Remembering My Grandmother
Reflections on Immortality
Inspired by Matt MacArthur's Dear Grandma
Dear Grandma - A Digital Story by Matt MacArthur
When our grandmothers die, we miss them. And yet, strangely, even in their absence they are present. Even as they've passed on to another place, they've passed in to our hearts.
In process theology this passing in is called objective immortality. Our grandmothers are immortal in our hearts through our memories of them, conscious and unconscious. They are also immortal in the lessons we learn from them. As we act upon what they have taught is in word and deed, they are re-embodied in our lives. Their wisdom becomes our wisdom, their kindness our kindness, their humor our humor, their courage our courage. They are remembered and re-membered. Our lives become their bodies.
There's more. Process theology proposes that our grandmothers are also immortal in God's heart, even more deeply and intimately than in our own. God doesn't have a physical body, save our own, but God has a mental body -- an internal landscape -- and our grandmothers are, as it were, tattooed into God's heart. Moreover, in God the memories never fade. All yesterdays are today; no moments are left behind; no tattoos are removed, even as new ones are continuously added. God is the Deep Memory in which all living beings are saved from being forgotten by becoming part of God's body.
And even that is not the whole of it. Some process thinkers believe that our grandmothers continue in a journey of their own, even after they die, until they find the peace they seek, the peace of God's peace. Not only the grandmothers, but the grandfathers, too. And the mothers and fathers, the brothers and sisters, the grandchildren and beyond. Somehow all people -- indeed all living beings -- find their way into the house of peace. Animals, too. Maybe plants as well. Whatever has a life of its own.
The universe is probably much more enchanted than we imagine. Much more. There is nothing in process theology that precludes this magnanimous hope; and there's lots to commend it. Evil is real, sadness is real, loss is real -- but it's not the whole story. There's also the beauty.
Passing on is passing in.
Death is not so much "passing on" as it is "passing in." Our loved one relocates inside the heart of our heart, there to abide forever. They live in us and through us every moment of our lives. They are, in the words of the Sages, "bound up in the bond of life."
In fact, if we allow for degrees of relevance and negligible relevance, we must say that every actual entity is present in every other actual entity.
Our relationships with loved ones can improve after death.
When our loved ones die, our relationships continue, maybe even on both sides. We remember them and re-remember them, again and again, not only in how we think about them, but also in the things that we do that we learned from them. The memories can be painful or pleasant, but they are part of what make us us. We remember their pains, their struggles, their wisdom, their beauty. With their help, our souls can become wider and gentler.
God is the Deep Remembering in whose heart all stories are saved.
The High Holy Day Prayerbook refers to God as Zokher Ha-Nishkachot, the One who remembers what is forgotten.
He saves the world as it passes into the immediacy of his own life.
In God, nothing is partial, nothing is past, nothing is lost. Every act is experienced and felt and integrated into God’s own “concrescence” or self creation. In this way we touch God with our kindness, enlivening the divine life with joy. Given God’s intimate participation in the creation of the doll, God is then able to offer a novel possibility (the “initial aim”) for the next unfolding experience within the natural limitations of the world. In other words, every act of kindness opens up fresh possibilities for the future that may not have been there before.
Our actions are our legacies.
In the process world, every unfolding moment in time is immortal. That means that our tiniest acts, our humblest creations influence the world—not just now, but forever.
Sometimes our grandmothers return to us in our memories and dreams in kindly ways.
"Me-Chayeh Ha-Metim, Who Revives the Dead." These words of blessing are recited when we are reunited with a loved one after a long absence. A visiting friend, a returning child, a beloved parent or relative - their presence is an act of resurrection, as our slumbering souls awaken again to life. May this season be one of many little resurrections as the sparks of our love, scattered so widely, find their way back into our hearts.
The final resurrection is every moment, as the love of the world passes into heaven.
It is as true to say that the World is immanent in God as it is that God is immanent within the World.
What is done in the world is transformed into a reality in heaven and the reality in heaven passes back into the world. God is the great companion -- the fellow sufferer who understands.
It is possible that these acts give delight to the very One in whom we live and move and have our being. It is possible that, through our own acts of lovingkindness, some tears in heaven are wiped away. Not the memories, but the tears. Wherever you go, says the God of becoming and relationship, I will be there. In these bold acts of love, where we pick up the pieces of our lives, remember our loved ones, and step forward into mystery, we say to God: "And we will be there, too."
Maybe in the final resurrection we will meet our loved ones again, and hug them, and have a cup of tea.
Divine consciousness would be multifaceted, embracing the consciousnesses of every reality that had included this as its subjective form. Through this incorporation into God’s consciousness of the divine concrescence, the prehended subject would participate in God’s transformation of its suffering....If the conscious immediacy of the subject is fully retained in God, this constitutes subjective, not objective, immortality. It remains, then, to go beyond this simple retention to show how the occasion in God, now as a part of God, participates experientially in the whole. There may yet be a balm in Gilead.
In anticipating the future, we experience our own immortality.
In this sense, the future has objective reality in the present, but no formal actuality. For it is inherent in the constitution of the immediate, present actual entity that a future will supersede it...Thus each actual entity really experiences a future which must be actual, although the completed actualities of that future are undetermined. In this sense each actual occasion experiences its own objective immortality.
They will soar on wings like eagles.
Do you not know? Have you not heard? The Lord is the everlasting God, the Creator of the ends of the earth. He will not grow tired or weary, and his understanding no one can fathom. He gives strength to the weary and increases the power of the weak. Even youths grow tired and weary, and young men stumble and fall; but those who hope in the Lord will renew their strength. They will soar on wings like eagles; they will run and not grow weary, they will walk and not be faint.