When you lose someone, where do they go? That is a question that stirs us as a species. It is the reason we pray and congregate. Sometimes it’s why we war with each other. It’s a crummy truth and the question we ache after, and the first one to ask God. Why do we have to lose people we love? It’s probably the most profound way to realize how much we loved someone, that in their loss and absence we are spun out of control. We may react with rage, sorrow, hysteria, or catatonia, but we react.
The most optimistic view of the after-life is that we meet each other again. I picture a warm house party, with everyone, but where else might people have to go, you know how hard it is for couples to navigate the holidays down here. How is that problem solved? Well, time and space are different, you hear people tell you, like a Trekkie trying explain the Vulcan Mind-Meld.
The pessimistic view is one I won’t delve into because I’m attempting to change my attitude and the recent attitude adjustment has proven useful and possible and I think the worm food imagery is cliche. But, the worm food reality actually does provide some comfort.
My grandmother was in her 80’s when I was born and made it to 102, she knitted all of her grandchildren an afghan. One winter night, years after her passing, in New York, I pulled the afghan over me and said out loud, “Thank you, Grandma.” Not spine tingling, but her hands made that blanket, that blanket was in my hands, her presence was felt and it was comforting.
I lost a dear friend years ago, he was too young, and it rocked my core. He was a spiritual guy, in way I had never known before. He was cremated and his wish was to have his ashes spread under the Golden Gate Bridge in San Francisco. I had never been and the beauty of the landscape helped me understand him more. We followed his wife over a fence and down the coastline. I was wearing white linen pants, cursing about the terrain, laughing to myself at how much this would have amused my friend. There was no ceremony on the shore, his wife released his ashes, people stared off and had their moment. On the way back up the embankment I picked up a rock. I wanted to have something to hold onto.
I kept it in my pocket, now I keep it on my desk. It is a piece of Earth. A piece of matter. We are all made up of matter, molecules. We all matter, and when we return to the Earth we are joined again, that is the comfort I can hold onto. It’s why I wear my father’s sweater, it’s why I hold this stone, it’s how I know we’ll meet again.