Weekly reflections for those who tend to the dying
Thursday, July 23, 2015
The other day I was cleaning out my office. In the midst of shredding documents and tossing detritus, I came upon a stack of funeral prayer cards. Those laminated three-by-five inch pieces of paper often with a sweet picture of the deceased on it, the date of birth and death, funeral information and the 23rd Psalm, the Lord’s Prayer, or some quasi-religious, but always heartfelt poem. I couldn’t bring myself to toss them. They say if left to fend for itself, after about one millennia, all the material we humans have made will either have broken up and returned to the earth, or be so worn as to be unrecognizable. Libraries will be nothing but heaps of petrified wood, buildings fallow fields, cities forest and plains. The only material which will not give into time and the elements, the only stuff of our existence which will survive to near infinitude, is plastic. There, thousands of years from now, once we are all dead and gone, in a buried layer of existence interspersed between soda bottles and Barbie dolls, will be those laminated prayer cards, eternally reminding the universe of the individuals who have faded out of existence. Our lives, as with the world, hold on to very little. The people we encounter tend to be brushed out of our memories by time and distance; their memories worn down to nothing. But there are those people we choose to let in, those people we affect and allow to affect us in deep, authentic, and profound ways. They are stamped on our hearts, laminated into our souls. When our lives are through, when our times have come, they will be the last to go: enduring pieces of the other that have made a home in us, and in turn gave us meaning. Meeting and caring for these people is the true blessing of our task, and a great gift of this work.