Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted. (Matthew 5:4)
We’ve been spending some time with family members recalling, among other things, the funerals we’ve experienced together; and suddenly, in the middle of one of these remembrances I started laughing out loud — the bearer of a secret joke.
What if the dead person were able to move, ghostlike, in and around all the conversations surrounding his or her life — the fake comments, the lies, the sugar-coated clichés — and affect a reaction at their own memory in the real world? I suddenly saw something like the ghost of Christmas present in Scrooged, Bill Murray’s cinematic version of A Christmas Carol — the little pixie ghost with the tiny, high-pitched voice who tries to wake up the contemporary Scrooge character to the reality around him by slapping him in the face or hitting him upside the head with a toaster.
Can’t you see it? We always say about the memorial service: “She would have loved this so much…” and Wham! comes the slap, Who cares what I like or don’t like? The service is for you, not for me!
We love to call funerals “Celebrations of Life.” Wham! another slap. Who’s celebrating? I’m the one who gets to celebrate! You are here to grieve. It’s my funeral, guys. I’m dead!
Or the husband who has just lost a wife he hasn’t been intimate with for 30 years and sadly remarks, “I’ve lost my companion.” Here comes the toaster! Oh really? Why don’t you tell them how excited you are to not have me kicking you around anymore?
Or, “Did you see her? They did such a good job.” Slap! They did not! That doesn’t look a thing like me! And why, with all the designer outfits I hid in my closet, did you put me in that awful Wal-Mart dress, for heaven’s sake? I hated that thing! Are you so embarrassed that everyone at church will think you actually spent some money on me? At least put me in the ground with some style.
We could go on and on here. You can write your own.
Just think about how we can carry on our rationalizations at the expense of a dead person. If Marti died today, I could tell you anything I wanted about her and you would have to believe it. I would most likely avoid telling you anything that would make me look bad. No, I would write all this flowery stuff about her, and secretly, toasters would fly.
Am I desecrating the memories of the dead here? On the contrary, I’m trying to desecrate the living to the end of telling the truth. Most of what we would be slapped upside the head over would be the result of not mourning. Not only mourning someone’s loss, but mourning what we could have had with that person had we overcome our barriers and rationalizations and the distances we let grow between us, because we simply don’t want to face into conflict.
It’s really simple: No grief, no comfort.
Of course the grace of Gods covers all this, but we experience that grace only to the extent that we realize our need for it. It’s the truth that sets us free. Lies only enslave us more.