I've been thinking about death a bit lately. This is partially due to the recent passing of my grandmother, but also due to some well orchestrated coincidences in my day to day living.
The week leading up to my grandmother's funeral was a really strange cultural experience for me. I was gathered with my mother's side of the family in Tasmania, observing the varying ways people had of dealing with their grief. My mother's side are diverse lot with very strong personalities and varying attitudes to things like ceremony, religion and what should and shouldn't happen at a funeral. It was interesting seeing how the louder, seemingly irrepressible members of the family all coped with what was obviously a painful process.
As for me, my reaction was possibly the strangest of all. When I learned last year that my 81 year old grandmother had secondary cancer of the pancreas, I began the process of grieving for her. I knew that the advancement of the cancer and her age and general health meant it would not be a long time frame, and simply prayed that it would not be a painful decline. I also realised that 80 years is a good life for a child of the depression with diabetes. She was at peace with herself and with the Lord, so in a way her death was simply a natural end to a beautifully lived life. All these conclusions I arrived at some time in December. So when her time came in May, not only did I feel at peace with it, but having gone through a lot of the grieving processes earlier, I felt sort of… nothing. I don't mean that to sound harsh (I know it probably does) but I just mean that there was nothing unnatural or mournful about the experience. Sure there was sadness in the loss of a loved one, but as I said, I had dealt with that long before we arrived in Tasmania.
Nanna had left a request for her grandsons to be pall-bearers at her funeral, so the six of us (well, 5 grandsons and a great grandson) bore the coffin out of the church. So there was me with 4 strong men and an energetic teenager all of whom were obviously fighting back tears carrying a coffin through a church packed (and I mean packed) with people of all ages trying to sing "To God be the Glory" around their handkerchiefs. There was so much crying going on, and yet sadness was the last thing on my mind. I felt like I was from another planet. Or like I was watching a documentary on a ceremony from some exotic culture that I didn't understand. It was one of the strangest experiences of my life.
On a more cheerful note, my small (well, intermediate sized) group had a discussion on Heaven this week. We listened to a chapter about some kids in China who had some visions back in the 30s about life in Heaven. I'm usually sceptical about things like that (I'm usually sceptical in general) but whether their experiences were genuine or not, the ideas in the book and the scriptures they were based on got me thinking. I like to keep my head in this world as much as possible. An eternal perspective is important, but I usually don't like trying to imagine life in Heaven because I have trouble imagining an existence outside of time and space. Stupid limited brain! But the descriptions these kids gave of their visions of Heaven, real or not, got me excited about a world where my stupid brain, not to mention my stupid body, stops being limited and can experience and enjoy the glory of God the way it is supposed to be experienced and enjoyed. Forever.
And then tonight I was listening to an oldish Newsboys song called "Forever Man". I started thinking about the idea of living forever and accidentally blew my own mind. That always happens when I start thinking about these things too hard. So instead, I started blogging… and there you go. Now you too can go blow your own mind.
Far from home
Garry with 2 Rs