“We know that we should be happy for them and at the same time we’re broken and too afraid to face the fact that we have to live the following days without them.“
I just lost one friend recently. I wanted to go to her funeral but I couldn’t. Then I tried to write a eulogy for her. My heart told me I shouldn’t. “Just send her your prayer,” a voice whispered to me. But I hadn’t surrendered. So I found myself in similar situation just like Peter when Jesus took him and John and James to a mountain and let them see the transfiguration (Mark 9:2-8), the foresee of heavenly resurrected body.
In that transfiguration event, there was, at least, one dead man was present, Moses. We tend to forget that visiting our beloved ones’ funeral is like going to the mountain, the Sinai. They were on the high, sacred mountain. That is the place where they, who had passed away, are supposed to be; they’re having conversation with Jesus and all we can do is gawping at the glowing faces and radiant, shiny white robes they wear. We can’t believe our own eyes. Neither Jesus nor our beloved friend said nothing to us? They just keep silence when we need their explanation desperately.
C.S.Lewis uttered his protest in his journal, A Grief Observed (written shortly after his wife died), “But, go to Him when your need is desperate, when all other help is vain, and what do you find? A door slammed in your face, and a sound of bolting and double bolting on the inside. After that, silence.” They really know how to make you feel humbled; they are the heavenly citizen, you are the earthlings, please understand your status. And we cried so hard as if they care about us.
Photo by Elijah O'Donell on Unsplash
Another thing is about our feeling at our beloved one’s funeral. We know that we should be happy for them and at the same time we’re broken and too afraid to face the fact that we have to live the following days without them. It’s Peter who vividly showed this mixed-up, topsy-turvy feeling. Alas! He’s (and so are we) so doomed that he knew nothing to say other than those silly words. Peter said, “It’s good for us to be here.” But it was obvious that they’re so shocked at what they saw. Mark’s conclusion is they didn’t know what to say. We actually lost our words before Death. We just cried out the words we didn’t even understand. We often offer everything we have as the ransom to bring back our dead alive.
Have you ever heard a mother cried and begged her son to come back by promising him a toy he always wanted? On the day my father died, I promised God to be a missionary if he returned him. If we don’t lose our words, we certainly lose our mind. No wonder that Jesus kept silent to his disciples and to us on those occasions. Awkward silence. We didn’t know what to say while He was so sure of what not to say.
Photo by Moritz Schumacher on Unsplash
I always thought that we are all turned voiceless before death, but I must ‘blow away the cobwebs’ to thrust deeper into the transfiguration experience, otherwise we would say as many silly words as the disciples did. Mark, the Gospel writer, compared those glorious clothings Elijah and Moses wore with the best launderer’s or bleacher’s work (Mark 9:3, gnapheus= a launderer). A launderer’s work? Huff! Why didn’t he compare it with the white silk curtain in King Solomon’s palace? But we can forgive this sloppy speech for he was simply trying to describe what is indescribable and to make a comparison of something which is incommensurable; that is an experience beyond our humane language capacity.
Peter saw them all and said something like setting up the tents as the dwelling place of these celestial figures. O, come on! If you want to build something for them, you’d better build them a synagogue ten times bigger than the Herod’s temple. Don’t get me wrong. I’m just being sarcastic. But some cultures really take this seriously. They really build a mansion or a temple for their dead ones. I am Indonesian Chinese, I know how big the temple and the tombstone rich Chinese people build when they bury someone they respect. The other people spend hundreds of millions rupiah for the burial procession.
Photo by Rhodi Alers de Lopez on Unsplash
What a paradox! A mourn is to be expressed in a feast.
Building a tent or a palace for those who have passed away also means inviting them to come back and stay in this broken world. It also means there is a home for them and we act as if we are the host. Do you feel at home here, in this world? How dare we, who are not at home, to say welcome to them who have been home?
Words of praises are never appropriate enough to compensate how much and long they had suffered before the disease finally took its toll.
What can we say about our beloved ones when they passed away? What do you want them to say when you pass away?
I simply bid you farewell, my dearest,
For what you’ve been through
For what to come
I have nothing else to offer,
Neither a tribute nor a prayer,
But my loathsome wail and a piece of
As a lighthouse in the raging storm,
that God be with you
‘Till we meet HIM again
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