Death and Complicated Feelings

In a couple of hours my husband and I will fly to New York for the wake and funeral of my aunt, who died Tuesday night. I was fortunate enough to spend this past Friday through Monday visiting with her in the hospital in New York – getting to say good-bye and I love you and hear her say she loved me also, and getting a few final doses of her humor in those moments of lucidity.

Our reactions to death are never simple. My aunt was suffering tremendously near the end from her pancreatic cancer, making it impossible not to pray for a speedy death to put an end to the torment. (As I did when my own father was dying of this disease, I prayed to God to take her quickly.) On the other hand, none of us wanted her to be gone; the idea of not having her around is deeply painful to all of us. Intellectually, it is easy to separate those: to recognize that the relief at the end of her suffering is other-directed and the grief of her absence is about us. But the feelings get all jumbled up inside.

For me, what emerges from the complicated pool of feelings is one simple thought: I believe in the resurrection. My deep consolation is that Jesus’ own resurrection was victory over death for all of us. Our death means resurrection to eternal live.

I’ll miss Aunt Bunny’s humor, her strength, her fierce protectiveness of all those she loved, her storytelling, her instructions for how to cook baccala. (I sure hope I can find the notes I scrawled last time I forgot how she told me to make it.)

I’ll miss a lot. But I can’t begrudge her the joy of eternal life with God. So my tears these upcoming days – and there will be tears – will be mixed with consolation.


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