Chapter 7: The Chapel

Imagine you live in 1850 — no internet, no telephone, only the earliest telegraph lines beginning to crisscross the landscape. Most long-distance communication travels in letters, by horse, by train, or by boat. Transportation is slow and expensive. If your best friend moves to a remote Pacific island, that’s most likely the last you’ll ever see or hear of him. In other words, imagine that your friend takes a journey that leaves him, effectively, dead to you. Would his departure on this journey be less sad for you than his actual death? Why? Perhaps you find comfort in some small possibility of being reunited in the future. What, then, of a journey your friend takes to an eternal paradise, a paradise in which you will certainly meet again? Does grievance, for a Christian, belie some small, though profound, lapse of faith?

Now imagine you visit your grandmother, buried in a cemetery. You presume her body lays out under the headstone. Does it matter? Would her grave mean less to you if her body were absent? Why? Would you find comfort in seeing or touching her remains? Are you comforted as much by her interment, the knowledge of death contained, as her memorial?

Why do we isolate ourselves in grief, mimicking death rather than enacting life in society? Why fear the dead awakened, rather than welcoming a chance for reunion? What closure do we find in ceremony and memorial? What comfort do we find in solitude?

Death leaves us with questions.

Chapter 7: The Chapel

So you say, when we pass away,
Our bodies go into the Earth
And never come to be
Another happy memory.
And our souls will live forever
In the mountains of the heavens,
Making memories.

And what a relief, choosing to grieve for death instead of absence.
You’ll no longer share threads of a common tapestry,
But the story goes on.

It gave you pause, made you hesitate
To give the last permission,
For the moments in between,
Could change your course away from me.
And those moments last forever,
And you had them in the absence
Of my memory.

And what a relief, choosing to grieve for death instead of absence.
You’ll no longer share threads of a common tapestry,
But the story goes on.

(c) and (p) 2008 Patrick Shea
Words and music written by Patrick Shea September 23, 2008
All parts performed, arranged, and recorded by Patrick Shea August 19, 2009

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