My wife went back to Korea, and I miss her but still feel connected - you should see how messed up the house is, waiting for her return. An important part of why she went back now is the family has to decide to rejoin the grave sites of their parents. Her brother sold the family lands years ago so he could buy or start up a great business, the other truth is that every one moved far away from the farmland and hills, and the mother moved with her children. Her brother is getting way up there in years, and this could be the best time to get it done. Ancestor worship say the European observers, watching families come to the grave sites, cutting the grass, setting up the rice cakes, wine and then watching the bows of respect given towards the site, and the conversation with the dead. Ancestor worship is not a religion - it is an acceptance of the continuing importance of the departed in the order of the lives left behind, and very much an acknowledgement of life everlasting. Actually the people honoring their ancestors may have a very God-centered religion that has nothing to do with the memorial ceremony.
I have one of those digital picture frames and put a thumb drive with lots of pictures in it. Two main subjects, the wonder of ME and then the awesome GRANDson. Yes, there are others, one of my joys is a picture of over a hundred years ago and another William Dungey, with his parents and his brothers and sisters. He was the reason I am called Earl by all those that love me, and William by government agencies and telemarketeers. We lived close when I was very young and one Will Dungey to answer the call would be enough. The first funeral I went to that I remember was his, I was old enough to understand that the person in the casket wasn't my grandfather and I didn't like the whole idea, I was too young to know that it was for the living and my grandfather was off to glory, probably tinkering and fixing what might be broken in Heaven. I avoided funerals thereafter, except all the fallen from North Texas and Oklahoma I helped honor in military funerals in 1970, Vietnam - they weren't just names upon a future black wall, they had people and family that cried...
I watched some of the ten year 911 Memorial Tribute, and was happy that Mayor Bloomberg couldn't keep religion, the police or firemen out of the tribute. Seems that God has been on that site for a long, long time and His name was called on often as they read the names of those that died. And funny how that works out, but fallen firefighters, police and emergency medical service people seem to have come from or started a new service traditions. Many from their families were proudly wearing the uniforms as they honored their dead. Sure enough, the mainstream media didn't have the patience for over three thousand names. How do you know it is time for war, Mr. President? You read all the names on the Vietnam Memorial and then decide you can afford to make that kind of a mark again. Ever visit the European grave sites? thousands of Crosses, Stars of David, marking where a love was lost, a life was lost, the final payment for our future.
My parents' pictures cycle through the slideshow, wedding day, family portraits and their last formal picture together for their church. Stirs my memory and I again feel the love they shared with me and others.
One of my great aunts or distant (don't count the levels) cousin once remarked that she hated the family gatherings - she always associated them with a funeral. Sad, but it might have been very true - seems like no matter about medicine and science or government benevolence it does look like no one is getting out of this life alive. But then there is the promise of life in the hereafter, always has been, ever will be. I don't have to tell you what I believe or why, another time when you are ready and I can help, but it is there. The truth is most people found it or find it much sooner than I, but it isn't a race, a contest: it is the acceptance of the Lord's Love. As important for those left behind as those that go before.
My cousin's wife passed on yesterday, went to sleep and left. Years of pain, fighting cancer, counting on love and prayer and maybe another treatment that might help - all over, done. What remains? Well, there are pictures, and all the love that she gave away, that grew up and spilled over and goes on. From this far vista, the internet computer linked monitor, I smile gently a bit sad for all those that have to work and raise the next generations, and they have a great start on it. I like to think that she is also looking on with love at all that she left behind, husband, children, grandchildren, friends and neighbors. Of all the things we have left: sorrow and pain, nightmares, bad days, months and years, whatever we have had from the departed the only thing that is worth keeping is the Love shared. It will always be the best thing they had to give.