Saturday, December 17, 2011

Mary

Our lovely friend Mary died this week. It has been a devastatingly hard period, praying for her recovery, then for a miracle, then for peace, now for her eternal life and healing for her husband Tom, her family, and the community of those who love her.

I have been restless with this grief, unable to sleep much, and took the opportunity that this unusual state brought me late one night to write my own reflection about her. It is imperfect and yet unshared, though. I'm finding it hard to capture the essence of her deeply loving spirit, harder yet to reconcile the very real but conflicting emotions of despair and faith that she expressed through her life, illness, and death. The vigil service and funeral were absolutely lovely, though, filling me with much-needed faith, love, and a desire to be a better person, more like Mary.

The programs both included a statement adapted from St. Augustine called "If you love me, do not weep" that captured this faith in the reality of the eternal life. Reinforcing the importance of the education I am getting from learning along with the girls, I coupled these words with images from the last book in the Narnia series, which we read earlier this year. In that book, the children, the heroes for the seven books in the series, are ALL killed. Yes, horrible and startling! Yet when Queen Lucy dies and finds herself in Aslan's country, her joy is palpable. Through this intense, joyful, and extremely lovely image C. S Lewis provides emotion and familiarity to enhance the comfort of St. Augustine's words:

"If you only knew the gift of God and what heaven is! ... if you only knew the new paths in which I walk! ... when your soul reaches heaven, you will see [Mary] who loved and still loves you. You will find her heart the same, her tenderness even purer than before...."

Why then do I weep? I find these words and images truly comforting. Having plunged into the darkness of disbelief in the past few weeks, I have emerged stronger in faith. So my own tears puzzle me, leaving me to reflect that the separateness between that world and our "land of shadows" is a painful one, not just in terms of those whom we have lost to death, but because our own souls long for our eternal home where we can be unbounded by pain, fear, and discomfort. And yet we live with an undeniable calling to love here, to embrace life with enthusiasm and passion, knowing that our mission is to reflect heaven here on earth by creating beauty, by building authentically loving relationships.

In the musical production of Victor Hugo's Les Miserables, Andrew Lloyd Webber has the main characters sing, "To love another person is to see the face of God." In loving Mary, the face of God is close and dear; we deeply miss her so much already.

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