The recent tragic death of Diana, Princess of Wales, which has left so many people around the world mourning, marks the loss of a good friend, though most had never met her in person. Even someone for whom the British monarchy seems a symbol of oppression-a Northern Irish nationalist-was quoted in my local paper as saying how deeply she felt the loss of the princess.
What can we do when we lose a friend to an untimely death? We can grieve. We can feel profound regret. These may be the reactions that come automatically to mind. You could even say that such responses are expected of us, and that feeling anything less would be cold and heartless.
The Holy Bible, which is sure to be read from at tomorrow's funeral in London, indicates much to the contrary. The Bible's message is one of life, not death.
It's hard to imagine a more crushing loss than that experienced by the disciples of Jesus Christ. They had remained faithful to their friend and Teacher when he was betrayed and crucified. They did grieve. They did mourn their loss. Yet it turned out these responses were needless; within days their Master was risen. Had they understood all he had taught them about the eternality of life, they would have known that death is not the final chapter for anyone.
Does this have anything to do with Diana, or with anyone for whom we are grieving?
It does! What Jesus proved true at the time of his resurrection he was proving to be the truth for all time. This truth is that we are, in reality, the spiritual image and likeness of God and, as such, cannot ever die. Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures says that Jesus "fully and finally demonstrated divine Science in his victory over death and the grave" (p. 45). That was written by Mary Baker Eddy, who discovered this Science, the law of God-the law of eternal Life-which empowered the works of Jesus.
Divine Science (named by Mrs. Eddy Christian Science) underlies the truth found in the Bible. It demonstrates that God is Spirit, and that we are spiritual. Each of us is in reality immortal because God is immortal. Each individual is eternally existent in God, as an idea of God. No tragic accident, no sickness, no other mortal experience, alters that.
Clearly, though, if a loved one passes on, it does alter the perspective of those left behind, who can no longer see, hear, or have a personal rapport with that individual. But it doesn't reduce to nothing the reality of the individual who is lost (or, more accurately, lost sight of!), as seems to be the case. Nor does it truly diminish the good that those left behind recognize in that individual. The beautiful and noble qualities we cherish in anyone are in and of God. Good qualities. Permanent qualities.
This was proved to me when my mum passed on unexpectedly. While I felt the same intense grief and loss as anyone, I did approach this challenging time from a basis of prayer and spiritual understanding. Through this approach, I grasped something of the fact that life and good are continuous. I quickly came to feel that the most loving thing I could do for my mother was to prove this fact in my own life. I came to know that whatever I was able to prove true for myself would be as true for her. I prayed, not for a personal dispensation from God, but to understand clearly that our identity as sons and daughters of God constitutes the fundamental truth of all existence.
In wonderful ways since then, I have been mothered. If anything, I have felt more of God's Mother-love expressed than ever. I still love and cherish my mum. But I feel confident that her identity is real and ongoing. I no longer feel a sense of personal loss.
What if we all rise to the challenge of Diana's passing in a similar, prayer-filled way, loving her spiritually? While the world's grieving does indicate love and fellowship, which are among the noblest of qualities, nothing will be compromised in striving for a spiritual love and unity. Instead of feeling obligated to suffer, perhaps we can unite in the prayer that shows the highest love of all. This prayer reveals how immortality, which Jesus proved is ours from God, truly must apply to Diana as it applies to all.