Death is a funny thing. Though the word itself sounds “dark,” many people view death differently. For some it is a time of mourning. For some it is about a celebration into another life. For me? I see it from both sides.
I was raised Catholic, but now not so much. Sure I believe in God, Jesus, the Bible, heaven, etc. but I do not believe I need to go to church weekly and do X, Y, and Z to have a relationship with Him. I firmly believe in the power of prayer and I believe that if I ask (nicely) I will be forgiven of my sins. That is a whole other conversation, however.
My medical knowledge lets me know that your hearing is the last sense to go. Research shows brain activity through auditory sounds when unconscious. This can be a good and a bad thing depending on how you look at it. I believe that when you die, you have that “out of body experience.” You can see yourself, others around you, hear their voices…and you feel lighter. You feel warmth, protection, safety, happiness, and contentment. I think that you hear the choirs of angels before heading towards the Pearly Gates to meet with your Maker. You have finally reached Home.
My grandmother passed away this past week. I have mixed feelings about it. I was given the incredible opportunity to see her and talk to her before she passed and I was even there holding her hand when her heart beat for the last time. I got to tell her what I wanted to in her last moments. I know that she could hear me. How awesome is that? How many people get to say they get to do that with their loved ones? Not many. My immediate reaction? Total breakdown. This woman helped to raise me when my mom was working her butt off trying to get a better education and support me so that we could live comfortably. I was sobbing. I was hysterical. Tears came like Niagara Falls down my cheeks and they burned my face as I came to the realization of what had happened. Her touch still felt so real to me at that time. I couldn’t even talk and my eyes were swollen shut. My heart was breaking into a million pieces and I did not know what to do.
On my way back to her house from the hospital, I called some close friends and asked them to just pray with me on the phone. Maybe I just wanted to hear their voices and understand that I had people I could call when I was feeling like my whole world was crashing down on top of me. Maybe I was asking for a miracle. Maybe I was just asking for the strength I so desperately needed to be exuded from their body into mine. They knew the truth though. They could not give me back her as much as I wanted them to.
In the days that followed, I had my moments of course. Walking into her closet and smelling her, seeing her picture everywhere, looking at her handwriting as perfect as it was, listening to her voice on the answering machine. It was surreal and these moments brought me back to a hard reality. I took a walk one morning and thought about everything going on. My grandmother was one of the purest of hearts I have ever known. She was so deep in her faith and in her love and it showed with her smile, laugh, and kindness. She loved to talk about anything and everything and I distinctly remember many of our conversations. She could not wait until she could experience her life in heaven. She was not scared of leaving her shell here on Earth and being what she was meant to be: an angel. She wanted us to be able to celebrate her life knowing that she was going to be happy, wherever she was. An instant joy came over me. I was at peace. I knew my grandmother was genuinely happy. And I knew that when I talked to her, she would listen and be there.
Will I still have my moments? Of course. I am only human. We grieve the loss of a body because of its tangible components. But I did not lose her. She will forever be mine and I will forever find comfort in knowing I can just talk and she will listen.
Death can be the mourning of the loss of a physical substance but it is also a celebration of what one was. The stop of something and the start of another. The end of a beginning and the beginning of an end. Many people do not like to talk about death and that is their decision. My grandmother is the 9th person in 5 ½ years that I have lost. The others have all been friends. I find that talking about them keeps their memory vivid in my mind. I can remember them more accurately when I talk about my losses with someone else. I can smile knowing that they still are a part of my life through my words, like these.
Death is a funny thing. Though the word itself sounds “dark,” to me it is the “light” that leads you down a new path. A path of grief, love, celebration, and remembrance. A chance to fall and explore a world of unknown…on your own two feet…
I have started to read Heaven is For Real by Todd Burpo. It is a written glimpse into heaven as told by a four year old. Your imagination will definitely run wild with this book as he recounts vivid details about events that happened before he was born, what God looks like, how the angels look, what heaven is like the way the Bible describes it when he hasn’t learned to read yet. A must-read for all that want to forever change the way they think of eternity and who want a chance to see and believe.
R.I.P. Janette Lynn Reardon September 17, 1944- November 15, 2011 “May angels guide you in…”