Death is a time of consideration, of looking back on the past and looking forward to the future. In my case, the loss of my mother-in-law last Saturday (July 2nd) has become a reason to look back and forward at the same time. How did I want to remember her, and what method would be best to keep her alive in my memory?
The choice that sprang to mind was this: Did I want to write a requiem or memorial? The word ‘requiem’ has been floating around in my head for two days, waiting for me to sit down and start writing, but I had to admit that I didn’t know the exact meaning of the term and maybe I should. Hence, the handy-dandy dictionary description:
Requiem: a mass for the rest of the soul of the dead.
Memorial: serving. or intended, to preserve the memory of anything.
As I compared these two words, I also began to pick them apart. I am not Catholic, and I’ve never been to a mass, though I have been to a Catholic funeral for a man who did not appear to be a believer. On that occasion I had a difficult time believing that someone can live his entire life without making God any kind of a priority, but then, because of the benefit of last rites and a mass, he still seems to make the team, and becomes an ideal candidate for heaven. The fees are minimal and the rewards are great, so to speak, but like the lottery, I wouldn’t want to stake my eternal future on such a mathematically unsound premise. Of course, maybe that’s why they need to have a mass specifically to find ‘rest’ for their dead. I’m thinking I might not be very restful if I wasn’t positive that I’d taken the time to be certain about what God has clearly said in His Word about what He wanted from me.
On the other hand, a memorial that serves to preserve my memories of my mother-in-law was more like what I originally had in mind. I mean, Memorial Day only comes once every year in America, but it’s still a holiday when we actually recognize and thank those who have given their service or their lives to keep the freedoms we too often take for granted. I think this is more along the lines of what I’m looking for tonight: A personal ‘memorial day’ for Judy, but one that has no set time, place, or duration.
As I look back and remember the last 14 or so years, I cannot help but think about how fast that time went. Though she delighted in picking my life and my faith apart, she was never mean about it, and so often wistful. “I wish I could believe like you do!” she’d sigh, and even though her underlying opinion was to wonder how I could be so blind or so foolish to do so, she never once said it aloud. More interesting was the “How come bad things never seem to upset you?” I mean, she knew as well as anyone that I had MS and was losing my ability to walk. Why didn’t I get mad at God for allowing that to happen? My response (“Becoming a Christian does NOT give me or anyone else instant immunity from any and all problems!”) didn’t make sense to her, but that lack of understanding seemed to be the very thing that kept her coming back with more questions.
Until Judy came along I don’t think I ever really realized how unreasonable Christianity sounds to unbelievers. It is a unfathomable mystery to those whose eyes are not yet open to its reason and its depths. I was saved when I was seven, so I have lived nearly my whole life confident of the foundation I stand upon; I can’t remember a time when Jesus wasn’t there. And it has always been so easy for me to feel solid and secure in my belief in Him that I cannot imagine what my life might have been like if that was not the case. Judy served as a wake up call, one that reminded me that without God someone can look like they have a stable life, and yet still be lost inside. She had a difficult time trying to understand a personal God, especially one that wanted to know her personally too. As I look over the last two years though, I think the best memorial I can see, and my greatest hope, is that we don’t need to hold a requiem mass so that her soul might find rest.
The last two years of peace between us tells me she already has.