Monday, October 01, 2007

An Unexpected Blanket of White

I woke up to snow outside. The first real snow of the year here in Indiana, and possibly the only real snow we will have. I think that I knew that there was snow on the ground before I actually saw it, because its reflection was shining through the window. Despite it being overcast, something was brighter. There is something so so neat about waking up to an unexpected blanket of white covering the world around you.

I have decided what song I want to be sung at my funeral. Not that I am planning on having a funeral anytime soon, because actually it turns out that I am going to live until I am 92. But I figured I needed to write it down somewhere so there is proof. "Be Still, My Soul" has been really moving me lately. I recorded my own version of it on the little guitar that my parents gave me for christmas when we lived in Brazil (age 11), and it is here:

This song seriously has medicinal properties! It is great. Other songs that I think would like people to sing at my funeral include "How Great Thou Art" and of course "Our Savior's Love" and not just because grandpa wrote the words, but because I think it is pretty obviously one of the best hymns in the Mormon hymn book. There might be other hymns that I will add to this list later, but for now I think three religious songs is good. What about secular songs? Here's what the cover band will play at the dinner: "After the Gold Rush" by Neil Young. "Only Love Can Break Your Heart" by Neil Young. If people are into it, they allowed to play that whole album. It's that good. It's what I would have wanted.

I didn't really intend to think about funerals, but I would hope that mine could be some sort of celebration, that people will say that I had a good run, led a full life, that I had done some good in the world. Nobody wants to think about their friends leaving forever, but the thing is, we're not indestructible. At some point we all leave this earth, even though the possibility of that seems so far away. Does it help to be aware of this? I would say yes. I would hope that a conscience of this enriches our interactions with each other, that we don't hold anything back, that we don't forget to tell someone that we love them.

How does this relate to my belief in the afterlife? I definitely believe that our souls continue to live after death, and that we can see each other "at the crossroads" in the afterlife. But, there is also something important and extra meaningful about the people that we meet in the flesh. I'm not really sure what that is, but I think that there is a point to all this stuff that happens, and I feel that heaviness all the time as I am walking through life. I think that maybe death is supposed to teach us to appreciate the gift of our own lives, and to also help us to really understand the value of the people around us. The faith in being able to meet again with souls who have passed on makes a huge difference in how one might perceive death. Although everyone will be emotionally destroyed by the death of a loved one, there's a big difference in thinking that it is the last time they will ever see someone, and in thinking that it might be a long time before they see someone again.

In some cases, the afterlife seems like a huge relief. It could mean that I will be able to see people as they really are, without so many of the things that make it hard to get to really know people in this life. But what about this question: Will I suddenly get along well with people with whom I have had "irreconcilable differences"? The answer might actually be no, if you are me, anyway. Joseph Smith said of Christ's second coming that "that same sociality which exists among us here will exist among us there, only it will be coupled with eternal glory, which glory we do not now enjoy." (Doctrine and Covenants, 130:1-2) In a way, that is awesome. It means that the friendships that we have worked to have will be magnified, but what of the grudges that we have held, and our failures in love, family, and community? That same sociality will exist. It's not a ticket to immediate good times with every soul who has ever lived, and I think that's good, because it doesn't really make sense otherwise. I don't necessarily think that it will be easier to interact with other souls, I just think that it will be very different. Partly because we will all be wearing those crazy afterlife clothing fashions.

Our interactions in this life are eternally meaningful, and the people who help us through this life will remain the ones closest to us as our souls live on. I think. We will be coated in an unexpected blanket of white, candidates waking up to a sense of the new glow all around us.

P.S. As I suspected from the trailer, that movie The Science of Sleep was ridiculously good!

Be still, my soul: the Lord is on thy side.
Bear patiently the cross of grief or pain.
Leave to thy God to order and provide;
In every change, He faithful will remain.
Be still, my soul: thy best, thy heavenly Friend
Through thorny ways leads to a joyful end.

Be still, my soul: thy God doth undertake
To guide the future, as He has the past.
Thy hope, thy confidence let nothing shake;
All now mysterious shall be bright at last.
Be still, my soul: the waves and winds still know
His voice Who ruled them while He dwelt below.

Be still, my soul: when dearest friends depart,
And all is darkened in the vale of tears,
Then shalt thou better know His love, His heart,
Who comes to soothe thy sorrow and thy fears.
Be still, my soul: thy Jesus can repay
From His own fullness all He takes away.

Be still, my soul: the hour is hastening on
When we shall be forever with the Lord.
When disappointment, grief and fear are gone,
Sorrow forgot, love's purest joys restored.
Be still, my soul: when change and tears are past
All safe and blessèd we shall meet at last.

Be still, my soul: begin the song of praise
On earth, believing, to Thy Lord on high;
Acknowledge Him in all thy words and ways,
So shall He view thee with a well pleased eye.
Be still, my soul: the Sun of life divine
Through passing clouds shall but more brightly shine.

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