Busted Halo
feature: religion & spirituality
November 28th, 2002

Death and Banking

The Agony of Living

 
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Every time I attend a burial, the weather’s not good. Rain, cold, mud; the universe seems to provide a climate in tune with the mood of those gathered around the grave.

The rain returned this week as I stood in the mud and watched my brother-in-law’s aunt laid to rest. She was young, only 67, and entirely undeserving to be dead. Sprightly, bubbly, fun—pick any happy adjective and its meaning wouldn’t fully encompass the passion she had for life. I knew her for only a year but she had known me, through my sister, for a decade. When I finally met her last Christmas she folded me into her family as though we’d never been strangers.

So, this week, it was odd to stand near her grave. I knew her briefly and only during her lengthy sickness but was awed by her finitude. For if someone as lively as she could die then so could we all.

Bound for glory
Of course, this is a normal reaction. Who emerges from a funeral and still thinks they will live forever? As a Christian, though, I am called to remember eternity and that through Christ there is really no death but instead new life. The body is simply returned to the earth and the spirit soars to a higher role.


Still, at the cemetery, I saw pain and tears and steeled expressions hiding collective fears and felt my faith buried by human confusion. Faith, after all, tells us to trust God, to let go. After the funeral, however, I couldn’t wait to go home, find my husband, and just hold on.

Holding on

And so I did. We hugged, held hands, and spoke softly. We talked of the future—of the dog we plan to adopt, the home my sister bought—and other good things. We slept well, mopped the floor, and stayed busy, stayed oblivious. Perhaps the kindest outcome of death is the quiet compassion those left behind seemed to have for one another for a while. For a few days, my husband and I were just nicer, ignoring wayward breadcrumbs and sloppiness and being happy to be here.

The oblivion ended. Breadcrumbs and sneakers add up, and I got tense. Then, one windy morning, bank records arrived in the mail and I spotted a problem. I pointed to dates, withdrawals, and balances, and snarled at my sheepish husband, “The rent bounced.”

My anger was surprising. I fumed, griped, and ordered my husband to write another cheque and explain to the landlord. I decided my husband was not financially trustworthy—and, then, I calmed down. I went for a walk. I thought of the cemetery. I thought of rain, earth, time, and finitude, and—turning to God—gave thanks for everything and just let go.

 
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The Author : Sue Birnie
Sue Birnie writes from Ontario in Canada.
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