Tuesday, September 6, 2016

Beyond the Sea

Herself speaks.

I started listening to Harry Potter and the Half Blood Prince on audiotape last weekend while driving northward to visit Cherished Friend, and listened to it all the way home, as well as during all my mundane driving errands, and even while doing housework this weekend, until I finally finished it this evening. (There is always a driving force to complete a Harry Potter book, even though we have heard -- and read -- them all before and know precisely what happened; for there are little gems of language, little subtle details, that we find anew each time.)

It was heartbreaking as ever, to listen to the reactions of the denizens of the Harry Potter universe react to the death of such the beloved, brilliant fellow character of Dumbledore. In each of our mind's eyes, we can easily picture the funeral: the merpeople, the centaurs, the students and dignitaries, the White Tomb. We project our own losses -- whether real, or imaginary, or anticipated -- on to the grounds of Hogwarts, and we grieve, too. So very sad.

By coincidence, today I attended the funeral of an extended family member -- an individual who was distantly related enough that we only extremely rarely saw him. I am not even certain that he would have recognized me on the street, although I might well have recognized him in the right context. His death was sudden, though not entirely unexpected because of the illnesses he faced. It was clear that those who loved him, loved him dearly; for their grief was palpable, so very strong that I could feel it myself, even without being closely involved with them. It was astonishing how others' loss could be so palpable, so heartwrenching -- and yet it was.

As I sat in the church, I tried to escape the onslaught of other people's emotions by contemplating one of my favorite books -- C.S. Lewis' The Great Divorce -- and its depiction of the Afterlife. In the book, those who are already in the Afterlife volunteer to go forth to greet those who are just arriving. (What a charming thought, to be welcomed by a familiar, loved face, into such a strange new world.) There is one scene in particular, in which one person welcomes another by apologizing for having loved imperfectly on earth, and inviting the newcomer into a more perfect and understanding love.

How magnificent it would be, I think, if such a thing were possible -- if we could, somehow, bare all and apologize for our human frailties, and extend instead a love free of the earthly failures that plague us in the realm of the here and now. To understand perfectly and unashamedly. To love without condition, without constraint. To shake off old grievances, leave them behind. Free of worry, free of fear and of loss, we will finally have all the time in the world to celebrate the very existence of another person.

That would be magnificent indeed.

Perhaps, in some ways, we are all like the fish of the ocean:  we cannot possibly imagine a life beyond the watery world into which we have been born and in which we will one day die. Yet beyond the sea is a tremendous, gigantic, incomprehensible universe -- a world full of creatures and words and strangeness beyond our understanding. What if, in the end, we are brought into the fullness of that new world? How spectacular that would be.

We shall have to wait and see.

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