Sunday, January 01, 2006

MamaSaysOm - Spirit

Dear Britton,

I've been thinking a lot about death lately. Two funerals in one month will do that. And it's not just the funerals, it's having to decide how to teach you about death. When you are put in the position of having to teach someone else then you are really faced with having to decide what you believe. And that's where I've been. Trying to decide what I believe and what to teach you. What do I want you to know? How do I answer your questions? What do I say? How do I give you enough information so that you are equipped to attend a funeral and see other people expressing their grief, but not overwhelm you with more information than you are prepared for, leaving you confused and scared, because I don't want you to be scared. At Mamaw's funeral you asked several times where Mamaw was. Each time you asked the room would suddenly get very quiet and everyone would have blank stares on their faces. And I don't know what to say to your questions. I don't know what would make sense to your 2 1/2 year old mind. Death is confusing. Death can be scary. It's not something I understand. I don't know what to tell you that won't frighten you. I don't know what to tell me that won't stir my doubts and fears. I wish I had a simple, easy answer. I don't. And added to my own questions is my desire to let you have your own journey, your own beliefs, your own search. But you can't do that adequately for yourself right now. You're too young. It's up to me to provide some kind of foundation from which you can begin your own quest. Some people believe that death is the end, there's nothing more. Others believe we continue, transformed into something new. Still others believe we journey to either one destination or the other. I'm sure there are a million other possibilities. You'll have to decide for yourself what you believe about death and the hereafter. And me...well, I don't know. That's my answer. I just don't know and I won't pretend to, that would be lying to myself and to you. But here is what I do know: I don't want to be afraid and I won't be if I will trust what I know to be true. And what I know to be true is what I have felt within. I have felt something more than just this body. There is so much I don't know about death and dying and what comes next--if anything. But I do know that I have felt something within this fragile construction of flesh and blood that is so much larger than skin and bone and heart and breath. I have felt it pushing against the limits of body. It raises in revolt, pushing against the limits of the physical. I feel it wanting to be set loose, set free. I feel its enormous power and possibility swelling, bubbling, as if at any moment I could either explode or melt. And what would be left is radiant beautiful power. It's as if there is something within that knows this body isn't quite home, isn't quite where I belong. It knows this is just too small. Call it spirit. Call it soul. I don't know what name to give it. But I have felt it and that is what I do know and that is what I trust. I choose to trust what I've felt to be true more than I trust the doubts and the unknown.

I hope what I know gives you a foundation to stand on so that you can journey into your own heart and begin trusting what you know,


Blogger Crazy MomCat said...

This was so beautifully written. I have struggled with the same thing. My dear grandmother died about a year and a half ago. My son was 5 and had so many hard questions. Even today he will ask me things about her and where she is. It is so hard to answer those things while you are grieving yourself, but I think you've manged to find a way to do that for your daughter in the future. And, I really respect that you want her to form her own opinions about death and life for that matter, versus just teaching her your own.

10:03 PM  
Blogger liz elayne said...

You have beautifully articulated the idea of not knowing but being certain of something at the same time.
"It's as if there is something within that knows this body isn't quite home, isn't quite where I belong."
This is it for me as well. Thank you for putting words to the feelings I have.

10:39 PM  
Anonymous Beansprout said...

I love that you've allowed you're vulnerability to show here, that you don't feel you must answer all your son's questions. It is okay to say, "I don't know." It's truthful and honest and a great gift to him.

11:37 PM  
Blogger acumamakiki said...

This is wonderful Michelle. Death is my biggest fear in this world, so much so that at a very young age, I used to lie in bed terrified of what would become of the world, after I was gone. And I remember being too young to handle such thoughts....I remember that for me, it was this big black terrifiying hole and I could barely think of it, it was so terrifying. Now 35 years later, I don't have the answers but girlfriend, YOU have made me feel better about it and for this, I thank you from the bottom of my heart.


PS. that snake skin....shivers!!

4:04 AM  
Blogger gkgirl said...

i also have no answers
but love how you framed that...
very thought provoking

4:27 AM  
Blogger artjunk~ said...

Death is indeed a mystery. I also was terrified of death as a child. Because of my beliefs, I no longer fear death and whatever fear I had went away when my Father died 9 years ago because I knew he was on "the other side" and that I would be with him when I died. I also nearly died in 2000 from complications of surgery. Now I mainly fear not truly living rather than dying! I always tell my children that death does not separate us from our loved one's because we can still continue loving them. Love never dies.

6:11 AM  
Blogger kelly said...

i just can't stop smiling when i read your posts! you just know how to put it down. most times, it is something that i would like to say, but it nevers comes out that you think you could come live with me and my family. you could be my interpreter! i think i would get my point across if you were saying it!...hee

7:14 AM  
Anonymous Marilyn said...

This is such a tough, tough issue...and you're so's a delicate balance to explain it in a way that won't instill a big fear. As much as I thought I had certain beliefs, seeing my stepbrother on life support really confirmed them...because what I saw was just a body being pumped with oxygen. There was no life force or soul there...I believe it had already left by that time. It was the first concrete moment when I realized that (for me) there really is something bigger than just this shell we call a body.

7:28 AM  
Blogger Frankie said...

Beautiful. I also don't know exactly what I think about death, where we go, if we go after we've left this earth. But I do know, like you've said, that I believe in something more. This is such a wonderful letter to Britton. If it helps at all, I don't remember what my parents taught me about death as a child. I only know what I have come to find on my own. Perhaps at this point, it's more important to comfort and ask him questions, than to try and give definite answers. I really love this post.

11:37 AM  
Blogger Living Part Deux said...

I am comforted by my beliefs, and the most basic of those beliefs is that my soul is eternal. If eternal, that means it also existed before the boundaries of the body and will exist after those boundaries fall to dust - this I trust. I read once that we spend our lives remembering what we already knew before being born into an infant's body. Thinking about that explains a lot to me. Only deep thinking results in the questions you have, dearest Michelle. You will teach your son, most importantly, to search

12:03 PM  
Anonymous melanie said...

this is such a thought-provoking issue, and a dilemma i have faced with my own daughter. i just know you'll be able to give your son the comfort and solace he needs at this time and at this young age. i think simply offering a child the encouragement and freedom to search for his own answers means so much more than trying to present life in a black-and-white, 'this is the way life works' sort of way. you're such a great mom.

1:55 PM  

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