Perhaps no image then is as apt, as powerful, as consoling, and as accurate in terms of picturing what happens to us when we die and awake to eternal life as is the image of a mother holding and cradling her newborn child. When we die, we die into the arms of God and surely we're received with as much love, gentleness, and tenderness as we were received in the arms of our mothers at birth. Moreover, surely we are even safer there than we were when we were born here on earth. I suspect too that more than a few of the saints will be hovering around, wanting their chance to cuddle the new baby. And so it's okay if we die before we're ready, still in need of nurturing, still needing someone to help take care of us, still needing a mother. We're in safe, nurturing, gentle hands.
That can be deeply consoling because death renders every one of us an orphan and, daily, there are people dying young, unexpectedly, less-than-fully-ready, still in need of care themselves. All of us die, still needing a mother. But we have the assurance of our faith that we will be born into safer and more nurturing hands than our own.
However, consoling as that may be, it doesn't take away the sting of losing a loved one to death. Nothing takes that away because nothing is meant to. Death is meant to indelibly scar our hearts because love is meant to wound us in that way. As Dietrich Bonhoeffer puts it: "Nothing can make up for the absence of someone we love. ... It is nonsense to say that God fills the gap; God doesn't fill it, but on the contrary, God keeps it empty and so helps us keep alive our former communion with each other, even at the cost of pain. ... The dearer and richer our memories, the more difficult the separation. But gratitude changes the pangs of memory into a tranquil joy. The beauties of the past are borne, not as a thorn in the flesh, but as a precious gift in themselves."
"Dying into safe hands,"
Nov. 3, 2013
Nov. 3, 2013