"Mama ... please ... I can’t feel your presence ... if you’re out there, mama, please ... call me."
"Here, boy ... c’mere, boy ... they’re so frightened, so confused ... they don’t know whom to trust."
"My baby ... they took her ... I don’t know where she is ... someone, please, help me ..."
"It’s gone ... it’s just all gone ... look ..."
For many of us, it is over now. The television coverage has mostly moved on; there is always breaking news. We have mostly moved on; we have done what we can, and there are always jobs to return to, groceries to buy, lives to live.
But the echoes of the voices, the haunting images, will linger long in our memories, reminding us, at odd moments, that for many, it will never be over.
Of all the lessons that the Creator requires us to learn, this may be the most difficult for us to accept: Life is pain. The corollary to this lesson is one that we seldom, if ever, bother or care to contemplate: Death is surcease.
Every extant religion teaches that there is, after death, an afterlife. After we die, we are taught, our souls are taken up and out of our bodies; they are transmuted and admitted into the presence of the Creator. And so it must be asked: why, exactly, do so many fear death? Why do so many curse it, contend against it, refuse to accept it? Why do so many seem so uncertain of the Creator’s promise? Is it that so many, deep in their hearts, do not truly believe?
My paternal grandparents were Methodists, indifferent practitioners who seldom, if ever, attended church, and none of their children, my father included, were deeply religious. When my parents were wed, my father agreed that my brother and I would be raised as Roman Catholics, but I don’t believe that he ever wholeheartedly accepted the faith that my mother held. After Mom died, Dad began to question what he thought he believed.
He must finally have resolved his uncertainties, because when he was diagnosed with cancer of the spleen in 2002, he didn’t noticeably go through any of the stages of grief; he simply accepted the news, put a last few affairs in order, and lapsed into a coma.
He had told us many times how terribly he missed my mother, and how tired he was, and at the end, I feel, he did not fear death; he looked forward to being with her again, and that is why his passing was so gentle. He truly believed that they would be reunited, and I have reason to believe that his belief was well-founded.
Neither do I fear death. I have been near death twice in my life, once as a teenager, and seven years ago, when I suffered a perforated ulcer, and I have learned well the lesson that life is pain. When the time comes, I will look forward to surcease.
Requiescat in pace.