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“I am the resurrection, and the life: he that believeth in me, though he were dead, yet shall he live: And whosoever liveth and believeth in me shall never die.”

June 16, 2022

Silence.

A voice, direct and calm, recites words that penetrate the space.

It is a funeral. A death. A gathering. A ritual. A distillation of our inadequacy. A direct, unrelenting end has happened, and those who are here hear the words. This is not a memorial, it is the living being with the dead, in real time. For this moment, the past cannot be controlled and the future is suspended before each person in the room.

Time has stopped, because each knows that our time will stop, but that instant is the connection between everything we know, and everything we cannot know. It is either denial or acceptance, because we, all of us, either deny or accept what we cannot control. And we do not control death.

There is no emotion but the humanity of words of the long gone, dropped into the lap of those in the place of the newly dead.

There is no doubt in the speaker, no need for ascent by the listener. The words are just what is, if they can be heard. Sunrise only exists for those who can see it. The wind only exists for those who can feel it. We are prisoners of the physical world – and fully able to deny what is not physically present. Or invent meaning from what we can control.

The ultimate lack of human control, death, confronts every physical reality: denied or invented. So we create the realities we can control, like funerals. But we only make from what we have been given. We were given life – we did not make it. We were given what we can understand and do, we do not make who we are, we live into what we are given. Or not.

The words cut to the full failure to control, and simply say that control is not ours to have. Despite writing, speaking and hearing the words. Like the sunset or the wind, the words do not care about the control humans live to manifest.

So the words break the silence, and, for the moments that must be heard, break the control each listener had in the silence. Our eyes are drawn to whatever remains of the dead the room contains.

The physical dead are easy to see – and we look, even touch or hold. The dead in each of us is the reality of the person we have come to be part of, but more, the dead in each of us will happen – outside of our control. But we can control a ritual.

Until we cannot.

Whether 600 or 6,000 years old, the words have no time stamp. They are us, now, then and will be. Because they are simply true, if you can hear them. Ringing like the bell at the silent night, it can be dismissed as a resonance of human casting – or its penetrating reality can be acknowledged as a truth beyond sound.

I imagine death is a moment of silence, the first since each of us can sense anything. The frozen relief of stark words against the silence of our reckoning is not a regret or a remembrance or even hope, let alone faith. The words are God’s mirror: held before each of us – reflecting not the God who made us but who we are, without the noise of our own making.

So when you find yourself at a funeral, not a memorial of humanity rationalizing humanity, or even a service of connection to God, but rather a funeral that lays bare the inevitable truth of death, it is simply as true as the sunrise or the wind.

And the words, spoken by a human, but created by God, are just a squint to the dawn we cannot see. But know.

2 Comments leave one →
  1. June 16, 2022 10:44 pm

    LAMENT
    Someone is dead.
    Even the trees know it,
    those poor old dancers who come on lewdly,
    all pea-green scarfs and spine pole.
    I think . . .
    I think I could have stopped it,
    if I’d been as firm as a nurse
    or noticed the neck of the driver
    as he cheated the crosstown lights;
    or later in the evening,
    if I’d held my napkin over my mouth.
    I think I could . . .
    if I’d been different, or wise, or calm,
    I think I could have charmed the table,
    the stained dish or the hand of the dealer.
    But it’s done.
    It’s all used up.
    There’s no doubt about the trees
    spreading their thin feet into the dry grass.
    A Canada goose rides up,
    spread out like a gray suede shirt,
    honking his nose into the March wind.
    In the entryway a cat breathes calmly
    into her watery blue fur.
    The supper dishes are over and the sun
    unaccustomed to anything else
    goes all the way down. [ellipses in original]

    ~ Anne Sexton

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