“We ourselves can die with comfort and even joy if we know that death is but a passport to blessedness, that this intellect freed from all material chains, shall rise and shine.” – Matthew Simpson –

Recently our family lost a wonderful man, my Uncle,  and I have been coping with the grief of his loss. Death comes to each of us sooner or later. That is a sad fact of life. And we each deal with its sting in our own individual ways. Personally, I prefer to celebrate the lives of those who have gone before me. For every man, woman, and child leaves behind their acts of human kindness, however small of measure.

Death has been part of my life from an early age. I was not yet four years old when my infant sister died. People may say what kindness could a babe so small have given? Well, I remember holding her. I remember her gaze locked with mine. I remember the peace and love that emanated from her like a warm fire on a winter’s evening. She was so tiny, so perfect, and yet capable of giving and receiving love.

A few years later my three year old cousin died. I remember looking into her casket and sighing saying, “but she looks just like an angel”.  My child’s mind equated pictures I had seen of angels with golden hair and fairest faces, just like my little cousin. I see her still in my mind’s eye and remember the stories told of her gentleness. Death visited our family once again soon after when my grandmother’s brother passed away. This great-uncle was a frequent visitor to our house where he would sit quietly and patiently while my mother moved about the kitchen seeing to his needs as well as the needs of her children. I remember best his quiet presence that invited calmness and serenity.

I was twelve when a friend from school was killed in an automobile accident. She was a year ahead of me in school and took it upon herself to protect me from a bully and any unpleasantness. Wise beyond her years, she helped me realize how unhappy the bully was and how I should not take it personally while simultaneously not allowing them to cause me any real harm. She remains one of my heroes.

Since childhood my grandparents, as well as my parents have died and a bit later my baby niece and then my sister’s sons within six months of one another. Death has also claimed friends, cousins, aunts and uncles and with each death I am rocked with loss and pain once again. ‘Time heals all wounds’ or so they say but some wounds go deep and take much longer to heal. And, again, it is a very personal and individual thing. For me it is a comfort to turn the memories over in my mind; to listen to music once shared; to gaze upon photographs of those who are no longer physically here. They will live on as long as we do not forget them, as long as we tell the stories of their lives and celebrate anew loving kindnesses given. I believe my loved ones have risen and shine on – on the other side of the veil where sadness is no more.

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