The Gift of Death: “Since You Left”


Oakwood Memorial Gardens, a graveyard, has become a familiar place. I have come to understand this: Graveyards are symbols of reflection that allow tears brought on by the recognition of loss to fall gently onto dirt. Graveyards are morning places. Ironically, they are like sunlight. They pour into memory the need for defined purpose.

On this May morning of 2016, funerals anoint my memory: I understand on this May morning that death is a gift to the living; it initiates the funeral experience. Mentally, I travel into a church.

I SEE: Standing before a crowd of mourners is BeBe Winans of the spiritually guided singing family. He is sharing story about his long time family relationship with Whitney Houston.

“ So family is here today,” Bebe Winans says as he prepares to sing “Since You Left,” a song written initially for his brother Ronald Winans who passed away at 48. His tribute: “With tears on my pillow, refusing to let go when I heard you left here . . . but in time I’ll see you later.”

That is what funerals do—they remind of us, “family is here,” and that, indeed, we will miss the voices, the smiles, and even the frowns of those who leave the living to walk the planet.

Death is also a reminder; it parades stories and history. And yet like a friend who has not been tutored in correct behavior, it freely enters human conversations and relationships at the most inconvenient times. Death: It stops the jaunty dance of the living—dead.

I SEE “Family is Here.” I visit the cemetery on the campus of Oakwood University often. My mother is buried there. I think of my father as I stand beside my mother’s headstone. In Pennsylvania, my dad rests with the military men who serve. Memory is the friendship that helps me tolerate their deaths.

I SEE: Death ushers me into the recognition of my own mortality and the blessing of “family” who call on me to know purpose. It reminds me also that maybe a meaning of the purpose of my life is found in continuing the contributions of those resting souls who made sure I could whisper on my pillow words of connected affirmation: “So here is family.”

May all who are sadden by the death of “family,” please find comfort in memory.

Many Alabama Hugs and Blessings!


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