The Final Goodbye
My day job brings me into the lives of people during moments of crisis, personal tragedy, turmoil, and loss. Both day and night I receive calls informing me that someone has died. The death is sometimes expected, sometimes sudden, but always world-shattering for those who grieve. Death leaves the living broken and incomplete. I know this from personal experience and from the voices of people with whom I share words before and after the final goodbye.
I used to think a lot about the idea of an afterlife, imagining judgments, reunions, and beatific visions. Nowadays, with death having become for me more embodied reality than distant abstraction, I reflect less on the hereafter, if there will be such a thing, and more on the moment of death itself, both for those who pass and those who witness. I still say words to my deceased daughter and picture her hearing me, but usually, when my thoughts turn to her, I recall and relive the hours she shared with us. Memory and grief have become my expressions of faith, as I seem to have mostly left behind imaginatively describing to myself some future heavenly hope. Consequently, faith has ceased to be a comfort to me. Death has made my faith anew; my heart tells me to remember and to remain in love, to love into death, not because all will ultimately be well, but because a life, though lost, deserves devotion.