I am standing upon the seashore. A ship at my side spreads her white sails to the morning breeze and starts for the blue ocean. She is an object of beauty and strength. I stand and watch her until at length she hangs like a speck of white cloud just where the sea and sky come to mingle with each other.
Then someone at my side says: “There, she is gone!”
Gone from my sight. That is all. She is just as large in mast and hull and spar as she was when she left my side and she is just as able to bear the load of living freight to her destined port.
Her diminished size is in me, not in her. And just at the moment when someone at my side says: “There, she is gone!” There are other eyes watching her coming, and other voices ready to take up the glad shout: “Here she comes!”
And that is dying.
-Henry Van Dyke
A kind and thoughtful friend gave me this quote when we lost a dear friend far too soon. It gave me great comfort at a time when I thought I’d never feel anything good or comforting ever again.
Last night, another dear friend told me his sister had died, unexpectedly. He was (and is) devastated. I can’t be there with him, but I wanted to pay tribute to her and to address the topic of death in the most beautiful, meaningful way possible, hence the quote by Henry Van Dyke. This is based on a post I did way back in 2012, but updated with experience and perspective.
The thing about living is that it always ends in dying. We can believe that we have control over how it happens, when it happens and what will happen, but in reality, we have very little to say about it when the time comes. When someone dies young or unexpectedly, it is even more difficult to reconcile the fact than if they had lived to be 70 or 80 years old and we can say, “At least they had a good, long life.”
It is time to once again say good-bye to a friend I never got to meet, a sister and daughter to people I love and call my family of choice. I believe that as we say good-bye to her, loving arms and healing light will greet her on the other side. That is what is important. Everything will be made known to her when she “sheds this mortal coil” and is freed from the boundaries and limitations of her physical body.
I believe that she will not be alone, not be in pain and will no longer suffer from the many distresses that are a part of living life. She will never again be scared, sad, lonely, sick or lost. Whatever there is after this, a return of the energy to its source, a Roman Catholic Heaven, a karmic journey to yet another life, a great and loving light of pure love or coming back as one of Taylor Swift’s cats, it will be different. There will be lessons learned that hadn’t taken before, past loves lost will be found; wrongs righted, justice served, hearts and minds mended.
Do I know all of this with absolute certainty and do I have proof? Nope. Not a shred. What I do have is faith, a healthy sense of the fantastic and the knowledge that no matter how great my imagination, I cannot begin to imagine what lays beyond. Will it stop me from imagining? Of course not. There are many things that will go unexplained, but still continue to happen.
A caterpillar doesn’t need me to believe it can transform into a butterfly in order for that to happen; magic, mercy and miracles are the same way.
Karen, you will never be forgotten or lost; you will stay where you have always been, in the hearts of those who love you. There is no good-bye, only until we meet again.
Rest in peace.
You are loved.
For all eternity.