I have been processing death recently; recently being the last year. When Stephen’s grandfather passed away in February, I was really unsure of how to respond. I didn’t know how to be supportive or loving. I didn’t know if we should go to work and live life normally, or if maybe we should have our own small ceremony here. How do we respect him? And, honestly, how do we make it real? Sometimes it is hard to believe something that you haven’t seen or experienced; we haven’t really experienced the loss of Papa Doc yet.
And with the death of my grandfather just over a month ago, I am processing many of the same things. Maybe Stephen wondered, too, how to be there for me and how to respect and grieve Grandpa Don.
My parents sent me a recording of the funeral, which was a nice gesture for me to be able to participate in a way. But honestly, I can’t bring myself to even download it. I don’t know how to sit through that from here and feel so far away from it all.
Stephen & I talked about our coming to America in 2013, and some plans we had made. We talked about how we needed to go see our grandmothers and make these deaths real. Stephen mentioned we might just drive to the town where his grandfather used to live, and see the house that is now sold, simply to make it real and have a chance to say goodbye to everything.
It seems so belated, and in some ways almost disrespectful to do so long after the fact. But in many ways we’re simply not sure how to process it all.
Sometime last week, I came across Genesis 3:22-24, “Then the Lord God said, ‘Behold, the man has become like one of us in knowing good and evil. Now, lest he reach out his hand and take also of the tree of life and eat, and live forever–‘ therefore the Lord God sent him out from the garden of Eden to work the ground from which he was taken. He drove out the man, and at the east of the garden of Eden he placed the cherubim and a flaming sword that turned every way to guard the way to the tree of life.”
It’s amazing how you grow up spitting out “the tree of knowledge of good and evil” as if it makes sense to us. I still have to choose to take the words for what they are, rather than the phrase they make: the tree gives knowledge of all things good and all things evil. All the beautiful sunrises and acts of love and eyes sparkling with hope; and still all the hungry, sunken bellies and the smell of blood and death: to know both.
But this verse tells us something else: that with the knowledge of goodness and cruelty, death becomes a gift. Death becomes an escape; a repreive from this knowledge.
Since we arrived here, and specifically since we have been surrounded by desperation in our neighbors and the seemingly endless work ahead of Burma and the Karen, life seems long. It seems so long to be here, to be surrounded by such good and such evil. It seems unfair and unbalanced; as if your soul knows all is not well.
And to be fair, it isn’t. Though I think many who read this blog–and particularly this post–might recommend counseling for me, I think this awareness of the extreme good and the extreme evil is more healthy than denying it. It is not easier, no; but it seems more congruent with Scripture. When I read this passage that God wanted to save us from eternal life here, because now, that life is ruined. The knowledge of good and evil has spoiled it, and we must not live here forever.
I find a deep rest in that. I can see death as a gift topped up with a bow, granting us eternity in a far better place if we choose it.