Yesterday I found myself saying aloud “O Maggie, my love! What am I going to do without you?”
I don’t think I have ever valued “journalling” more than I do now. Journaling seeks to deepen life as we live it, to clarify the significance of life, to let it all hang out and express to yourself what you really think life is about, and the relationship of your life to it.
For example, I do not believe in life after death in the accepted sense of that phrase – a kind of heaven where life goes on as usual. That to me is a denial of the significance of life and of death. My understanding of death, and life after death, is very different to that which is expressed in a book written two thousand years ago, notwithstanding its central place in my life. I would never take as definitive medicine practiced two thousand years ago. Nor do I take as definitive many of the concepts within the Bible. As Keith Rowe puts it “We need to rethink Christian belief in the light of insights and understanding not available to earlier generations.” John Carroll says much the same thing. “The waning of Christianity in the west is easy to explain. The Christian Churches have failed in their central task: to retell their foundation story in a way that might speak to our times”.
There certainly is life after death. Maggie lives on in the hearts and minds of all those she loved, and that, in the end, is what it is all about. We come, we make our contribution to “homo humanus”, and we go. Death really is a part of life and, to see it otherwise, is to miss the point completely.
Etty Hillesum certainly saw it this way and I am reminded of her great statement. “I can sense a new confidence growing stronger inside me day to day, for I know now that life and death make a meaningful whole. I have come to terms with life. By coming to terms with life, I mean the reality of death has become a definite part of my life. My life so to speak has been extended by death – by looking death in the eye and accepting it, by accepting death as a part of my life and no longer wasting my energies on the fear of death or refusing to acknowledge its inevitability. It sounds paradoxical but by excluding death from our life we cannot live a full life, and by admitting death into our life we enlarge and enrich it. ….. I have looked death straight in the eye, accepted it into my life, and my love of life has not been diminished”. There are so many things in those words with which I identify.
Does all this make Maggie’s death easier to bear? Not really. A welter of emotion and distress has plagued me over the past week. I still miss her enormously.
She was such an integral part of my life that tears well up whenever I think of her.