It’s difficult to talk intelligently about something you have never experienced. Sometimes it helps to hear descriptions others give of what has happened to and for them, but there is still a measure of faith needed in those cases in order to believe what they share. This is true especially in stories of “near death experiences” as they give witness to what is perhaps the greatest mystery of life: our death and what lies on the other side of that moment. The Scriptures for this feast of All Souls, when we remember “the faithful departed,” all speak of the hope and the conviction that the souls of the just are in the hand of God and no torment shall touch them. They seemed, in the view of the foolish, to be dead; and their passing away was thought an affliction and their going forth from us, utter destruction. But they are in peace. (WIS:3:1-9)
I have known this tenet of faith seemingly all my life and have great hopes for an afterlife filled with God but perceptions around that concept have changed over the years and learnings of my life as to what it truly means. As I wrote the title of this morning’s reflection, what arose was a parallel phrase that has become a practice for me over the past several years of Wisdom studies. “Die before you die,” I heard inside myself. Although that sounds rather macabre, what it really means in the everyday is a letting go of what does not serve my growth in order to be ready for the ultimate letting go at the end of my physical life. It’s the follow-on from childhood, one could say, when giving up candy or criticism during Lent helped us to prepare for the day of Christ’s resurrection to new life as indicative of what is in store for us. Now I think of such “giving up/over” as surrender – like the self-emptying of Jesus – in order to be ready for transformation into the lightness of being that is indicated in the Wisdom reading where it says that in the time of their visitation they shall shine and shall dart about as sparks through stubble.
Light is dawning outside my window and it looks like the sun will soon burst forth in the glory of a new day. Just one more metaphor for life after life that sustains me as I prepare for what is ahead in this brief and mysterious gift of life on earth.