A Hope Chest of Light Keeping

Post Mortem

I do not know what it is like to be dead. I can only imagine it to be like sleep–but longer. And perhaps better. Maybe even more peaceful. But it seems impossible to imagine that. Sleep and death. Brothers that share the same bedroom.

I have seen movies where people die, I have read many books and plays where the same happens. I’ve even watched people I love get older, sicker and eventually pass away. Pass away to what though? Into something else? Like a candle blown out in a single breathe, or a toy with the batteries taken out. One minute alive and present. The next–gone. Literally no more. Or at least, not in a way we recognize.

I remember being 11 years old and standing at the casket of my Great-Grandmother afraid to touch her hands. I was staring at them to see if they would rise and fall with her breathing. She wasn’t breathing. Intellectually I knew that, even at 11. But I couldn’t wrap my head around it. She was here and yet she was not. It’s strange to think that one day for each of us, there will be no breath. No flame lit at the wick of the candle. No batteries in the toy.

And perhaps worse yet is that we don’t get to choose when it happens. If we are lucky, we get to live our small lives in big ways and bring joy and happiness to others and our selves; maybe help our communities or have children or pets. Teach, mentor, parent, give back what we have learned, say goodbye and drift off to that forever sleep. But it doesn’t always happen that way. Sometimes we don’t get the chance to say “Goodbye” or “I’m sorry.” or “I didn’t mean that thing I said in our last conversation.” or ” I really admire you.” or “You mean so much to me.” We don’t get to say that. We don’t get to say the important stuff. We talk about dinner and the football game, the weather. Not that those things aren’t important in their way, but…wouldn’t it be nice to tell the people how we feel while they are here?

I am sure, at least I hope, that they can sense us after they are gone and perhaps even understand that we love them. But relationships are complicated and death causes an unending complication that won’t be settled until we join them on the other side.

I always imagine Heaven like a garden, alight with family and friends. Like a Summer cookout, or an outdoor wedding. But maybe heaven is a boxing match where you finally come face to face with every relative who you ever had beef with.

That truly would be a family reunion to remember for eternity.

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