The Other I

July 8, 2012

Disconcerting insights of childhood

A friend just told me the story of her grandfather’s death when she was four years old.  Her grandfather, whom she adored and describes as her “alpha male,” was laid out at home,  As she stood looking at him, not fully understanding what was happening, her aunt told her not to worry, that he was only sleeping.  My friend was outraged.  She didn’t know what was going on, but she knew that her grandfather did not sleep in a box in the living room surrounded by candles and flowers and crying people. “You are lying to me!  Why are you lying to me!” she shouted, stamping her foot and bursting into tears.
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My older brother once told me that he used to go to his room and cry because after he died he was going to heaven and it sounded awful.  It was going to be so boring sitting around all day with nothing to do but adore God.

I was close to four decades older than he was before I began to think the same thing.  First, just which “me” did I want to survive in this place of unchanging perfection?  None of them.  Not the me when I was three or 23 or any of the close to half century of me’s which have appeared since.  No change, no challenges, nothing to learn, nothing new, no problems, no one to help, no surprises.  Just dance and be merry.  Every boring day after day after day for infinity.  
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I now understand what my four-year-old friend was stamping her foot about.  And my six-year-old brother was crying about. 
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I can’t really accuse anybody of lying to me.  But heaven as most people present it sounds pretty unappealing.  In fact, try as I might, and this really is disconcerting, I simply can’t imagine an improved alternative to the universe as we know it.  As soon as I get rid of something that seems just intolerable – genocide, war, child abuse – I also end up eliminating at the same time what is best, most beautiful, most loving.  Even eliminating death as we know it has an unacceptable downside.
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I guess it’s a good thing it wasn’t my job to create the universe.
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To state what might seem obvious, but hasn’t always been to me – my job is to be as fully human as I can.  I don’t have to be a good honey bee or good lion or a great apple.  I never aspired after any of those things.  But I did suspect for a long time that I could definitely have improved on God’s job.  Or at least the work being done by guardian angels, who do seem to have absented themselves during work hours quite too often.
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6 Comments »

  1. Great post. One which I will take up soon in response. Thanks for the idea 🙂

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    Comment by sanstorm — July 8, 2012 @ 12:56 pm | Reply

    • I look forward to hearing about the kind of questions you have in reserve. Especially since you are no doubt living with a constantly-renewed supply of disconcerting questions from the younger generation.

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      Comment by Terry Sissons — July 8, 2012 @ 3:27 pm | Reply

  2. I was told the same thing when my own grandfather died and was laid out in the living room. I also remember that just before that I had been peppering my mother with questions about death. She had already told me death was like falling asleep, so I think I understood her to mean by “Grandpa is sleeping” to mean he was dead but that that was a kind of sleeping. In any case, I wasn’t the type to stamp my foot and shout when told a lie (there were plenty of others). I think my response was more one of wonder that adults could behave in such a fashion. I guess it still is, although I’ve done plenty of it myself.

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    Comment by pianomusicman — July 8, 2012 @ 3:42 pm | Reply

  3. I have two childhood memories that make me chuckle; first I always prayed to the Blessed Mother to PLEASE not visit me…it would scare me to death. The other was when the Missionaries would visit us and talk about vocations to serve in Africa. My prayer was always “don’t call me Lord” I’m scared off all those wild animals. Never had bad experiences with funerals…maybe cause I’m Irish. 😉

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    Comment by Donna — July 8, 2012 @ 11:41 pm | Reply

    • These are two wonderful “prayers.” Thank you for sharing them. They made me laugh too. And they must have been good prayers as well – it looks as if both were granted. Terry

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      Comment by Terry Sissons — July 9, 2012 @ 2:24 pm | Reply

  4. […] was going to tackle Terry Sissons’ topic about death. (Have you visited her blog yet? Everything she says is fascinating and worth discussing, but so […]

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    Pingback by Whatever happened to my capacity to reflect? « Wee Scoops — August 20, 2012 @ 9:13 pm | Reply


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