As Death Approaches

Every branch of human knowledge if traced
up to its source and final principles vanishes into mystery.

– Arthur Machen
 One cannot help but be in awe when one contemplates
the mysteries of eternity, of life, of the marvelous structure of reality. It is enough
if one tries merely to comprehend a little of this mystery every day.

– Albert Einstein

These days there is someone in my life who is making her final journey into the great Mystery,  as her body is transformed by the death grip of cancer. Her journey brings all of us who know and love her face-to-face with the prospect of our own mortality, the potential ending of what we know, and the weight of what we do not know.

Also these days I am finding it harder to get out of bed and arise to the day ahead. Perhaps it is the subconscious knowledge of impending death – hers and someday my own – that is bringing on a subliminal depression. It may, on the other hand, be the heat of mid-July in the Midwest that makes one’s brain perpetually foggy, like the moisture-laden air.

The heat already is taking its own death toll on the grass and leaves, causing them to lose their spring luster and fade toward brown and brittle. Most days, I feel just as withered.

I belong to a religious tradition that tells stories of resurrection for the dead. Certainly the wider living community around us seems to hint at that with each new season and the ongoing life that annually springs from the rotting death. The stories start with a man named Lazarus. I’ve often wondered how he handled his second life. And then there is Jesus.

We are learning through the historical study of the context in which these stories emerged that the idea of resurrection, or life continuing in some way after death, did not originate with these stories. That fact need not make them less true or meaningful, however. I believe in them all, because they are stories of love.

Can someone return from the dead to bring comfort to a loved one? I am willing to believe love can do that. It can go that far if need be, and if we are willing to suspend what we think we know and fall into the Mystery.

I also have read and heard Allison Dubois, the famous Arizona psychic on whom the television series, Medium, is based, tell her stories of contact with the deceased. In her book, We Are Their Heaven, she suggests that for the dead, it is with their loved ones that they choose to remain. Continuing to be present to those they love, even if their loved ones are unaware of that presence, is the only “heaven” they seek. Dubois says she sorted this out after receiving many requests from deceased persons to pass on their thanks to loved ones for arranging events that happened after they had died; for example, a birthday celebration still held in a person’s honor even though he or she is “gone.”

I recently read someone who had a simple message that I think applies here. He said something like this: “Trust the Universe. It’s more powerful than you are.”

I am trying to do that these days. To trust that our Universe holds more than we can ever ask or imagine. Holds us all, living and dead, in the great Mystery.

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