Stephen Mitchell on Death and trust in God

Sorrow at the death of our loved ones is, of course, a natural human response. Who among us, if our child had died, wouldn’t give anything on earth to have her brought back to life? And yet, when we take even a small step outside our self, we can recognize this desire as a subtle form of obtuseness, and as a way of not honoring the integrity of the child’s life. Rilke said, of those who died young:

“What they want from me is that I gently remove the appearance of injustice about their death – which at times slightly hinders their souls from proceeding onward.

Of course, it is strange to inhabit the earth no longer, to give up customs one barely had time to learn, not to see roses and other promising Things it terms of a human future; no longer to be what one was in infinitely anxious hands; to leave even one’s own first name behind, forgetting it as easily as a child abandons a broken toy. Strange to no longer desire one’s desires. Strange to see meanings that clung together ones, floating away in every direction. And being dead is hard work and full of retrieval before one can gradually feel a trace of eternity.”

(The First Elegy,” The Selected Poetry of Rainer Maria Rilke, pp. 153-55)

It is possible to grieve for a child’s death with all your heart and at the same time to realize that everything is as it should be. The word according to God, the word that includes death, is far more beautiful that the word according to our desire. What we must constantly keep learning is not to interfere – to receive, to accept, to trust the supreme intelligence of the universe (I am what I am).

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