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Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Death, or something like it

This is piecings of a thoughtful evening and may be added to at some point in the future.
Today in church there sat the open casket of one of our parishoners, Stella (Stephanida) Seminuk. I was not prepared to see her when I entered, only tomorrow after the Liturgy for the funeral service. She was there for the Pannikhida service right before the vigil, in the middle of the church. Lots of people were there, even people I have not seen in ages, coming together the way death sort of has its way. In the flicker of the candlelight, in a somber kind of way, people took their turns to see her for the first time since her passing, to pray, reflect, love and greet. We all aren't sure what to say, I guess there isn't much. Stella was an old woman, she had a full life, it was to be expected as ill as she has been. But still, an indescribable feeling of loss, not only of Stella, but of ourselves in that casket with her. I understand better what it is about death that makes us selfish...we are because we have to relate. We must relate to this part of life, death is as sure as God. I think that it is such a mercy God has given us to participate in death, we get to feel what it is like to lose a person, find ourselves and in such a short time, understand our lives more clearly, our purpose.
I cried and I was trying to think about why. I did not know her well, only bits and pieces, a very nice woman to the end. I came to the conclusion that I cried because my heart ached and I did not know what else to do, there IS not anything else to do when someone dies. We start to realize how little time we actually have, as simple and silly as that may sound, but it holds up the mirror of mortality and shows us the fork in the road to the path of our own slavation. Which way we turn is our own choice, into ourselves for consolation or to God for guidance.
I was thinking about how the soul is freed when we die...freed from the shell of a body that does our bidding in our web of sins. No longer is it trapped, no longer can we sin. When we pray for one another when we are living they most certainly help us to follow our own paths to salvation, but, nonetheless, we continue to sin no matter how hard we try. When we die, that is the end to sin. This is why it is soooo important to pray for those who have passed away. For us that live, it is an uphill battle...for those who have died, they have no more affliction of the human condition, no more ability to sin and our prayers no longer fight the current of this raging river of life. In sin do we pray, but from love we are heard.
There is so much more hope in death than life. So much that Christ has taught us to be prepared because it really does not matter what we do in our lives unless we are properly preparing for the eternal life for which Christ died. We can learn and love and so mch more, but our purpose is eternity with Him. Preparing for our own death is not a terrible thing, but one to be taken seriously since that is where our souls spend eternity. It doesn't matter whether we think we know what God wants, or if there even is a God, we will all find out when we are dead and I would rather be ready for it than caught off-guard. In death, there is so much hope, just as Christ has given us hope of eternal life through His sacrifice. We will always miss people, in our own ways...it has been said that 'misery loves company...' and nowhere do I find it more true than in our need to connect with one another. We seek others to comfort us in our affliction, Christ is our comfort...His saints are a great comfort as well...they prove that the Holy life that Christ lives is possible and True in every way. His promise holds true and keeps us going in Faith, Love and Prayer.
In love I write and love I keep, most steadfastly and to the best of my ability. May God bless everyone on their paths and Lord have Mercy on us all!
Much love, me

2 comments:

Petronia said...

I have been thinking about how short life can be and how little I prepare for death...or, how I forget to live for that which I have been created--for that which I believe. I am very distractable (is that a word?) and that is very dangerous. I have to admit that these days I have not been praying much, and oftentimes when I lie down and think of how I did not say evening prayers I suddenly cross myself and ask for mercy if I die in my sleep. Some nights I can really relate and mean it when I pray that prayer "is this bed to be my coffin?..." Also the one "I fear death and torments yet I cease not to do evil"...Lord have mercy.

Marfa said...

May Stella rest in the peace of our Lord. How touching. I've been to many funerals since my father is a priest and to tell you the truth, I think they are great, open caskets really give the living closure (my non-orthodox grandma was creamated and it was hard for me), and I just think it is good for us to be reflective, death will come to us all. Petra, those are some of my favorite verses from evening prayers, but the reality is scary, am I prepared?