When a loved one dies, the world is quick to respond with well-intentioned, comfortless remarks. Just last week, the piano tuner assured me that Jon’s spirit was still in the house watching over us. Besides being a downright creepy idea, I think that would be kind of a bummer for Jon, who expected to see Jesus, but got to watch me vacuum and do laundry instead. And what about those movies where the bereaved is told that the loved one will “always be alive in your memory”? I mean, really, who wants that to be the extent of the beloved’s existence? For one thing, my memory is faulty and limited, and I couldn’t begin to do justice to the Jon that God created. For another, when I die, unless someone else is “keeping me alive in his memory”, we’re both sunk. Fortunately, God didn’t leave us wandering in the unsubstantial land of wishful thinking. Scripture tells us that we should “not grieve as those who have no hope”. We are emphatically told that the child of God continues, safe and happy in God’s presence.
But the bereaved is still- bereaved- the limping half of a couple that was, the remainder of an amalgam of two people. If it is true that a new organism was formed when I married Jon, a strange creature is left behind. And the question is: how will the fractured person I became when Jon died, function now he is gone? There are several possibilities. Do I try to remember and re-invent the single person I was before I got married? Do I race out to find another soul-mate? Do I gradually slide out of life with no goal besides pain avoidance?
The idea of numbly sliding through the remainder of my life is sometimes attractive. Time has devoured a precious part of me. The normal, the usual, has been lost. It’s not coming back. Ever. But while anesthesia stops pain, it also enforces “existence only” mode. Do I want to live out my life- lifeless?
Another “soul-mate”? Well, it could happen, but finding a person who would fit in with an already full family is a tall order . Should I spend precious time and energy chasing around, trying to re-create what I used to have? Or are there better things to do?
As for returning to the person I was before I married, I think it is impossible, and a “chasing after the wind”. After all, I am not the young, active, ego-centric person I used to be. I can’t run backwards fast enough to catch up with the dancing, jogging, horseback riding, foil -wielding person I was. That person is gone. Some things are the same, but more has changed.
So, who am I? Who are you? And why are we obsessed with that question? We are told that “if any man is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old things passed away. Behold, the new things have come”. Apparently, there is a fourth option. Despite the dizzying unfamiliarity of the terrain, I am still on the road leading to completion, toward whatever God intends me to be. In fact, in God’s eyes, I’ve already arrived, completed in Christ. Consequently, I just have to keep walking. I don’t need a new i.d., and I don’t have to worry about the contents of my backpack. It’s all been taken care of. What is essential, what is eternal, remains unchanged.