It’s been months since I wrote a Vulnerable post, and I believe it is time to write another one.
Ave Maria, a German rendition, is playing from my laptop right now, and once again, I am crying softly. Ave Maria is perhaps the only song that can bring to me to tears whenever I hear it. To me, it is both deeply beautiful and deeply sad.
I used to listen to this song over and over as a child, and every time I listened to it, there was always a statue of Mother Mary smiling sadly at her infant son. And as I stared at the soft face of the Mother of God, I would envision her weeping silently, her smile never wavering. She wept for life, for death. She wept for something I couldn’t see. Yet, she was always smiling. Now, as I hear the song, I envision her, and still she weeps with a smile resting on her lips.
Today, as I listen to Ave Maria, I weep. I weep for something I do know. I weep for something I have lost. I weep for Mary. I weep for her son. I weep for God. I weep for Sophia. I weep for Logos. And then I smiled. A soft, sad smile. It was somewhere in the middle of praying for mercy at the hour of our death that I smiled, and it was for no reason except at that moment, I knew what harmony was: the moment of life ending.
A few months ago, I saw death, I watched as a beloved uncle passed from this world into the next. While circumstances that led to his passing were unkind — he had fallen ill with an untreatable lung disease — the moment of his passing was of such peace that every being in the room was brought to tears. For me, however, the time for tears to flow until they should cease needed to wait as a brave face, strength in the heart, peace in the soul, and the love of those in mourning was needed more than the tears of passing. I tasked myself with selecting the music and the passages to be read at the funeral, determined to pick the passages that would best capture my uncle’s love for those around and the love everyone had for him. The result was magnificent.
Countless numbers of people came up to our family saying it was not a funeral service they attended, but a true celebration of life. We were warmed, feeling that we had done my uncle justice in celebrating his life. Yet, the comment that nearly broke my resolve not to cry was the comment of a passing stranger: “It must be a wedding ceremony!” Everyone who had a hand in planning the service had desperately wished make the celebration like a wedding service my uncles deserved, but were unable to have. That a complete stranger would say that they thought it was a wedding brought a soft, sad smile to my lips. Yet I didn’t cry, I refused to. I wanted to be strong for my family. Today is the day that I finally broke down, and allowed myself to weep.
Ave Maria was the song that everyone unanimously agreed must be played at my uncle’s celebration. I did weep when it played, but I kept as much of my tears at bay as possible; my grandmother needed support then. Today, as it played, I wept without reserve, and allowed myself to actually revisit my uncle’s passing.
Nothing could have been more peaceful than his transition. He was not suffering, he was surrounded by those he loved and who loved him. When he departed us, it was softly, gently, and everyone knew he had reached a place we can only dream of. It was a moment of tears and soft, sad smiles.
As I lay my hands on my uncle, I saw that death is the moment when the eyes fade gently into paler color. When everyone feels the sigh of a breath being released. When time stops for a moment in respect, before gently pushing us again into movement. When life passes from the eyes, the body stills and there is calmness as coloring pales softly, as though saying a sweet goodbye to those around. The color fades for a few more seconds, before settling to a pale earthen tones, and then everything in the body stills, coming to a moment of complete and utter rest. This is death, the moment when the body is at earthen rest. When death finishes it’s task, the body is left for the loved ones to weep over, while the life has been whisked off to a place we cannot see.
He was taken exactly twenty-four hours, just before 6pm on September 12, 2011, after I had called my mother and told her she needed to come back as I fear he only had a day left with us. Yet, while his life was calmly, softly, and kindly pulled from his body, in the moment of passing, there was, and is, a promise of something more. When the glitter of life fades from the body, you can see there is a distance that is being crossed. You can actually see that the eyes are focusing on something unseen. My uncle’s gaze was fixed on something as he was passing, and just before he completely moved on, he shed a tear and smiled softly. Not five minutes later, my uncle faded from our world and was brough into a new one, a soft smile and tear ending one world and beginning a new one.
Ave Maria, Gratia plena. Maria, gratia plena. Maria, gratia plena. Ave, ave dominus. Dominus tecum, Benedicta tu in mulieribus, Et benedictus. Et benedictus fructus ventris, Ventris tuae, Jesus.
Ave Maria. Ave Maria, Mater Dei, Ora pro nobis peccatoribus. Ora pro nobis. Ora, ora pro nobis peccatoribus, Nunc et in hora mortis, Et in hora mortis nostrae. Ave Maria.