A friend texted me recently to ask me what I believe happens at the moment of death. Did I believe in a soul and if so, where did it go? This friend's sister had recently died and my friend had had her hand on her sister's chest when she took her last breath. I took that in for a minute; what a profound experience those sisters had shared.
Then I answered my friend with what I think might maybe possibly happen at the moment of death (knowing full well and admitting that of course I know nothing): "I do believe in a soul and though of course I don't know, I imagine it leaving the body fairly swiftly at death and beginning its amazing and unique journey to...to where? To visit people and places it loves, as a way of saying goodbye, then eventually landing in a place of great rest, wholeness, restoration, and reunion with all those who have gone before." (For the record, not all of my text exchanges are this heavy...I can use emojis with the best of them.)
What's been your experience with people in your life you've loved and lost? Have you felt a connection after they're gone? Have they come to you in a dream, sent you a message, or have you found a tangible item they've clearly left for you? For me, these past couple of months have been full of stories like this (these are just a few):
Two plus years ago when my aunt was on hospice, our extended family kept vigil around her bed in a hospice "house". We talked, laughed, cried, told stories, and sometimes just sat in silence. And we drank wine. We had a happy hour or two in her honor; nothing crazy, just a bunch of family enjoying a short Solo cup of red and, as we told the nurse who panicked when she found us with the wine (we didn't realize it wasn't allowed), sharing a very holy communion.
Last night I met with a family who was saying its goodbyes to their beloved matriarch in the hospital. The room was full of her grown children, her adult grandchildren, and other extended family. Like my family, they wept, they laughed, they shared memories, and they sat in quiet, soaking in their final hours with their mother and grandmother. Then they did what they've done with and for other loved ones--they raised a toast to the wonderful woman dozing peacefully in the hospital bed. Someone had dashed off to Walgreens and brought back a bottle of whiskey and while they drank shots out of medicine cups, they listened to "The Parting Glass" sung by the Wailin' Jennys (I've included the audio at the end of this post; it's beautiful and such a perfect "sending").
I have a short written list of songs I'd like played at my memorial service. I keep it in my phone. My husband knows it's there, and he mostly knows what's on it. Originally he was bothered by the fact that I'd picked out songs for a time such as that; a time we both hope comes many moons from now. But now he's more accustomed to me, to what I think about, and to what matters to me, so when we hear a particular song on the radio and I say, "That's the one! Remember, I want that as the recessional", he smiles a small, patient smile and nods.
What about you? Have you given any thought to what you'd like when the end of your life comes, also hopefully many moons from now? For some people, it's imagining who they want (or don't want) around them at the time of their death and what atmosphere they want (lively and social, quiet and contemplative, etc.). For others, it's imagining the after-party--whether it be a quiet graveside, a blowout celebration of life, the scattering of ashes by their closest family and friends, or simply nothing at all (that's a valid choice, too).
Maybe it sounds morbid to you. To me, given the brevity of life, the gift of opportunity we have to make at least some choices and decisions now, and my fierce determination to ensure that there's zero organ music at my memorial, I figure jotting down a favorite Beatles tune along with a few others isn't going to hurt.
(Cheers to you, Auntie Pat and ML! xo)
"The Parting Glass": www.youtube.com/watch?v=uUK-8M3Vhzc
Long ago I was an English major. Though some may say my degree has been under-utilized, my love for the written word remains, and sometimes my words turn out okay.