By Fr Jim Cogley
It must be dreadful to love someone for a lifetime and when that person dies to see nothing but a hole in the ground. To not have faith or to have lost it has to be a truly lonely place; to think that death is the final destiny and there is nothing beyond, and that we are never going to be together again. That truly is to grieve as an unbeliever without hope and I can’t imagine what it must be like. Often we take faith for granted and we don’t realize the comfort and reassurance it brings especially when we lose someone close.
Having said that there is a most common myth that most believers buy into that is almost as bad as grieving without hope. This is the belief that when I lose someone close that we will not be together again until I also die and get to the other side. This is a belief so dangerous that it has made so many give up on life. Essentially it puts life on hold until it’s over. The truth is that to be reunited with a loved one, is not about getting to the other side of life, but much more about getting to the other side of grief.
Think of it this way. Two people can share the same bed and be a million miles apart. It happens all the time! Physical closeness is no indication of an emotional connection. Yet two people can be separated by an ocean and still have a sense of togetherness and while they long to be together physically they can still draw strength from their emotional closeness.
My own mother had the unusual distinction of dying in one millennium and of being buried in another. The day before she died I brought her Holy Communion and she said, ‘You know that I am dying’, to which I nodded. She then reassured me that while she was going I would never be on my own and that she would always be with me in spirit. Those words naturally became engrained on my heart and allowed me to experience her death not as a separation but as a continuation. Later I wanted to honour her and what she had said with a suitable inscription on the tombstone. What I had written there expresses my deepest belief in relation to death, and the importance of grieving properly. It’s a few lines that I have also used at so many funerals ever since and many have said that it touched their hearts.
Death breaks an earthly tie
But love survives
When grief has passed
For love can never die.
It truly is as simple and yet as profound as that. Only by grieving properly can we experience death not as a separation but as a continuation.