Friday, 9 October 2009

A miracle... in a way...

Fancy reading a joyful post? Better click away this time…

Every road user knows what to do when they see an ambulance in the wing mirror. Cars on cue pull over to give way to the emergency vehicle and then orderly pull back into their lanes. Many realise the importance of such reaction, but few think what is happening on board of an ambulance. Once, probably around a year ago, after the death of my grandfather I thought “maybe the death passed by”. The moment when an ambulance hurtles next to your car rescuers might resuscitate the patient, trying to throw the balance for the life…

The last farewell ceremony is becoming increasingly popular in Poland these days. It is held in a church usually the day before a funeral. The ones invited are only the close family and friends, who can say goodbye to the departed person for the last time.
The classes finished three quarters earlier so I covered the whole distance between SGH and church by Rzymowskiego on foot rather than by underground and then bus and after an hour long walk I managed to get there just a minute before the rain lashed down. Although over ten people were invited only my parents and I arrived. “I cannot come because I live too far” or “I am on holiday so it will have to go without me” are lame excuses, but “it is too much for me” is a wicked excuse! Presence on such ceremony means paying respects to the deceased and keeping company to the family, whose tragedy it is. Theirs, not mine! It was not pleasant neither too see the corpse for the first time nor to see the reaction of the family. Unpleasant, but necessary, such situations must not be shunned, they are a part of our life. I’d say more, they let us look at our everyday problems from a different perspective and see how diminutive they are, compared to bereavement for instance.

The essential part of each funeral are condolences offered to the mourners. It is customary to come up to them and say… But what to say in such situation, avoiding corny fixed expressions and remaining sincere? I am so sorry (przykro mi) – that indeed might be true, it is one of the most obvious phrases which occur to you. You may feel compassion or sympathy for the bereaved. The former is for me much more sincere, the latter quite often less. Compassion is more about feeling sorry, sympathy is about feeling the same, both translate into Polish as “współczucie”, which means sharing other person’s feelings. This is why I never use those hackneyed phrases and try to come up with the words suitable for the situation and still be sincere. I do not think I can mention any sympathy if I do not know how it feels to lose a mother in the age of sixteen. I could not tell that nor to the older daughter of my mother’s friend. I have not lost any of my parents so I do not feel I can speak about sympathy. Maybe I will never understand it because my parents might die naturally in the ripe old age, which is different from the premature death.

But coming back to the older daughter. I cannot be sure my parents will be alive when I turn twenty seven, so there is an element of uncertainty which creeps up to my reasoning. The likelihood of decease is just smaller in case of healthier and younger people, but accidents, heart attacks, diseases diagnosed too late or common cessations of blood circulation happen and strike us out of the blue. I wonder how many people also feel a kind of thankfulness to the God of fate that “it did not happen to me”. This gratitude is soon outshined by the uncertainty and thought: “I did not happen to me… only today. But what about tomorrow?” If you feel like reading some more reflections on this topic, pop in here?

All those events made me ponder upon the inexorable – my own departure. I hope I will stay fit until the old age and pass away quickly, without unnecessary suffering. Senility and cancer – those are the things I had seen prior to the deceases of people I knew well. Lots of us would love to depart this life like this. It usually means a shock for the family, but some claim it’s better than watching your relative’s long lasting suffering. At least your dearest one will be recalled health and fit, not ailing and suffering. And most of all I hope I will outlive my parents and my children will outlive me. Every time I saw mother standing over the grave of her child I felt that was at odds with the order of the nature…

It is often said a birth is a miracle. Death is a miracle in the very similar way. Death is the most difficult things for the humans to comprehend. There used to be a man and they departed forever. The body stiffens, then decomposes, the spirit flies away. It is a mystery for the human kind and it will probably remain forever. Is there an afterlife? Are the Christian teachings about heaven, purgatory and hell true? Is there a reincarnation? Will we start another life after death or will we be plunged into nonentity?

Rozłąka jest naszym losem,
Spotkanie naszą nadzieją.

1 comment:

Michael Dembinski said...

I was thinking about this today. My father-in-law's funeral was an occasion when people turned up to pay their last respects - but because many had not seen each other for ages, the atmosphere was naturally very party-like - friendly, joking - far more pleasant that I'd expected. But then he was 91; not a tragedy but a celebration of a great life.

He went in a matter of months. I last saw him at Easter this year; he was losing his short term memory. As we parted we were both in tears, knowing we'd never meet again.

Life after death? Monism or Dualism? I've had intimations all my life of life-before-life, very real, very familiar - and comforting. The idea (to me) that there's nothing beyond the physical body is absurd; awareness transcends.