WHEN our dear friends lost their young son in the crash of Pan Am's Flight 103, suddenly all the prayers I had ever prayed didn't seem enough. I asked God to bring me new prayer that could reach the place where the telegrams, the flowers, the condolences, had not. Is there anything real to fill the void that death leaves? Not something philosophical but something here and now that does not simply attempt to bury grief in time? A vision beyond words perhaps? At the threshold of Elijah's passing from earth, Elisha, his pupil, asked that he inherit a double portion of his master's spirit. Elijah answered that this was a hard thing but then added, ``If thou see me when I am taken from thee, it shall be so unto thee; but if not, it shall not be so.''1
There is something audacious about Elisha. He follows Elijah to what must have seemed to be the very brink of existence, and even then he seeks more. He pushes beyond earth's limits. Rather than shut his eyes against his impending loss, he keeps them wide open, so that he might see -- through inspired vision -- what fear and personal grief would deny him. Perhaps it is Elisha's boldness that makes possible the fulfilling of his request. The account goes on to say that Elisha did see Elijah as he ``went up by a whirlwind into heaven.''2 From this moment on, his life exhibited mastery over suffering, loss, accidents, and even death.
Yes, in the Bible people receive visions. But is there a vision for today? One that enables us, like Elisha, to receive a double portion of the spirit? A vision that will give us mastery as well as comfort?
A friend of mine who lost her only son in Vietnam told me of her struggle to find such a vision after his tragic death. She had learned through Christian Science that God is Life and that man is not a finite body and soul but the reflection of God. Man's true identity is the individual, spiritual, eternal expression of Life, Truth, and Love -- of the one God. But these were mostly words until life itself demanded that her faith become vision. Such a concrete understanding seemed beyond her. But during the following month there was a lifting up. Through her study and prayer, through quiet receptivity to the one God, an inner guidance brought her through these darkest of hours.
Her answer did not come simply as an explanation about life. Intellect is incapable of perceiving what spiritual understanding and faith alone can grasp. The answer came to her as experience. One day she actually felt a genuine sense of man's ongoing individuality and safe being. She ``saw'' the reality of her son's ``living'' more vividly than his absence. It was not supernatural. Rather it felt more natural to her than grief. She was filled with a spiritual joy, a joy that must have been God's own joy, because it had no possible human source or justification. Since then, both this joy and clear vision have continued to become more real to her.
In the Christian Science textbook, Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures (next to a marginal heading ``Light shining in darkness''), is a statement by Mary Baker Eddy3 about her own near-death experience and what was revealed to her at that time: ``I learned these truths in divine Science: that all real being is in God, the divine Mind, and that Life, Truth, and Love are all-powerful and ever-present....''4 Earlier on the same page she asks: ``Whence came to me this heavenly conviction, -- a conviction antagonistic to the testimony of the physical senses? According to St. Paul, it was `the gift of the grace of God given unto me by the effectual working of His power.'''5
I am still praying about the recent death of our friends' son. I am still praying for an inspired vision. But the true stories related here have inspired me to pray more boldly, to stand up to the despair inherent in the conviction that life is fragile and fleeting. If we are to heal the immense loss of such tragedies as the Pan Am flight, we must bring to this day something more than mere words, something more than human thoughts, however hopeful these might be.
The actual glimpsing of life as wholly spiritual, existing intact within the being of God, is a present possibility. God will provide the grace and the ability to have bold expectation. And through the unity of these, inspiration will reveal what our senses shut out: that each of us actually exists in a larger sense of Life than earth's narrow stage. Each dearly beloved child of God is protected and cared for by divine Love, both now and always.
1II Kings 2:10. 2II Kings 2:11. 3The Discoverer and Founder of Christian Science. 4Science and Health, p. 108. 5Ibid.
Blessed art thou, O Lord: teach me thy statutes.... Open thou mine eyes, that I may behold wondrous things out of thy law.... Thou art good, and doest good.... Great are thy tender mercies, O Lord.
Psalms 119:12, 18, 68, 156