It’s been an odd day today. Had two bits of news that are life-changing for the people involved. One good, one bad.
One v. good friend just had a baby – everyone concerned is well, and it’s probably the most powerful event ever in the lives of all concerned.
And at the other end of the scale, another v. good friend just found out that his mum probably has days to live. She’s been ill for a while, but it doesn’t really make the finality of such a prognosis any easier to swallow.
The two extremes of human experience – one ‘hello world’, one ‘goodbye world’.
Dave The Vicar was talking this morning about the 23rd Psalm – ‘The Lord is my shepherd, I shall not want…’ etc. Focussing in on these first couple of lines, he unpacked what ‘I shall not want’ means – rather than it being a statement of overabundance, or some prosperity nonsense about having everything I might ever want, it’s a statement of completeness in God. Completeness in good times and in shit times. No promises of solutions, just the promise of presence.
For most people the absolutes in life – birth and death – are some of the most spiritual of times. Contemplating our own mortality in the light of the dimming candle of a loved one can beat the fundementalist out of the most ardent of hellfire-and-brimstone fundies and make the most hardcore athiest doubt their convictions. Death is too big for any of us to be certain about, but there’s something within the human experience that suggests there must be more. So certainty dies and we look for hope. The hope of life beyond death.
And birth kind of completes the circle – I think it was Billy Joel who sang that life is a series of hellos and goodbyes (shit, did I just quote Billy Joel on the blog? somebody shoot me), and I think the hellos can help make sense of the goodbyes. It doesn’t take the pain away, but the circle of life is complete. We’re all born, we all die, we all have a finite number of years to try and make sense of the world. If we know that a person has acheived something in their life, be it as personal as having a good relationship with their family or as huge as the Mother Theresas of this world, we can rest assured that they didn’t live in vain. They’ve done what we all seek to do – the search for meaning and significance. And as just about all funerals testify, everyone has had an impact on someone.
And at this point, the belief in a life beyond death makes the significant life and the death that follows seem just as significant for the person departing as for the ones left behind.
And it makes the process of bringing a new person into the world a little less scary – The Shepherd of the Psalm is on your side, at the begining and at the end. It doesn’t guarantee an easy ride – far from it – but it does help when drawing up the roadmap. Facing the potential for significance in a baby and knowing you’re responsible for where they go is the start of the journey. Looking back on a life well lived is the end of this part of the journey.
So I pray for both of them – giving thanks for the baby, and for wisdom for the new parents. And then for peace and consolation for the one saying goodbye.by