Thoughts After a Funeral

They say there are no atheists in foxholes. I have never been in a foxhole, but I have stood on the edge of a grave where the body of someone dear is about to be buried. And I have to wonder, are there any atheists at funerals?



                I have heard the politically correct lines given about death in movies and TV shows. Our loved ones “live on in our hearts” or “They will never be gone as long as we have our memories of them.” These may sound poetic enough, but I have lived the stark reality of burying both of my parents, a very dear friend, and just last week, my dear mother-in-law. I have looked on the empty remains of people I loved and instinctively sensed that this is not all there was to them. The real person—the part that laughed and loved and dreamed and hurt—is no longer there. So where are they? Has that part of them simply vanished “poof” and dissolved back into the energy of the cosmos? To believe that--to believe that all that is left of a once vibrant and caring person is a cold shell and the memories we hold--is bitter comfort. But that is all the comfort there is if you take God out of the equation.
                I prefer the belief that there is a God and this life is just part of an eternal destiny. It includes the belief that those who have finished this life have moved on to the next realm. That their spirits live on there, still as their individual selves, and that we will one day be with them. It feels right to me. I believe this not because it makes sense to my mind but because it makes sense to my soul. And it is in this belief that there is true comfort. It is the only belief which allows us to say along with the apostle Paul, “O death, where is thy sting? O grave, where is thy victory?” (1 Corinthians 15:55)
                This is not to say that we who believe this do not mourn when loved ones pass. Yes, we shed tears, but the tears are more sweet than bitter. It is as if the ones we love have gone on a long journey to a place where cell phones, and texts, and e-mails cannot reach. And so we miss them. But we do not for a moment have to deal with the hopelessness which comes from believing they no longer exist.
                I thought about this last week as our family all gathered to pay our respects to my mother-in-law. We cried a little, but we also laughed. We reminisced, we hugged, and we played cards—something she always loved doing. We talked a lot about Mom, what she would like and what she would want us to do. It was always in the present tense, not the past, because we felt an inexplicable assurance that she was there with us. And through it all we felt love, and comfort, and the “peace…which passeth all understanding.” (Phillipians 4:7)
                I know there are those who would call me silly for believing this. They might say I am superstitious and that only things which can be proven scientifically are real. But to view the world only through the tangible is to miss so much. As for me, when it comes to a choice between a belief that offers me hopelessness and one that offers me peace, I choose peace.

Comments

  1. Well put, Dayle! We talked today about peace in our Relief Society lesson. In trials, sorrows, hard times and on a road not traveled we must keep our eyes on the Savior. We must have faith and keep His commandments and then we will have that inner peace; not as the world giveth, but as God giveth!

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  2. Beautiful words penned by a choice daughter of God. Thanks Dayle

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  3. Thank you so much for sharing these thoughts. Your words brought me to tears. So beautiful!

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