Someone I know died on the weekend. I didn’t know her well, but I knew her well enough to have been invited into her home, her life. I knew her well enough to admire her tenacity, her fighting spirit. I knew a little of what she’s been through, and I knew her well enough to respect her doggedness, her sheer determination to survive and to carve out for herself a life of her own choosing. I knew her kindness and her artistic talent. I knew her well enough to see, and value, the brightness of her soul.
Now that woman is no more – a whole person, a lifespan, the thousand experiences and wealth of wisdom that goes with them, suddenly ceases to exist. And the world is a little less bright, and a human-sized fragment of the Sacred – that life-spark, that breath of life, that anima which made her a living being – has returned to its Source, to the Origin of its being. Like a droplet returning to the immensity of the ocean, to be subsumed and both lose and find its identity in that great identity from which it came. And it was the gentle hands of death that guided and carried that fragment of soul to its final and true home, and I am grateful for the sudden tenderness of those hands that took her – blessedly quickly – from the darkness of the suffering she has endured for too long.
I found myself – my instinctive need – wanting to leave work when I heard the news of her death this morning, not to go home, or to drink wine or eat chocolate, but to go up to the Cathedral. That sacred space called to me as the one place I needed to be. Not that my prayers are less valid when offered from my desk in the bustle of my office. But that there is space for my prayers, for my emotions, for my heart, in that building set aside for prayer, scented with the devotions and tears of generations. So I took a work car, and I drove up to the Cathedral in my lunch break (at four o’clock – my days are nothing if not disorganised), and I spent ten minutes in the dimly-lit silence of the Cathedral. I lit a candle, and I recited the prayer for the dead, and I knew beyond knowing that there is more to life than this fragile span of years, and that the closing of her life is the very thing that opens her to true life, and in the vast space of the Cathedral there was room for everything I was feeling and everything that I couldn’t even begin to articulate, and I left the Cathedral at peace.
Someone should warn them in heaven though: she’s a fighter, this one. A troublemaker. But that’s ok. Jesus was the ultimate troublemaker. She’ll be quite at home there.