Life Lessons From My Funeral

*An excerpt from my unpublished book circa 2015*

Funerals seem to have always been difficult for me. This one was especially difficult. I wore an intricate black gown with a black lace veil and gloves to match. I walked timidly down the center aisle of one of the most beautiful cathedral style churches I had ever witnessed. I paced toward a blown up picture of a woman who looked familiar; but, I could not distinguish. My chin was parallel to the floor. My eyes were fixed straight ahead. There were so many people in the church. I knew I was at a funeral; but, the people were standing as if I burst through sanctuary doors during a wedding right before the bride began her stroll to Here Comes the Bride. I figured if I could just get to the side of the casket and see her face – the woman we were all here about –  I could identify her. Her picture was right there, plain as day. I all but blinked and it seemed like I was at the side of the casket, peering down at the young woman who lay there sleeping peacefully.

As soon as my eyes met the woman, I was overwrought with anxiety. I began hyperventilating because my mind could not reconcile what my eyes saw in that moment. I felt my chest begin to cave in from holding back a scream that would surely disrupt the lovely service. Every muscle in my body became tense. Anytime I had to stand up for long periods of time people would say, “don’t lock your knees.” I was staring blankly ahead; and, I was not sure how long it would be until I could snap out of the trance. Remember to bend your knees, Raye. I held my peace and took as many deep breaths as I could manage in an effort to compose myself. I stood there scared. I wanted to fold inside of myself, if it was even possible. I was both devastated and confused. I knew I could not give the uncertainty in my mind an audience with those who chose to pay their final respects to this woman. I was stuck looking down at my own body. I was at my own funeral. Before I knew it, I was waking up to my alarm clock.

This dream stayed with me for years. The intricate beauty of the sanctuary, the fact that there were individuals in mourning present, and the fact that I walked down an aisle toward someone I knew was familiar but not sure of their identity all played a major role in how I perceived God’s whisper that said “old things are passed away, behold, all things are new.” This dream showed me that the woman I used to be had to die in order for the woman I am now to live.

Even though many years have passed since that dream, when I reflect on it now,  I am reminded of the pain that ensued from the process of divorce. I remember how many nights I spent crying and pleading with God. It was that same feeling. I was scared that I no longer had a future, or a hope, or a dream, or anything to look forward to. I was overwhelmed because I knew it was too much for me to handle on my own. Yet, I was balanced. I smiled often. I helped, often times beyond my ability. It was supernatural in how this funeral – my own funeral –  mirrored, even metaphorically, one of the deepest sources of pain I had known. This dream revealed important lessons of the dangers of housing trauma, and becoming a museum fit for the public without having healed properly from said trauma.

The individuals that were at the funeral in mourning represented two groups. The first group was those that benefited from my brokenness. They were genuinely sad that they could not take advantage of me, anymore. These are the type of people who will stick around to hear what you bequeathed without having had any real investment in you. They cried the loudest. They seemed the saddest. The second group was there to ensure mortality. They had to make sure the old me was dead, so that the me I would become would never have to rival the times or enemies of old. They tested my responses. They knew me and wanted to see me do well. So they made sure the responses I had were not equivalent to the ones in the past. I had to produce something new and different and good. The first lesson I learned from this dream was, while I may not readily recognize an individual’s face, each person serves to deliver me toward the best person I can be, whether it feels good to me or not.  

The woman in the casket was bitter and callous. She was sad and had no self-control. She did not know who she was, so her identity was often assigned to her. She welcomed defeat as an excuse to not try anything else, ever again. Her gods included: pride, lust, sorrow, sadness and disappointment. She could not help but to cling to hurt – the only constant she knew. It was easier, it seemed, to wade through consistent feelings of despair than to reach toward healing. She was me. I felt so disconnected as I looked down at her. I was so different. I was really a new creation. The second lesson I learned from this dream was, there should always be a notable difference between who I was and who I am. There should always be a marked distance between who I am and who I will be. There has to be a starting point for which we can look back on and measure growth.

I could go on forever talking about how terrible of a person I was. That’s what brokenness can sometimes do to us. When we don’t really surrender those hidden painful parts to God, they often grow bitter and end up poisoning the very root of who we are. In that dream, it was so easy for the healed version of myself to stand over this part of me that had to die and pick it apart. I almost scoffed at the corpse in the dream, “good riddance.” God allowed me to have a funeral, though. After thinking it over for a few months, I felt the funeral was God’s way of showing me the third lesson of this dream:  it is important to honor who I was, even though I was nowhere near the best version of myself. What I went through and subsequently who I became were all necessary for me to stand healed at the casket. This funeral was not a thrown together ode to a forgotten lover. It was meticulously planned and produced. The casket and sanctuary and decorations were all neatly placed with care. The music was played skillfully. This portion of the dream showed me what I already knew; but, often lost sight of – that God cares.

Each part of the dream helped me to realize that even when we die to our old self, God has a way of taking special care of the parts in our past that are not so nice. The parts that we have tucked away so deep inside us that when they are randomly remembered they unravel whatever progress we think we have made. These parts in our past have kept us up crying late nights and attempting to self soothe, self sabotage,  or self medicate. The simple truth is that He handles each part of us with care because He cares for us completely. 

 

With love until next time,

 

Jeraye B.

 

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