Today, I finished sewing something and finished my grading and prepared for my class. After class I had to take Jasper to the beekeepers meeting and we drove through an incredible thunderstorm to get there. It was like being inside fireworks while they were going off. Lightning everywhere! Back in our hometown, a tornado actually touched down and did some damage. Thankfully, my family stayed safe, and I haven’t heard of anyone else I know getting hurt either.
But as awe-inspiring as the storm was, I want to talk about something else. This evening was the viewing and visitation for Rachel, the sweet girl who died in an accident on Monday. Lucy really wanted to go to the visitation, and I thought it would be very beneficial for her, but she couldn’t get a ride and I of course was going in the opposite direction and the weather was truly frightful.
Still, I’m sorry she couldn’t go, and I want to tell you why. I went to my first “viewing” when I was six I think. My beloved aunt had died after just a year or so of marriage to my Uncle Pat. My mother took me to the funeral home and we stood in a line to file past the coffin. I held my mother’s hand. I was very anxious. I had never seen a dead body. I really, really didn’t want to have to see my aunt like that: my warm, caring, kind aunt whom I adored.
I didn’t want to look, but my mother made me look. My aunt was beautiful. She was beautifully dressed and her hair and makeup were perfect. Once I started looking, I couldn’t seem to stop. “You can touch her if you want,” said my mother. “She can’t feel it. She’s not there.”
I reached out my hand and touched my aunt’s pale smooth cheek. It was cold. It didn’t feel like her at all. I found myself overcome with emotion. You know what emotion I felt? It wasn’t grief. I had grieved and grieved ever since my mom had told me that my aunt was going to die. I had grieved so much that I felt empty inside. What I felt when I looked at my aunt’s lifeless body and touched her cold cheek was relief. My mother was right. My aunt was not there. Her body was like an abandoned house with the doors and windows hanging open and the front yard all overgrown. She didn’t live there anymore. She was a devout Christian and I knew with the certainly of my childish faith that if she wasn’t in her body, she was with Jesus.
That knowledge was the one thing that comforted me more than anything else. I’ve always been so grateful to my mother for taking me and making me confront the truth about death. I had to see for myself that my aunt had truly abandoned her body in order for me to be able to understand it, to understand that she was gone. Not dead, just not living in that body anymore.
Of course I still missed her after that, but the deep fear and dread were gone. I had no doubt that she was present with the Lord, and that was something that gave me peace of mind.
So, although I know it would have been very difficult for Lucy to see the body of her friend, I think it would have been helpful too, because she would have seen what I saw all those decades ago–an empty house.