Wednesday, July 25, 2007

Love and Death

by Faith St. Clair

What’s the one thing that, besides love, is most written about? It is death.

I think death is wonderful. I mean, you get all the good stuff. You get people mourning your loss, flowers all around you, wonderful things being said about you (even if they’re not true). You get freed from debt and cares of the world. You don’t have a boss anymore and your family loves and appreciates you more now than when you were alive. They wish you were around, whereas, when you were alive, they barely called. You used to always be the blame for your children’s limitations, problems and failures. Now, in death, your advice is the best they ever had.

Why is that? Even if your life was lived just a notch above the caliber of pond algae, people fawn all over how wonderful you were and on and on. Are people religiously bound to say that regardless of what kind of person you were, or do they just all of a sudden get slammed with amnesia the moment you’re gone? Maybe they have ulterior motives, your money for instance, or maybe they have an I’ll-get-struck-by-lightening-if-I-talk-bad-about-the-dead syndrome.

I’m sorting through these questions because I’m headed to a memorial for a mother who lived her life as far away from that noble title as she possibly could. This woman was a prostitute, gave up four of her five children at birth (most addicted to drugs) to be raised by other people and aborted countless others. She served 25 years in prison for murder and was always a source of contention and let-down amongst her children. She gambled, stole and lied her way through life. What was the one, constant importance in her life? Herself. Everything was always about her.

Through the years, I’ve watched her children go through much anguish over her, her lack of motherhood, her inability to care, her tumultuous life choices, her crass tactics and dealings with other people. It has taken many years and a lot of prayer to overcome feelings of blame and anger and come to a resting place of forgiveness. Many of her children, even in their adult years, struggle with insecurity, a quick temper, self-indulgence, and even lives without firm foundations. (Who says our choices don’t affect others?) Yet for some reason, beyond my comprehension, people from all over the country will be flocking together to blubber in her absence and spread their tears and her ashes across Cleveland. The obituary and program speak highly of the loving mother she was and how everyone will miss her terribly.

I guess I’m too far away from forgiveness to understand how things like that can be said.

In contrast, my Mother passed away last year and left a legacy of love and service and kindness. She was not perfect and struggled in her later years with mental illness, but her overarching epitaph is one of truth and charity. Although her kindnesses touched hosts throughout her life, only few attended her memorial and most were there in support of us children rather than in remembrance or honor of her.

I’m feeling a little angry that one ill-directed life will be memorialized by many and one honorable life was mourned by few.

In writing through my struggle, I’m realizing that what it really boils down to is us learning to forgive, learning not to judge and learning to find the best in everyone. I will commit to doing this, to letting only our Father in Heaven do the judging and to remembering that everyone is a child of God. I will ask for forgiveness of my own Mother for not appreciating her more while she was alive and I’ll love my children whether or not they appreciate me now or ever.

The other most written about topic – love…

I love life – the joys and beauty and trials and fun…and I love death – the reunions and freedoms and flowers and amnesia!

4 comments:

  1. As always, Faith, you lead us to look at the subject from a completely different angle. Lots to think about here.

    I love your last paragraph, too. You absolutely MUST put that in a character's mouth some day.

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  2. Legacy is such an important part of our life here on earth. I love the part in the song "Three Wooden Crosses" where Randy Travis says it's not what you take with you, it's what you leave behind.

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  3. Thanks for the food for thought. No, things don't seem quite fair, but 'fair', 'equal', and the like seem to be a figment of the imagination, since they depend so much on the pov. Like the boy who asked,"Is that big piece of cake for Johnny?" to which his mother replied, "No, it's for you," and he shot back with, "That little piece?" Comparing seldom compensates.

    I, too, feel that death is something to be looked forward to with joy, but I'm not in a hurry. It's being waited on in a hospital that I thrive on. Or leaving a messy motel room to return and find it neat as a pin. (Is a pin really neat?)

    My kids are planning to bribe people to come to my funeral by having me make enough dishcloths to give away to every one who comes. My trouble is I don't have the least idea how many that will take. At least it gets a laugh.

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  4. Faith, I love the way you express yourself! You always give me something to think about. I remember the feelings I had in the hospital as my grandfather waited for his time to move on to the next life. I had such a feeling of anticipation and joy. It surprised me and I felt a little guilty at first. Shouldn't I be sad? I was, a little...but he was prepared to graduate! I felt like I was witnessing a graduation and I will always treasure that gift.

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