Monday, May 26, 2014

Watercolors of an island garden by Childe Hassam

This weekend I attended the funeral of a friend, a woman of unusual warmth and generosity, a neighbor and valued member of our small community. The burial service was unusual in its attempt to fully acknowledge the reality of death. Those who wished to placed a handful of earth on the coffin, flowers were removed from the coffin, and the coffin was sealed in its vault in our presence. I think a request had been made to lower it into the grave in our presence, but that was not done. I suspect that was too complicated with the machinery involved. I think the funeral director thought we were nuts.

Later in the day I looked through my folders of downloaded images. These Childe Hassam watercolors of an island garden I found particularly comforting to my eyes and soul, partly, I think because of the long view of the ocean in the background. 

I think the ocean is a good thing to look at when we're thinking about death. Its largeness, the invisibility of the other side, is congruent with our sense of distance from the one who has died, from one who literally has passed on. We can't see them any more. They are on the other side. We can't see to the other side, but it's there.  

These words of C.S. Lewis, from The Weight of Glory, were read at the funeral: "It is a serious thing to live in a society of possible gods and goddesses, to remember that the dullest, most uninteresting person you talk to may one day be a creature which, if you saw it now you would be strongly tempted to worship, or else a horror or corruption such as you now meet only in a nightmare. All day long we are in some degree or other helping each other to one or the other of these destinations. It is in light of these overwhelming possibilities, it is with the awe and the circumspection proper to them, that we should conduct all of our dealings with one another, all friendships, all loves, all play, all politics. There are no ordinary people. You have never talked to a mere mortal."

No comments:

Post a Comment