I struggled receiving comfort in the idea that my mother was in heaven, even though I believed in the afterlife. And while I am delighted she isn’t suffering anymore, the whole thing for me was she was gone from my side. I believed she gained so much. But I had lost so much.
Seven years later, I find comfort in the perspective voiced by Benjamin Franklin in a letter dated to a February day 261 years ago. I share the letter below. I do not pretend that because we know a person isn’t suffering anymore that our grief is easily erased. But perhaps it can be eased.
What a wonderful way to understand these passages called life and death. This life prepares us for another. Christ gave us a hope that I pronounced over my daddy’s lifeless body 10 years ago. He said: “I am the resurrection and the life: he that believeth in me, though he were dead, yet shall he live: And whosoever liveth and believeth in me shall never die.”
Mr. Franklin’s letter:
I condole with you, we have lost a most dear and valuable relation, but it is the will of God and Nature that these mortal bodies be laid aside, when the soul is to enter into real life; ‘tis rather an embryo state, a preparation for living.
A man is not completely born until he is dead. Why then should we grieve that a new child is born among the immortals? A new member added to their happy society? That bodies should be lent to us is a kind and benevolent act of God.
When they become unfit for these purposes and afford us pain instead of pleasure – instead of an aid, become an incumbrance and answer none of the intentions for which they were given – it is equally kind and benevolent that a way is provided by which we may get rid of them. Death is that way.
We ourselves often prudently choose a partial death. In some cases a mangled painful limb, which cannot be restored, is willingly cut off. He who plucks out a tooth, parts with it freely, since the pain goes with it; and thus a person surrenders the whole body, and departs at once, for with it goes all pain and possibilities of pain, all diseases and suffering.
Thus, we are invited abroad on a party of pleasure that is to last forever. Perhaps a loved one has gone before us. We could not all conveniently start together, and why should we be grieved at this, since we are soon to follow, and we know where to find him or her. Adieu ~ Benjamin Franklin
How may your grief change knowing life is a passage, a rite of Nature, and that if you put your heart into the hands of God, you will see your loved one again?
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