The Green After

Today I have too many friends who are dying. Sometimes at a memorial service I feel dissatisfied, and I’m the preacher in charge. I realize I can’t figure out how to preach my view of resurrection. I know that people would want to hear it, I’m not worried about offending or confusing anyone. I treasure the ability to speak the plain truth as I see it. The plain truth is no one knows for sure what happens when we die. That’s not a very stirring thing to proclaim at a funeral, though, honest as it is. We all have some kind of belief about it, even if that belief is that there is nothing after we die. The reason I haven’t preached it yet is because when I call to mind my belief about the afterlife, it comes to me as a color.

At a camping weekend with friends, we were nestled in a clearing on a mountainside. Most of the folks were around the campfire, talking or dozing. Our chef was in the cooking tent grilling and gossiping with his fiancée and a couple of others. He wasn’t wearing his high heels that day. He does sometimes, but only on camping weekends. I love those people, and they love me. Being surrounded by love is one fine way to spend time. I wandered off to the hammock and lay there looking up at the sky through early April leaves. I was soaked with light, the blue of the sky, the green of young leaves, the sun shining through them like stained glass.

I thought, “When I die, I want to have my ashes buried under this tree, so that for one spring after another my body can be part of this particular green.”

I could feel my life flowing through the cells of a leaf, feel the leaf opening to the warmth and the light, feel myself part of that green, and I was happy. If that is my afterlife, I will be deeply happy.

The hope of that afterlife doesn’t take any leap of faith. I know it can happen. The minerals and the water in my body can be soaked up through the roots of that tree. A part of my body will unfurl, green in the sun.

My soul may be somewhere else. Sometimes I think my soul will float in an ocean of love. Will I recognize old friends, family who have gone on ahead? I don’t know. I think I will know they are there. I will know this: There is not now nor was there ever any separation between us. I will know that they were with me the whole time, as strongly when I was alive as when I’m part of the leaves.

The green of a new leaf, lit from behind with the spring sun, stays inside me, a glowing place of peace, the certainty that I will always be part of life. During a memorial service I see that green, I feel that peace. It’s hard to preach a color, but I’m going to think of a way.

Kids on a swing, hanging from a mighty oak tree.

Did I Say That Out Loud?

By Meg Barnhouse

From Skinner House Books

Wit, wisdom, and hope from the minister in Spartanburg, South Carolina.

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