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Jim Buie

Beautifully stated. I like to think what you say is true, even if it might not be. I choose to believe it.

Life is a paradox that way. On the one hand, what you say is definitely true. On the other hand, as an 85-year-old friend says when he's depressed, "two weeks after someone my age goes, no one cares." He is amazed how quickly people who were once giants in his profession are forgotten. But at other times he takes a rather philosophical attitude about it, "maybe that's the way it should is for the living."

Teachers especially do not comprehend their true influence. My mother was quite modest, and occasionally depressed, by her lack of ability to influence or transform kids' lives. But she would probably be amazed that in just the last couple of weeks, I've received two letters from her former students eager to read "Teacher of Our Town". They heard about it on Facebook groups for Scotland High alumni, former Laurinburg residents and Wagram school alumni.

Bruce Johnson

You are so right about your mother and her impact, very positive, on so many people, myself among them, it goes without saying . . .

A couple of other random responses:

1) I love your expression, "I choose to believe it." I remember saying something almost identical to my one-time mentor, a St. Andrews prof friend of my parents who was an Episcopal priest who went to Princeton as a grad student @ the same time I went there as an undergrad & who kept an eye on me for my dad.

At the end of my freshman year, which was very tough indeed, I came to a conscious decision that I felt people like your mother & my father - these were the 2 specific individuals who came to mind - were not deceived in basing their lives on the premises of the Christian faith, & I told Dave (my mentor) that I "chose to believe" this, & Dave said that was exactly the right way to put it, that faith is always a CHOICE.

I think the great Pascal, a great theologian as well as mathematician, said something similar: After saying that choosing to believe is always a "gamble," he then added, "But - you HAVE to gamble. You don't have any choice about that."

2) As far as our elderly friend's comments go, well, I think that's an understandable coping mechanism, when one loses friends ... and at his age, there's way too much of that . . . I remember my father humorously checking the obits every day, to make sure he wasn't in them, & I also remember an older boss saying, half-humorously, "I always read the obituary page first, because that's where I can read about my friends."

But I think he is Wrong, Wrong, Wrong, that 2 weeks after someone goes, no one cares. I am sure that I for one will never forget him as long as I live, much less more than 2 weeks after he precedes me (assuming he doesn't live to be 140 & outlive me) & many who knew him better will remember him far more.

I think the pastor who did my father's funeral said it to us just right: "It's going to hurt - you're not going to be able to call him up any more when something special is on your mind, or after a Carolina basketball game - but he will be with you, as long as you are alive, and there is not a day that will go by on which in some way you don't call out to him, argue with him, try to come to terms with him."

As I type this I see a little card a colleague gave me when he died called "I'm there inside your heart" -

"Right now I'm in a different place,
And though we seem apart,
I'm closer than I ever was . . .
I'm there inside your heart.

I'm with you when you greet each day
And while the sun shines bright,
I'm there to share the sunsets, too . . .
I'm with you every night.

I'm with you when the times are good,
To share a laugh or two,
And if a tear should start to fall . . .
I'll still be there for you.

And when that day arrives
That we no longer are apart,
I'll smile and hold you close to me . . .
Forever in my heart."
(Copyright 2002 Abbey Press)

I thought of what you said about the departed "hovering" till after the funeral. I had a sense not only of that but of my father somehow being especially close for a year or so after he was gone. Recently I had an almost conscious sense of him communicating he is moving on to a further place & it is time in some ways for me to move on too . . .

Life is a Mystery, but we are always One if we are one with God.

Jim Buie

The poem you quote reminds me of Elizabeth Barrett Browning's poem, "How do I love thee," the last line of which is "if God choose,
I shall but love thee better after death." My mother always liked that poem. It's a very romantic and idealistic notion....though I don't quite understand how one can love better after an angel I guess.

I'm afraid I waver between romantic notions like that and Thornton Wilder's more practical sentiment that after we die, "we are loved for a time and then forgotten." It's difficult to imagine how every individual from 500 years or a thousand years ago is still floating around in the spiritual world long after they and everyone they knew has disappeared from this world. I kind of like the idea that eventually, after our individuality is forgotten by mortals, we sort of blend into the general spirit of love. As Wilder said, "But the love will have been enough; all those impulses of love return to the love that made them. Even memory is not necessary for love. There is a land of the living and a land of the dead and the bridge is love, the only survival, the only meaning."


Wow, your post makes mine look feblee. More power to you!


What a joy to find such clear tihnking. Thanks for posting!

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