I am no longer stuck.
Once, in primary school, I saw a vision: when the mother of one of my classmates had died and our teacher asked the class to draw some comforting picture for the family, I saw a sunny green hill, on top of it there was a gloriously bright cross. It was like a new day dawning. I found it very comforting, and felt the presence of the living Jesus behind the scenes, even if all I saw was only that cross. So, when the teacher asked us all for suggestions of what to draw, I tried to describe what I just saw and said: “A large cross”, at which the whole class revolted, saying it was morbid. At the teacher’s suggestion, I drew a bunch of flowers instead. Though I can certainly understand why my classmates and teacher did not see what I found so comforting, I still feel a deep sadness and pain about this total miscommunication. For it was truly a comfort to see that light behind the pain.
However, it seems I forgot all this when my grandmother knew she was ill and tried to talk with me about her coming death. Then it was me who would not listen. I wish I had been more open to her, what conversations we might have had, sharing and storing memories for the time we would no longer be able to see and touch each other. But I couldn’t and wouldn’t hear of it. I also refused all the things she wanted to give me, because to accept those felt like wishing her dead. Everything in me just blocked all thoughts on death from entering my heart. What little did I know that clinging to life in such a way means losing it.
Only now, seven years later, am I beginning to feel as if I have learned a bit about how to process my grief. I notice that my thoughts about her have changed into an atmosphere of gratitude and warm love, no longer darkened by the deep invading pain of loss. I think this happened because I learned to stop rejecting, and instead start accepting the sorrow and tears over death. I needed to cry and visit her grave and really see and feel that she is dead. I suppose it’s an act of respect to her, to be open to her current state, no longer denying, as I did when she first wanted to talk to me.
My perspective on life and death has changed in the process. It dawned on me that I believe that God is eternal, and thus present to all times. Obviously he sees the past, present and future all equally. And as long as God still sees the past, it cannot be totally lost. Sometimes I experience a bit of that too, when I remember times together and still feel connected. It makes me wonder if somehow all the moments in my life — past, present and future — make up the eternal life in a way that we do not yet see.
Having pondered about all this, I am still sad. I don’t think there’s a way around it. But contemplating these things does release some of the pain, helps me trust and let go, to live in this moment, sharing it with the people around me. I ask Jesus for the grace to fill each moment with love and keep us in eternal life, until the day truly dawns and we will see: love is stronger than death.