Friday, December 28, 2007

memorial service

The woman who I visited in the hospital on Christmas Eve died on Christmas day. Her death came just a day after the decision of the family not to proceed with further medical tests and treatment, and confrimed that they had made the right decision. I heard the news of her death on Wednesday as I prepared a memorial service I would conduct on Thursday for the woman's uncle who had died three weeks earlier. This man, in his 80s had been a member of a church I served previously.

The fact that life ends in death is both perfectly normal and also eternally mysterious. Death is right and necessary, and also strange. It's clear that death must be part of a system that needs room to grow and change and introduce novelty and new creation. Without death creation would come to a stop and we'd have only an endless repitition of the forms and experiences we already have. On a collective level death doesn't end the spiritual journey; death allows the journey to move forward.

But whether death ends the personal spiritual journey or allows it also to move forward is an unanswered, and unanswerable question. Maybe there's a personal continuation, a next chapter, or maybe the end of this life is also the end of the book. That's a knowledge that is beyond our human capacity to know, no matter how strong our hunch. But it is clear, even in the personal case, that endless life would eventually cease to be fruitful. Once we've had this experience we don't need to have it again. Even if there's no next adventure for us to take on personally there's no need for us to keep having this one forever. And it may very well be the case, and this is my hunch, that ending one adventure allows us to start on the next.

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