May 2, 2010
Memorial to Living


I never knew the woman whose memorial service I attended Friday afternoon; I knew her son as an acquaintance, yet someone whose labors in our church I respected.  That seemed enough to be present.

I heard more than the sadness of her children as they delivered the eulogy, or the religious words of the ministers leading the service.  As a near-total outsider to those gathered, I heard differently the liturgy, songs and comments made among the other attendees.  In that scene, I could be a student of life, living and dying who learned by listening and observing, with no emotional connection. 

The other day I watched a television show in which the commentator said we learn about living by observing and learning from dying.  The speaker referenced the cave man days and how important it was to watch and learn from death.  Humans learned what was safe to eat, what injuries meant and how to fix them and so on.  Basically, he said that our life expectancies grew because we watched and remained attentive to death over the years.

I believe the speaker's premise:  the quantity of our years has increased thanks to knowledge gleaned by watching death.  I also believe the quality of our years can increase by observing, too.  Unfortunatley, our society has taken extreme steps over the decades to separate the experiences and connections of the living from the dying.  Witness the facilities, the processes and the interactions with those in their final years or months:  separation, as if to "protect" the healthier.

Years ago, I took Communion to a woman at a nursing home once a week.  During the time that I was able to help, I saw her 30 times, perhaps.  In less than a year, I then saw her 20-30 times more than her children, who also lived in Houston, did.  How can that "parting of the ways" serve anyone when the "way" actually involves how we live, how we die and, ultimately, how we heal...together.

I pray for Doug and his family, and I appreciate everyone at the service, including those who put together the photo show of his mother's life.  In them all, I was reminded that life is for living, and dying will forever be part of that process.  The gathering to reminisce, heal, and celebrate life more than grieve death, serves as a lesson for each day we have the gift of being alive.  In the vulnerability of the pain of loss, we see the strength of love, connectedness and relationship, despite the ups and downs of life.  



Listen to Life is a  free newsletter about learning and getting more from life by paying attention to our own stories and the stories of others, based on the presentations, writings, photography and workshops by Dion McInnis (www.dionmcinnis.com).  Copyright 2010 Dion McInnis.  All rights reserved.

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