Escaping the Third Death

Photo: Sarabeth Jones

Photo: Sarabeth Jones

In Mexico, there is a belief that humans die three deaths; first, when your spirit leaves your earthly body; second, when your physical remains are lowered into the earth; third, when your memory has been forgotten. Perhaps vanity has a hand this for me, because the third one makes the hair on the back of my neck stand at attention. I do not want to be forgotten. At least not by those who know me and love me…
~Jerusalem Jackson Greer, A Homemade Year

This year has been one of deep loss for several dear friends. Individually, they lost parents, a sibling and a child. Collectively, they lost part of their own story.

It’s all still so fresh. This is the Christmas the baby should have been here. It’s the first Thanksgiving without their Mom. Her brother won’t be here for the New Year.

Barely more than a month ago, on All Saints Sunday, our church read aloud the names of members who joined the Church Triumphant in the past year. Some of the names took my breath away. How can they be gone? They were just here.

There’s nothing to do for our friends. I can’t take away their grief. They just have to feel bad until they don’t. We all have to trust the process…that over time, somehow, you keep going. Then shockingly, one day, you can remember it without reliving it. It’s something that happened. There eventually may be meaning, even if there is never a reason.

Short of action items or tasks, which is how I prefer to approach life, I offer all that’s available: I remember. I remember the kindness your mother showed me. I remember the way you laughed when you talked about your brother. I remember the joy in your voice when you told me about the baby. I remember.

Their story is now part of mine. I’ll share your mother’s kindness with another girl who seems unsure of herself. I’ll catch your eye whenever the next baby comes, when strangers ask if it’s your first, and you say yes because it’s easier. I’ll tell your stories back to you, so you can laugh again.

They’ll never be forgotten, even if their names are gone. The kindness and laughter and joy they brought will be passed on through other people. This way, they will never truly be forgotten.

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