Sunday, April 22, 2012

on peace and immortality

The White Orchard, by Vincent Van Gogh

Hi, everyone. I know I've been away from the blog for awhile; my grandmother passed away, and we were busy with all the attendant observances of such an event.

My grandmother had lived well into her 80s, and with her own family the entire time; she had seen her grandchildren become adults, and the birth of great-grandchildren as well. She had died in her own bed, surrounded by her loved ones. These are all wonderful blessings I think.

It sometimes takes a funeral to make one really think about a person, doesn't it? I mean, really think. Because in the busyness of our everyday lives, we often take the people around us for granted, like fixtures... In my grandmother's case, I basically grew up; I got married, I started my own family, I didn't need her anymore. She had helped look after me as a child and young teen, but later she had lived with my aunt; their home is far from us, and we tended to meet up only on occasions like Christmas or Chinese New Year.

When I first learnt that my grandmother had passed away -- she had been ill for awhile, so it was not entirely a shock -- I could only think of our recent interactions; I mean my interactions with her as an adult, on those few yearly occasions. There would of course be many people at those parties, so we would never really get past the hug-and-kiss greetings and the fleeting questions about how the other was doing.

But my grandmother's answer to those questions was always a stout "I'm OK!", despite the fact that she was actually very sick, and you could tell she meant it, because that was the kind of person she was, or that I always knew her as -- calm, stoic, pragmatic (she'd already chosen which clothes she wanted to be buried in, and had prepared her red packets for the next Chinese New Year). I think that placidity somehow rubbed off on me, because I was equally placid when I first learnt of her passing. It was almost as if I was simply being told that she was doing something new, like enrolling in some university program, or moving house. I could not seem to think of her beyond the past decade or so, and paradoxically, that calmness disturbed me not a little.

But it was when I got home, and was saying my prayers, that the Holy Spirit brought to my mind things about my grandmother which I'd not thought about for a long time, things from my childhood and teenage years. They were things I could never have thought of without divine help, and they were wonderful little things -- walks to the bookstore, sweets, her floral suits, playing with her powders and perfume. And always her placid practicality -- so that after I had cried, and finally mourned her, I felt peaceful and reassured, not only about my grandmother, but myself as well. And these verses came to mind, so fitting also to this Easter season:

Take notice! I tell you a mystery (a secret truth, an event decreed by the hidden purpose or counsel of God). We shall not all fall asleep [in death], but we shall all be changed (transformed)

In a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the [sound of the] last trumpet call. For a trumpet will sound, and the dead [in Christ] will be raised imperishable (free and immune from decay), and we shall be changed (transformed).

For this perishable [part of us] must put on the imperishable [nature], and this mortal [part of us, this nature that is capable of dying] must put on immortality (freedom from death).

And when this perishable puts on the imperishable and this that was capable of dying puts on freedom from death, then shall be fulfilled the Scripture that says, Death is swallowed up (utterly vanquished forever) in and unto victory.

O death, where is your victory? O death, where is your sting?

Thanks be to God, Who gives us the victory [making us conquerors] through our Lord Jesus Christ.
(1 Cor 15:51-57)


Plowing Through Life (Martha) said...

I'm sorry about your grandmother. She sounds like a lovely person. This is a wonderful tribute to her. May she rest in peace.

Beth said...

I'm very sorry to hear of your grandmother's passing, Janice. How wonderful that she had such a long and happy life! I was very moved by what you wrote---it made me think of all those ( and there have been many) loved ones who have passed on and how blessed I was to know them. Thank you.


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