Have you ever had one of those days where you feel as if that voodoo guy in Indiana Jones’ Temple of Doom has just reached in and pulled your heart from your chest, exposing it to the world for all its vulnerability and capabilities?
Today was one of those days. I got to keep my heart in the end, ripped and sore from the emotional work out, but with the chance of healing and being stronger.
It started with a visit to my French friend Fanny to meet her just over 2 week-old baby. Although I visited with Fanny when she was pregnant, this was the first time I saw her as a mom, that baby in her arms. I had forgotten how tiny little humans could be.
When she offered for me to hold her, I scooped her up, supporting her little wobbly neck, cuddling her to me. She was so light, so vulnerable, so fresh to the world with that new baby smell that speaks of a purity we can never quite reclaim.
“Her existence changes the world,” I said. “Not only has she dramatically changed your lives by coming into it, but she will say and do things in her lifetime that will change the world.”
“Yes. I totally agree,” my friend responded. We weren’t trying to be profound. Our exchange was in a way just pointing out the obvious. But sometimes it’s the most obvious things that can be revelatory.
I love holding babies, but today, this had an extra layer of significance. I was celebrating the start of this small baby girl’s life, but in a few short hours, I would be attending a funeral of a friend who died at 42 years young.
As I prepared to attend the funeral, I thought of my friend Mart, how he wasn’t here on the planet anymore. His body remains, but he left Saturday, departing for the heavens. For once, I can write this with certainty. Not necessarily my own, but his. He was a lawyer with an analytical mind, but also a Christian. In the last few months of his life, his thoughts on God, on Jesus, gained clarity.
I have attended a half dozen funerals at our church in the last five years, but he was by far the youngest within our community to pass away. If you are one to think of and idealize your own funeral, this might have been the picture in your mind. The church, which can hold approximately 400 people, was completely full. Beautiful music was played, the flowers spoke of honor and celebration, the children were called forward to light candles. We heard inspiring, heart-opening and tear invoking stories of his life and beliefs recalled through his family members, wife, fraternity brothers, colleagues.
A common theme was his faith. At a time that many might raise their fist in the air at God and shake it with anger, his faith solidified, became crystal clear and simple. He knew he was going to God.
After the church service, the attendees cycled, caught a tram or drove to the Dutch cemetery, where our friend was lowered into “his final resting place.” Yet that is also a bit of an untruth; the vessel that held him has been lowered into the ground, but he has flown away.
That gravestone will represent a place to honor his memory, but he will live on in all of those who loved him and knew him.
As the day comes to a close, I think of his wife, mother, brother, sister, cousins, nieces and nephews, friends, colleagues. Those left behind. My thoughts focus most on his wife, a good friend of mine, and what this transition into a new phase of her life, without her beloved by her side, will be like. As I wrote that last sentence, a thought came shooting through me; ‘but she’s not alone. He is there with her in spirit. And she is surrounded by those who love her.’
So very true, yet my heart still hurts for her. This is the stuff that connects us to the life cycle and makes us aware of just how precious the gift of life is.