Into the Next Room

Maple Flowers          The first person whose death I remember hearing about was a relative named Cousin Ellen Parker. My memory of her is of someone roundish, gray haired, and somewhat wrinkled. I have no real memory of her other than of her appearance. She must have died when I was around four. My great grandmother died in her eighties when I was five. I don’t remember hearing much about that. I do have a vivid memory of picking dandelions in our yard and seeing her walking along in her purple hat. When I told my mother she insisted Grandma Great was dead and I couldn’t have seen her. But I had.

In those days death wasn’t usually discussed in front of children. I knew nothing of people dying, only small animals and occasionally pets. The rest of my family was healthy and active, living vigorously for many more years. I grew up with the idea that death was something that happened to people who were old. Times have changed. I have outlived not only my parents but now some of my friends and acquaintances.

This past week Stephen and I heard about three people dear to us who have stepped into the next room–another way to say they have passed from this life. As I write this, it is the birthday of another friend whose death I found out about earlier this year. Stephen and I both find it difficult to believe that these and other friends are gone from our sight. I find myself regretting that I never sent that card I meant to send, or made that phone call.

How can we know when someone’s time will run out? When the card we mean to send or the call to make can no longer be sent or made? No matter how well meaning I try to be there will always be that last small gesture that won’t be made before they are gone. There’s no way to predict when someone will make that transition from life on earth to the wider realm from which no one returns.

As I grow older in years I notice that more and more of the people I have known depart this life for the next. How can this be? Children believe one must be old to die. I’m not old so how can they be old enough to leave this life? When I was growing up I thought of fifty as old. As I approached that time I thought of the succeeding years as indicating age. Now it seems to me that there is no time limit on “old,” nor any way to tell what age is appropriate for the end of life.

It seems no matter how many years I accumulate, I still somewhere within me, retain my youth. From the other side of fifty and more, although the years tell me a different story, I don’t feel very much older. Why have these dear ones left me? It seems only yesterday that we were all in the sunshine of our years. Now the shade encroaches. Still I trust that those I miss are freer now, and without pain. My sorrow at their passing is only for me, not for them. However, I have my memories of them, and these will remain with me for all my years to come.

Tasha Halpert

The God Connection by Tasha Halpert

Joy I recently read an article in a national magazine about belief in God. The article was filled with all sorts of statistics concerning what percentage of which age groups believed in a supreme being, and other things having to do with religion in the United States. It did not divide belief along the lines of particular denominations or faiths. The article pertained mainly to simple belief in God.

While the article said that a great number of people do indeed believe in God, it also spoke of and about many who had issues with how they felt the Supreme Being ought to act. I was struck by the number of people that felt there was something wrong if God does not answer their prayers in the affirmative.

Many who were quoted in the article felt that a person they loved and prayed for ought to have survived, and that God should insure that. The common thread is, “Why did God allow that illness, accident, crime, and so on?” However perhaps they have forgotten about free will.

Praying to preserve someone’s life is a natural act, however it might not be in the best interests of that person to survive or to be healed. As well, if it is a case of God allowing something to happen it seems to me that God’s vision might be more accurate, being long range and unlimited. There are many factors that go into what occurs and why.

Some questioned why terrible things like the holocaust or plagues took place without God’s interference. Yet doesn’t a good parent let the children figure it out for themselves? Making things easy may not be in our best interests. Humanity as a whole must learn for itself what and what not to do, and we learn by doing. In addition because we are eternal souls, we surely survive in another form. While we may grieve a personal loss, there is no permanent death.

My personal perception of God is that of a benign force within all of creation, connected with each of us. God speaks to us through this connection in many ways. Listening is not always easy, especially when the answer is not what we wish to hear What can get in the way of my connection with God are my impatience, uncertainly and doubt. I do find that the more I listen within, the better I connect. Then I feel the personhood of God as a sense of all pervading love. As I allow the awareness of that force to guide me I am a happier more effective person.

Learning this has been a gradual process that has taken me most of my life. As a child I felt a strong connection to God. As I grew up I became more involved in life and that connection, while still there, was not as obvious to me. Eventually after much exploration and study I have come to appreciate that connection in a new way, and I realize that it is the same connection I have always had. However now I am more aware of and more reliant upon it, and it is a source of great joy.