I’ve been thinking about the brevity of life, and also the endlessness of it, and about how which perspective one has is mostly based on how things in one’s life are playing out.
I don’t know much, but I do know this: when life is grand, it clips along briskly, like a boat with full sails.
When life is raw and strenuous, each day is an eon, an age, a century. In the dark. And it’s January.
The current condition of my life has shifted from the days dragging along even as they dragged me underwater, to a new phase of living, where each day isn’t an exercise in misery. The days twirl by. There is routine, of course; we have patterns. And yet there is room for spontaneity and exploration. When you aren’t merely surviving, life becomes something with possibilities.
That is the difference between my impossible life before, and my current life.
And yet, I’m grappling with life’s brevity in a different way. An image written about by the (literally old school) Venerable Bede keeps coming to mind. It compares the passage of time in this life to a sparrow’s flight through a mead hall in winter, where people are sitting beside a fire, eating together.
I used to think about this image with the sense that life is short and loud, drafty and chaotic. But it goes beyond that. St. Bede’s description of the sparrow’s flight didn’t limit it to it’s quick journey through the hall. The sparrow comes from somewhere, and upon leaving the hall, goes somewhere. The snippet of time in the tableau of the hall is all we currently see, but it isn’t all there is.
Bede meant to address the unknowns of life before life, and of life after it.
My own faith actually doesn’t treat the spaces before and after mortality as relative unknowns. While death is still “the undiscovered country from whose bourn no traveler returns” (thanks Hamlet), scripture gives me a pretty good idea about the realities of life outside of life of earth.
From Mosiah, I’ve learned “If Christ had not risen from the dead, or have broken the bands of death that the grave should have no victory, and that death should have no sting, there could have been no resurrection. But there is a resurrection, therefore the grave hath no victory, and the sting of death is swallowed up in Christ.”
The Holy Spirit has informed me, as it did at Grandpa Snow’s funeral, when our cousin Serena sang “Be Still My Soul,” and rapid fire spiritual impulses swept over and through me.
I didn’t then believe that the Lord is on my side and that he guides the future as he has the past. I knew it. It was reality in the truest, deepest sense.
Something similar happened at my aunt Colleen’s funeral, again when music was the avenue for God to speak to me. A quartet of women sang a sweet, old-fashioned song about the passage to heaven. I can’t remember the name, but I can’t forget the overwhelming pulses of love/light plucking my heart like a guitar string, making my spirit sing. Life on earth and life in heaven were without separation.
Three days before Jack left our home for his new one, I emotionally imploded. I told Jeff I didn’t think I could do it. He held me as I wept, and at that moment I felt that Colleen was there with me, along with my Grandma Lila, Grandma Goates, and Jeff’s stepmom, Beverly.
I knew they were there. I sensed they were there to bring me comfort, specifically them, because each experienced great loss and grief during her lifetime. They were simply there, and being there for someone in distress is really the only thing TO do.
God has instructed me on a personal level, teaching me that death isn’t the end, just as birth wasn’t our beginning.
Both are portals from life with our Heavenly Parents, which makes death more of a graduation.