Dr. Joseph Chuman, beautifully said*:
…I think we express our loyalty to those who are gone not by denying our own lives, but by recognizing what they have given us and how their values have merged with our own.
…those who are gone do not totally leave. They remain to populate my mind, and my mind has grown very crowded with the memories of people I knew and loved, and with whom I have significantly shared my life.
It is challenging to belong to a culture with traditional values that expect you to mourn for a given amount of time and act a certain way after your loved one(s) have passed away. I went to the beach with my little one the day after my mom’s burial to the horror of my family and friends. It happened to be Mothers Day, and in my befuddled state it seemed the most logical thing to do. I had to get out. Nature seemed like a good option and my daughter was happy to have a change of scenery. It ended up being an okay morning. Granted I was kind of numb, but felt genuine joy amidst the sorrow because I didn’t have an option: seeing a 3 year old tumble in the waves and emerge with a full head of sand is bound to make you laugh. I had to keep repeating to myself that I knew my parents would have liked me to move on with my life for the sake of myself and my children.
How refreshing it is to hear someone say, not that those who leave populate the heavens above us, looking after us, and possibly chastising us for having a little fun, but that they are inside our minds. What a beautiful thing to have our loved ones living inside of us in the form of memory.
I think it’s time for people of religious backgrounds to be compassionate towards those who do not believe in an afterlife. As a society we need to start gaining consciousness that blanket statements like “now you have an angel looking after you”, “she is in a better place” or the most presumptuous of all “you will see her in heaven one day” are hurtful to those who do not believe that there is a “better place” and who do not expect to see their loved ones ever again.
Why not just cherish the memories and continue with our lives, honoring those that have gone before us by having the most amazing lives that we can possibly have? It’s a refreshing thought.
With a mind full of loved ones and a heart full of love,
*Quotes part of a Platform address by Dr. Joseph Chuman, leader of the Ethical Culture Society of Bergen County, November 4, 2012. Please take the time to read it in it’s entirety, it will be well worth your time.