the tao of jaklumen

the path of the sage must become the path of the hero

A Hero’s Journey: Death Is Not The End

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Uncle-in-law‘s funeral was very nice yesterday.  I’d never seen the details for a military funeral before, which I thought was cool.  I had not realized before that the Marines (EDIT: Nov 18, 2013: SIL is right, these were Army National Guard in dress blues) involved must take very exact and precise steps in removing the flag, folding it, and presenting it to the widow (my aunt-in-law).  A friend of the family played “Amazing Grace” with regimental bagpipes and full formal Scottish attire.

SIL took this pic. Cimmy is quite the Scottish enthusiast so of course she had to introduce me to this family friend.

As you can see, death is not the end in the Monomyth cycle.

As you can see, death is not the end in the Monomyth cycle.

What amazed me was Cimmy called her aunt a few days before, and she was so sanguine about everything as Cimmy and I talked to her.  I wasn’t amazed by her perspective on it, because we are of the same faith and understanding, but rather, I was heartened by her optimism.

Cimmy had been upset, but I told her, “In a few days, you’ll be talking about your uncle just as you do all of our other [departed] family members that visit us.”  Sure enough, as she was getting ready before we left, she said that he had stopped by and visited with her.

I don’t talk about this aspect lightly at all.  My understanding of death and the departed is similar to the Japanese concept of ancestral spirits; I think the Japanese have got it right.  And I think Cimmy is sensitive to their presence, more sensitive than I am.  I wish there was a word better than “ghost whisperer”– there’s too much confusion and misunderstanding in Western culture about this concept.

It is my experience that funerals are for the living.  I have still been hurting badly, but I gave my word to my MIL and to my AIL that I would be there.  I was glad I did.  It was a sunshine-filled day.  I didn’t limp (too much).  I got to give hugs and comforting words.  Rockabilly BIL B.A. and K made a surprise appearance.  It was cold outside, but there was warmth in my heart, for this one thing is generally true of LDS funerals, but especially this one:

Death is not a final end, but a new beginning.

UIL will be around, and things will continue, until our upgrade to Body 2.0.

Author: jaklumen

Wherever you see "jaklumen", that's me. The username is still unique as of 2016, so it's just me, and only me. It's the real me, because I'm bad at faking otherwise.

11 thoughts on “A Hero’s Journey: Death Is Not The End

  1. I sometimes think my family is too much into the ancestral spirit thing: they pile flowers onto my mother’s grave, but they rarely gave her flowers when she was alive and able to appreciate it here on this plane. My father insists on placing daily offerings of tea, rice and flowers on the family shrine, but he never cleans up the mess this sometimes makes. The shrine was filthy when I first moved back in with my parents. Now it’s decent, but I noticed after cleaning it that some rodent had nibbled on the icons pasted onto the back of the shrine. 😛 My brother also babbles a lot about believing in ghosts, but he treats the living badly and doesn’t seem to realize the connection between life here and the life hereafter.

    My take is that there is an afterlife that has the potential to be both helpful and harmful. It’s up to us to open our hearts to the good and turn away from the bad, or at least acknowledge it is there and protect ourselves from it. My mother was not always a nice person, but I like to think in shedding her earthly form and problems, she’s now able to live in light. I think that’s true for all who depart from this world to the next. I guess you could call it a reboot, to use a modern term.

    I hope Cimmy can take comfort in her uncle’s presence in the days ahead. Hope you feel better and stronger too.

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    • That’s unfortunate. From what you describe to me, it seems perhaps your family is caught up in the ritual traditions, or the mystery, and they don’t regard the departed as real, active partakers in the comings and goings of the living, and that they retain their thoughts, personalities, and identities that they do in life.

      Cimmy talks about our departed family members as though they are right there, actively partaking in any conversations we might be having at the time, and behaving quite consistently with their personalities and outlook that they had in life. She describes them as sentient entities very much involved in the here and now.

      I have had experiences myself that would be too long to go into right now, but I will say that although they are different than Cimmy’s, they are comparable enough that I think what she says is consistent with what I experience.

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  2. What a thought provoking post. I wish that I could speak to or fell the presence of family members who had died. I would miss them less. Death wouldn’t seem so final.

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    • It is a gift, for sure, but I think one that is special and carefully cultivated.

      In spite of my experiences, though, I still have deep pangs of grief for my paternal grandmother. It’s difficult to describe, because it’s intensely personal. She is among those Cimmy talks about a lot, and I do know that she cares very much for all my little family, but… the grief process is what it is. I do miss her in the flesh even though I know her presence in spirit is very real for me. So… I think it’s still possible to miss departed loved ones even if their company in spirit is still enjoyed.

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  3. I’m glad it was a good experience, as funerals go.

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  4. I’ve never been to a military funeral… the bagpipes sound wonderful though. I need more bagpipes in my life. You are very right that funerals are for the living.

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  5. I have so many mixed feelings about funerals……I’ve had to speak at four of them and it is really tough. I spend hours thinking and writing out what I will say…but there is no ‘right thing to say’ at a funeral….the people who come are all suffering, dealing, with so many varied emotions that it is impossible to say something that meets everybody where they are………..it also always makes me sad that funerals are one of those times in life when I see relatives and people that I rarely ever see….and it makes me sad; why do I only see these people at the time of someone’s death…..

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    • Again, I think that funerals are for the living, not the dead, and I think you’ve illustrated very well another reason why I think that is so.

      The fact that you’ve asked seems to indicate some trust there, that they trust you to say something comforting– but yes, I have noted that at some funerals, some family rarely come together like that. I refused to publicly grieve at my grandfather’s funeral (23 years ago, actually)– long story, but it involves some family members that still play games and stir up drama. Once upon a time, we’d been close, but not then.

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