Some moments in this adventure are a bit more surreal than others. I met for two hours with a funeral director today to gather information to begin to make decisions about my funeral and burial. We reviewed cremation, burial and green options. We talked about the roles of various people and how to prepare for them to make their job easier. We discussed the obituary and the reception. He was impressed with how decisive and thoughtful I had been already. Heck, we even got into a bit of crazy talk. I am sure he must have thought then I was a nutcase but I do not mind. I have been called worse.
Speaking of monikers, some of my friends jokingly call me St. Suzanne. The other day when I was chatting with a friend about leaving the library at my church some of my books, she laughed and said she would put them in the St. Suzanne Room. I decided to share the crazy thought that had popped into my head. What if I am really a saint and I go for the cremation option? No one will ever know that I was an incorruptible. Our black humour spiraled downward a little, as she suggested that I keep my clothes for remnants and I retorted that there would be purple remnants everywhere! More reverently, she recommended I go with the traditional burial.
Who knows if we are saints? We most certainly know that we are sinners–forgiven and loved. The funeral director must have been shaking his head after I left. He had asked me what it was that was leaning me towards burial versus cremation. I did say that I always thought that burial was the way I would go even though the Catholic church permits cremation now and my sister was cremated and my parents will be. I decided to come clean about the incorruptible concept in the end, too. I have pretty thick skin so if I later became a lunch hour joke, I do not mind. Can you hear it now? So…I had this client this morning…..
I do not know that I have shared this on this blog prior to now. When I was in Assisi in the summer of 2014, I had an odd mystical experience that I have come to now understand as a premonition. I had spent an hour or so in prayer before the San Damiano cross and felt oddly unsettled. Usually when I pray I have a sense of God’s presence. I did here too but there was no interchange. It felt as if I were talking to the air about what I should do with my life. I decided since God did not seem to be responding that I would move on, having talked at God for what seemed like too long. I continued my meanderings and arrived at the tomb of St. Clare, one of the incorruptibles. As I stood there for a moment, I was overcome with grief and began to weep, but it did not seem like the tears were mine. They belonged to God.
The incident unsettled me again. I went upstairs and encountered a nun who offered me a biography of Clare in English to buy. I read it but nothing resonated for me as an answer to the weeping. By the end of September, I remember saying to some friends that I thought maybe I was in a fight for my life when I first came back from seeing my new family doctor. Something seemed off to me. I kept returning in my mind to that moment at the tomb and sensed that God was preparing me for what was to come. A sorrow I have never known came with that weeping–and I have known heartache. A niggling awareness that God was asking me to prepare for this moment has never left me.
That brings me to this train of thought that I keep toying with. God knows the overall plan. I most certainly do not. I am not at all sure why this is how my life will unfold but I do know that I have no entitlement to a long life and that God will use how many ever days there are to create good from this. I do not believe this is a punishment. My God is not testing me. My faith is strong as ever and I do not feel a need to pray for a miracle. Does that make me a bad Christian? I am not opposed to a miracle or even asking other people not to pray for one. I am not resigned to my fate but not clinging to false hope either. I am not yet convinced it is a reward or a special privilege as some suggest. It just is what it is–my final walk. I pray for grace to do it well. I hope that others will find hope and comfort watching. I believe God is working on something that I have not yet understood but as this unfolds, I trust that I remain in very good hands. The Ignatian principle of detachment from a long life holds true for me.
My sainthood might be crumbling before me with these crazy ideas. The halo might have slipped off and rolled off into the dark by some people’s standards. That does not matter much to me because I will keep moving forward, my eyes on Jesus. That is the One voice that I will listen to. My sainthood may be questioned by many–myself included–but I maintain that I am first and foremost a child of the Beloved and that is what my obituary should say.
What do you envision for your funeral and burial arrangements?
How do you view a short life over a long life?
Creator God, you know the length of days each person has on earth. Help us to accept that you have designed our lives for a purpose that we may not completely comprehend. Detach us from the sense of entitlement that goes with a first-world life. Keep our eyes fixed on you as we trust that you know best. Amen.
I love this blog. Namely….I love your humour in dealing with the funeral home visit, and I love these words “I know that I have no entitlement to a long life”. I think if we can get our minds around the idea that we are not actually entitled to a long life than every day we have may seem more of a gift. It’s a recent idea for me – that I am not entitled to a long life, or an easy life for that matter. Hmmm, that does change things. Thanks for inspiring these thoughts.
North Americans are blessed with long life. Not so, elsewhere. I’m well aware of that. Thanks, as always, for your thoughtful response. See you in a couple of hours.