"Once you've been really bad in a movie, there's a certain kind of fearlessness you develop."
"These things will destroy the human race: politics without principle, progress without compassion, wealth without work, learning without silence, religion without fearlessness and worship without awareness."
Anthony de Mello
Anthony de Mello
I had the great honor of attending a memorial service for a member of my church this week, and in the process of witnessing, for the first time, the way Christian Orthodoxy honors this passage from one life into another, I find myself fearless about death. I'm not seeking out a quick demise or anything, but I finally saw, sensed, felt that reality of a person becoming larger and fuller through this passage into eternal life. I suppose after my father died in 2001 and for years after that, I felt his presence more acutely than when he was in the flesh, but sometimes I chalked it up to my wide imagination.
Here was the first person I'd seen, at rest, since I sat by my father's side in the hospital when he took his last breaths. And the room was full of his friends and family, people's lives he'd touched.
And he was there too, his body and spirit. And I was inspired by the memorial the Priest gave celebrating this man as such a devout Christian. You could say the spirit of Gus entered me, gave me new conviction.
The very next night, a dear friend found out her father died, and my heart went out to her. Losing my own father was a huge event, one that lingered for a long time, one that took many years to get used to--and still there are times today when I think I need to talk to my father. It's a much larger deal than anyone led me to believe. I just thought, my parents will die. I took it for granted. And then there was this enormous space, this black hole of both grief and possibility. Losing my father remains the most significant event in my life, even though I've grappled with my own life-threatening illness and many other traumas.
I suppose I say this because I do not want to discount the loss that my friends are experiencing right now, even if their fathers' deaths, in the tradition which I reside, are a new birth as much as a death. I wish my friends to be gentle with themselves over the next year, and to give themselves room to grieve and to go, as I did, a bit mad with this grief.
However, I am grateful for the chance to understand a little more of the tradition I was received into only a short year ago, and to understand a little more about the smallness of the material world which has been vexing me of late and to have more faith in God's world, which felt, on the night of Gus' memorial, large and present as a low-lying cloud, heavy with pending descent.
The comfort of this made things like bills and jobs, the questions of where to live and what to do for a living, fall away, as if all the things of the world I've been chasing have been in a race against death, and with a reprieve of this fear, I can let's those details work themselves out, as I simply try to live in my human form as nobly and with great acceptance that I will be really bad in this movie again and again, as is the nature of humanity. We fall, we get up, we fall, we get up. Then, when we fall for the final time, we rise.