When someone you love passes on, it's easy to feel so overcome with grief and uncertainty that even the most loving words don't cut through the sorrow. But genuine encouragement really does have love behind it, and it's important to realize that those loving words have a God-based purpose: to comfort and heal.
Muslims refer to God as "the all-Compassionate," and friends in Jordan reminded me of that when, while living in a small university town near the Syrian border, I learned that my mother had suddenly passed away.
Their words reminded me of the way Mary Baker Eddy, the founder of this newspaper and author of "Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures," described God as our Father-Mother.
Pondering this concept has prompted me to think about all the mothering qualities that I associate with God, such as tenderness, comfort, and nurturing. These qualities cannot die, nor can they be absent from us in the hour of need. Their source is the Divine, which is ever present and ever available. I felt comforted at that moment.
I needed to see that Mom wasn't erased, that I wasn't left without a rudder. I also had a lot of work to do - suspend my university classes, arrange exit visas from Jordan for both my wife and me, reserve a flight and buy the tickets for a flight that evening, pack, and get to the international airport, which was several hours away by bus.
I was hurrying around doing errands when I looked up to that glorious blue Middle Eastern sky, and I remembered something that Mrs. Eddy had written - a sentence that was also one of my mother's favorites. It reads, "The right way wins the right of way, even the way of Truth and Love whereby all our debts are paid, mankind blessed, and God glorified" ("The First Church of Christ, Scientist, and Miscellany," page 232).
I heard my mother's voice saying those words. I don't mean that I had some kind of communication with the dead - far from it. But I remembered her quoting that sentence. I remembered her calm trust in the Lord and how many times her God hadn't let her down. I knew God wouldn't let me down either, and He didn't.
All the arrangements were made within an hour. Connections to the airport and passing through passport control were easy and stress-free. The plane ride home across several continents was long but not arduous; we were there to help my dad through this time, and all along we all had a precious sense of God's compassionate care.
I also realized at that moment under the Jordanian sky that my mother was continuing as she had always been, a perfect and loved idea of God. I knew that an idea can't die. I knew that her identity wasn't erased. I felt the comfort of the divine Father-Mother that day, and that comfort healed the sorrow and isolation of bereavement.
The comfort allowed for joy during the family gathering at home and stayed with me on the flight back. In the years since, I certainly acknowledge that I do miss Mom, and I wish I could talk and laugh with her.
But that's not grief. I know that she's going on, happily expressing God's qualities of joy, wit, energy, and sparkle. I know that she's expressing the Mind that is God in leading some kind of useful and rewarding existence. I know she's still rejoicing in the Life that is God, and that can never be taken from her.
Science and Health states: "The dream of death must be mastered by Mind here or hereafter. Thought will waken from its own material declaration, 'I am dead,' to catch this trumpet-word of Truth, 'There is no death, no inaction, diseased action, overaction, nor reaction' " (pages 427-428).
This assures me that our loved ones are going on. It also makes me aware that God's mothering presence is with me, too, showing me the way forward. This is not only "getting on with my life," but getting right with God, who is Life itself.
Blessed are they that mourn:
for they shall be comforted.