There will come a time when we arrive at the Station and disembark. Our train will, at last, pull in with bells ringing, flags waving, and bands playing. There will have been one last smile, nod, or wave to the passengers with whom we shared our journey.
The line, ‘part of the journey is the end’ came from the movie, Avenger’s End Game. It is a line said by Tony Stark/Iron Man. I could find no other reference to that line anywhere else. Upon hearing that great line, I started this blog. However, the question had been, “when would I post it?” My journey and the journey of this blog are still going strong. Waiting to post it on either of those journey’s end could be a long time coming (my preference) or ending so abruptly that the opportunity would be lost.
The decision to post it now comes indirectly from a request of a close friend who enjoys these blogs. He is a decade ahead of me on life’s timeline and is at the age when experiencing the loss of friends, teammates, relatives, and close acquaintances occurs too frequently. The downside of living a long life is being witness, repeatedly, to the reality of someone’s arrival at their final stop. At some point our parents step off our train. Others that have joined our journey will also leave and create a void. There can be comfort that these fellow passengers joined us for an extended time, but in that final moment, sorrow and grief overtakes the joy. An empty seat should leave behind beautiful memories for those who continue with their journey. The fact is they are just on an earlier train than we are.
Michael J Fox, while reflecting on his current state with Parkinson Disease said, “The last thing we run out of in life, is the future.” Poignantly, that statement comes from the ‘Back to the Future’ star. A physical journey ending is a fact. The Latin phrase, Momento Mori, means, "you will die." It's a phrase that is meant to remind each of us that the reality of life is death. That every journey has an end.
Needtobreathe, has a song "Be Here Long" which talks about this very subject. Like many of their songs, it connects with the listener simply by exploring common human experiences. The lyrics, "Close my eyes and think of you; Go to sleep and dream of you; We don't get to be here long; I gave you the best of me; Loved you more than anything; But we don't get to be here long” echoes the sentiments of cherishing time and dealing with grief and love lost. Life can be unexpected and short so since we have today, enjoy it. We know our journey will end, but the mystery is we don’t know the ETA to the station. We never know if there is a tomorrow.
A couple of years ago when I saw Needtobreathe perform at Red Rocks, my favorite band in my favorite concert venue, the opening act was Forest Blakk. He performed his song, Heaven’s Telephone, that he wrote after the passing of his cousin from cancer. A song so powerful that I downloaded right there in the amphitheater between acts.
“So long; Let me go; I know Heaven's got a telephone; And I will call home; Whenever you like”
To paraphrase a favorite quote of mine by Father Pierre Teilhard de Chardin, we are not physical beings having spiritual journeys, we are spiritual beings having physical journeys. These physical journeys are finite, they will expire. When a river arrives at the sea, the river’s journey has ended but the essence that was the river continues and becomes part of something bigger. The journey of our spirit does not end here on this Earth but continues onward.
Life moves forward. It has a progression to it. It flows “down the stream.” As I point out in my ‘Row, Row, Row Your Boat’ blog post, we need to move with that flow. The physical journey will end, and we will miss our fellow passenger’s physical presence. However, we should feel blessed to have them in our earthly lives and the best part of their life will never be lost because of many fond memories.
Many people don’t like funerals. I am the opposite in that I make every effort to attend a funeral when I hear of someone close to me passing away. Although I can struggle with the mourning and sadness for the family, I welcome the opportunity to attend and be part of the “bells ringing, flags waving, and bands playing.” Funerals (yes plural) are the only places and times that I have done multiple shots of Jameson. It is a celebration of the life that in some way touched mine. It is a sign of respect.
Henri Nouwen, a Dutch Priest and one of the most influential spiritual writers of our generation, assures us that when we are prepared for eternity, “Death is not the enemy who puts an end to everything but the friend who takes us by the hand and leads us into the Kingdom of eternal love.” Our divine journey has no end. It has a goal.
A common reading at funerals is a passage from St. Paul’s letter to the Romans (8:35-39), “What will separate us from the love of Christ? Will anguish, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or the sword? No, in all these things we conquer overwhelmingly through him who loved us. For I am convinced that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor present things, nor future things, nor powers, nor height, nor depth, nor any other creature will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.”
I use the greeting or salutation, “Rejoice and Godspeed” quite frequently. My intent is to bestow joy and ask for God’s presence on other’s journey. It is especially significant to use that greeting at the end of their physical journey as their spiritual journey continues.
“Weep if you must. Parting is hell. But life goes on. So sing as well” - Joyce Grenfell