Today I get the news.  Uncle Jack has passed.  He was 95.  He lived a long, full productive life. But, still, I think he’s my Dad’s older brother.  He has been there Dad’s entire life.  He is the brother-in-law my mother had for going on 60 years. Uncle Jack has gone Home. There’s much rejoicing in Heaven, but there’s a lot of sorrow back here.

I’m 55 now.  People who are 55 will tell you were are not old. We’re middle aged.  But, there aren’t a lot of people living to 110. We’re old.  In our youth, we saw mostly people coming in.  Our parents were having kids.  Their friends were having kids. Then, we were having kids.  Now maybe our kids are having kids. But, what we’re also experiencing more is people going out.  Our parents are aging and dying.  Our friends are getting cancer and having strokes.  We’re going to more funerals than weddings.

Whether you think of this Earth as a prison or a party, a vacation or a place of work, what we experience is people coming and going.  We rejoice at births. We congratulate the parents.  We look forward to seeing that kid grow. We ignore the inevitable pain and toil of Earth-school; we’re just happy to have them here. We forget the fact we’re all going to leave some day. And worse, it’s not all on the same day. There are going to be good-byes. Once we get to this point in our lives it hits us. We all leave. We all go out.  Someday in the not too distant future, I will say good-bye to my parents or vice versa.  One of us will be left here, the other gone on.

I was talking with my mother the other day about Uncle Jack’s pending transition. This was after he was in hospice.  We talked about cultures who actually celebrate death. It’s so counter to our culture, though. We ignore death until it’s right up on us.  Then we fight it until it overtakes us. Then we mourn it once it’s come.  Why do we do that when we know more with more certainty than anything else we know that death will come?  Why do we fear the inevitable? How do we flip that?

That’s what I’ve been working on. And it’s hard work.  Anything counter-cultural is difficult at best. At least an hour a day, usually closer to two hours a day, I am retraining my mind to accept the inevitable to even embrace the inevitable; because death is only the end of this Earth-bound relationship. It’s the beginning of a new life for those who go before us. And one day, we’ll all be together again.

One of the few happy songs I remember from growing up in the church is “When We All Get to Heaven”  I played it for my Uncle Jack this morning and shed a few tears over the relationships lost here, but had a little smile about his party in heaven and his new body. Bon voyage Uncle.  See you soon.

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