A Time to Set Aside Your Beliefs

The card we were handed at the wake. I removed her last name as it is not relevant.

Our neighbor and friend Columba died a few days ago and today we went to her wake. She was born in 1939 in Sinaloa, Mexico and was extremely religious. We weren’t close friends but we talked often as she lived directly across the street. When her husband died two years ago I found homes for his dogs, which Columba felt she could not care for.

Her granddaughter told me the news. The memorial was held here in Bisbee, then she will be taken to Mexico for burial. The Mexican custom is to stay with the body until burial. She lay in an open white casket, her body covered with an Our Lady of Guadalupe blanket and a rosary wrapped around her hands. The casket had small oval Our Lady of Guadalupe insets all around it.

We were two of a handful of white people there and didn’t know anyone except her immediate family. The service consisted of readings from the Bible and the customary Christian eulogy. The priest asked for “audience participation” as he read traditional psalms.

There was no laughter at this wake. Columba’s family is large and grief filled the room. She was a tiny, frail, sweet woman. The family displayed pictures of her life and she was incredibly beautiful when she was young.

Although I am an atheist, I was not uncomfortable today. I did not participate in the responses the priest asked for, but this is not a time to share your opposing convictions.

Inside of card:

Te fuiste de este mundo, dejando un gran vacio en nuestro corazones y un gran silencio en aquel que fue tu hogar. Si tu estuvieras aqui, notarias cuan grande es nuestro dolor, al no tenerte aqui, entre nosotros, ¿Sabes como te extranamos? Ha pasado poco tiempo desde que nos dejaste, Para ya nunca mas regresar a aquel que fue tu hogar, en donde tenias todo el amor de tus hijos y nietos. Pero Dios te llevo de este mundo siendo tan buena para tenerte a su lado, te adelantastes en el camino se que desde alli, tu nos miras y tambien nos esperaras hasta que nosotros, tu familia nos volveremos a unir nuevamente para ser feliz nuevamente junto a ti: “Con todo nuestro amor nana Columba”


15 responses to “A Time to Set Aside Your Beliefs

  1. Very touching post….at times like this, it’s not about any supposed “opposing views”, it’s really about honoring a life.

    • Yes, and respecting the bereaved. When I was young I dreaded funerals, and of course we all do even as grownups. But I understand now that once you don’t go, you can’t take it back.

      Thank you for writing Harry.

  2. Your outstanding care for all living things is perhaps your religion Debra and it shines through in this short narrative. That you showed another human such respect is what other “religions” try to teach. So, no matter what you’re way ahead of the game as I see it.

    Getting to know you through your writing is a real treat. I’m very lucky to have made your acquaintance. I was thinking the other day about your economic struggles and realized that although this was a burden you were rich in so many other ways. I think you know that, but sometimes its nice to hear it from someone else.

    • Thanks Bill…I don’t feel rich though, I feel kind of lost and have many questions.

      I think seeing the distress of grief is heartbreaking for most humans to watch, unless there’s something missing in you, which obviously is rampant in these violent times. Expanding on this, I think of doing the right thing as sort of an obligation, it doesn’t even matter if you like them personally. (Not as in this case of course.) By not being the person who was a bitch to someone for no good reason or the person who didn’t come through or the person with a million excuses, you might prevent a spark that could cause somebody to lash out later and cause more misery which we all have enough of already.

      Thanks so much for your comments.

  3. tenderly and calmly told

  4. Just the facts, J Leo. Thanks for writing.

  5. Thank you for demonstrating compassion and tolerance in the best sense in honor of this woman and her family. Your description is very gentle here. 🙂

  6. I never was nor will I ever be a big fan of going to funerals. If I could get out of going to my own I would.
    That said I have fond memories of funerals, especially those that put the persons life into perspective. Done so by the stories of families and friends, then put into perspective by a well articulated eulogy by the presiding clergy or just a friend. Yes there is grief. Yes they can be beautiful. The celebration of once life , what could be better. I have often thought it would be nice if a movie were made of each of our lives an shown upon our passing. I think we would have a better understanding of others if we had an insight into ‘what is to be me’. A far fetched thought indeed.

    You showed Columba reverence by way of this. A gesture of respect that you have previously done for people who moved you in some way. They are part of your life and you acknowledge them here and will continue I suspect.

  7. I think we go for the bereaved because I don’t believe the person who died knows or cares. The part that really touches me is how much it means to the family to know you cared enough to come. They thanked me over and over and it made me cry.

    Very different from the funeral we went to last year of a local man who led a completely different life. It was like the ones you mention, where friends got up and recalled amusing stories of his life. They were grieving too of course, in a different way.

    Maybe our writings can be our “movies.” I wish all older people would write about their lives so their experiences do not die with them. The fact that I know so little about my own parents’ lives will haunt me forever. My fault for not asking soon enough, but I was young.

    Thanks for your comments Mr. Howl.

    • I always thought the film Out of Africa was such a powerhouse of a film because it detailed a person’s life from beginning to end. Entertwined with all that one endures and experiences in life.
      The thing about writing about our own lives, we only leak out certain aspects. My fancy was more a third person approach, but not a sterile autobiography. Just a whimsical thought, but imagine -I think the world would be a better place if we understood the person behind the individual. You’re right though, writing can and is our movie.

  8. Some of my best friends are atheists. 🙂 One thing I have discovered about those who don’t necessarily subscribe to a belief in a Deity is that they are pointedly conscious of the value of who we are right now and what we do here and now. I am sorry to hear of the loss of your friend. She sounds like an amazing lady. Though many of us (me included) may believe that she lives on in a better realm, the world here and now is poorer for her passing. Funerals are for the living- to celebrate, and to mourn the life that has passed. Her relatives I am sure appreciated your presence and support in their time of grief.

  9. Yes, a time to set aside beliefs and pay respects. Artfully and wisely written, Debra. Ofttimes there will be a notice that the family will be at the funeral home at such and such a time. Rather than go to the religious mummery-stuff, Brenda and I will go to the funeral home and see the family. Good enough.

  10. One can be respectful without participating.

    We (atheists ourselves) have good friends who are unusual Christians—he is a Baptist and She is a Roman Catholic (before you ask, every Sunday, but they alternate). Whenever at their place for dinner etc we’d bow our heads for the Grace, and in our home we’d invite them to do the honours. Never a problem.

    I only have a grief with militant or otherwise wildly enthusiastic recruiters for their brand; here mostly Christian.

    And I have some beautiful ‘sacred’ music/vocals on my hard-drive—I’ve been to too many funerals, ‘The Day Thou Gavest Lord Has Ended’ just chokes me up.

    • I have Christian friends and customers too. It’s terrible that Christian fanatics are the ones who get the attention when there are many churches here who really do help their communities. I think many (most?) average Christians are misrepresented, they are not on anti-abortion picket lines, for example. Christians are really taking a beating—both physically in the Mideast and politically here, with Islam and atheism the fastest-growing ‘religions’ (for lack of better word) in the world.

      I think saying grace is a wonderful tradition, especially when sitting down to eat an animal. No need to mention the Lord, just your thanks.

      OMG Amazing Grace does that to me.

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