Tuesday, August 14, 2012

Life and Death

It's 12:15 pm. I woke up a little over an hour ago. Rough night. I told myself I'd start working at noon. But here we are.

I've been mulling over an idea for a post about death for a while now. Which seems so morbid in light of the fact that I'm about to give birth. (Or so they tell me; after talking with my mom last night about blowing by her due dates and having a few inductions, I'm pretty sure I'll never get this baby outta me.)

An interesting aside: in Spanish and Portuguese (and maybe other romantic languages, but these are the two I know), the idiomatic phrase for "to give birth" is "dar a luz." Literally translated, "to give to light."

And we have a lot of ways of talking about death in English. Passed on, passed away, or, here the in the South, just "passed." We comfort ourselves with gentler words for harsh realities.

When I was a missionary in Portugal, a young man died on a warm summer evening in a tragic car accident. His sister was the driver. A miscalculation on her part ended her brother's life. The coastal city where my missionary companion and I worked had two wards full of people, especially teenagers, who loved these two kids. It was a time of deep grieving.

Funeral services were called two days after the accident. My companion and I were asked to arrive a few minutes early to talk to the youth while the few adults who could leave work during the day finalized funeral details.

When we arrived, the chapel was arranged for the services, and the room was filled with a dozen or so teenagers. No one else had arrived. The boy's body wouldn't arrive for a while.

We had been asked to come and counsel with the youth, but no one was disconsolate. No one was sobbing in a corner. No one needed pretty words. The kids just wanted to be together.

We sat and chatted for a while. The conversation became light and happy. Not irreverent, but peaceful and warm and calm. The dead boy's friends together, celebrating his life by living theirs fully. One boy had his guitar with him. Knowing I played the piano, he handed me some sheet music. "Will you play with me?"

The song was Leonard Cohen's Hallelujah. I won't try to break down the meaning or significance of that song. I don't care to and I don't think it pertains. But we played it over and over. The kids sang in their varied competencies of English. They sang and sang. I don't remember much about the funeral that day. It started an hour late, and was as touching as it was sad. It was still a young life snuffed out too soon without any good reason.

But mostly I remember the music and the vibrant life surrounding the piano.

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