Reflections on death from one who has died: As I was going through some papers in the basement, I found a newsletter article from the spring of 2002, written by my dear mentor in ministry, Rev. Victor Carpenter, who died last year in June. I want to share his words for this coming week, his reflection on Easter and death and life.
Easter Week. My attention turns to stories of death and the meaning of life. And not necessarily the Jesus story. Sometimes, that story, so overworked and layered with interpretations, shuts me down rather than awakens me. Instead I commend a wonderfully imaginative perspective from a favorite novel, Barbara Kingsolver’s The Poisonwood Bible.
The novel concerns a missionary and his family in Africa (actually in the area of the Congo.) One of their daughters, the child Ruth Ann, dies. She assumes the form of a serpent in keeping with Congolese beliefs. As a green snake lying on a tree limb she watches her mother and her sisters who, after many years, return to the Congo to search for her grave. What she wishes she could tell them is, “Listen! Being dead is not worse that being alive. It is different, though. You could say the view is larger.”
I love that interpretation! As the great scholar of religion, Huston Smith tells us, all religions teach that after death one is aware of who one has been and who one is and adds that one’s work is not completed. Those who teach reincarnation hold that the soul returns to earth to take up unfinished business. Sometimes many rounds are required to get it all done. As Ruth Ann says, “The view is larger.”
As for what that remaining business is I have only guesses. Probably something along the lines of getting rid of all the false and misleading ideas that have hung us up during our physical lives. Acquiring a larger view. Whatever brings us to that larger view is to be welcomed. Happy Easter. Warmly, Victor
I am thinking of you Victor, and imagining you in that space of those who have gone on before us, waking up to that larger view.