This morning I attended the memorial service for a dear woman whom I met on our first day in this county in which I still live. For some years our husbands were in leadership together in church, and in spite of a notable age difference we couples remained good friends for the whole 49 years leading up to now, when neither couple remains as a couple earthbound.
Many of the people whom I saw today, I hadn’t seen in more than twenty years, back when we were in the same homeschooling community. In some cases, it took a few seconds for us to recognize each other’s faces that were so familiar, though mysteriously strange at the same time.
As I was driving to the event I began to feel the weight of the accumulation of changes among all of us, especially the losses. After decades of living, we have racked up disappointments, heartaches and traumas. The days we lived back then, whether happy or sad, are not to be lived again. The “loss” of my friend Martha seemed to my melancholic mind a sort of culmination.
But once I arrived it was impossible to retain that melancholy; Martha’s love for God and for us continues to encourage us. Everyone I talked to knows “that all things work together for the good of those who love God: those who are called according to His purpose.” (Romans 8:28) Even the ones among us for whom heartaches are fresh and ongoing spoke of this truth, and of the increases in grace and mercies they have known, and of their Blessed Hope. The last hymn we sang together was “When We All Get to Heaven.”
It’s only been two years since I first posted the poem below, but I wanted it again today. Of course Martha is not a loss. She is one of whom Christ said, “I am the resurrection and the life. He who believes in Me, though he may die, he shall live.” And as for those heartaches, etc. — it’s not over till it’s over.
One thing does not exist: Oblivion.
God saves the metal and he saves the dross.
And his prophetic memory guards from loss
The moons to come, and those of evenings gone.
Everything in the shadows in the glass
Which, in between the day’s two twilights, you
Have scattered by the thousands, or shall strew
Henceforward in the mirrors that you pass.
And everything is part of that diverse
Crystalline memory, the universe;
Whoever through its endless mazes wanders
Hears door on door click shut behind his stride,
And only from the sunset’s farther side
Shall view at last the Archetypes and the Splendors.
-Jorge Luis Borges
translated by Richard Wilbur
11 thoughts on “I hear the doors clicking shut.”
How precious to attend the memorial service for a dear friend from days ( years) past. To see many familiar faces and reminisce. I wonder how many had tears on their cheeks as they sang that last hymn.
Every time a dear friend or close acquaintance leaves us, I wonder about our mortality and am made aware that after a certain age we must surely be living on ‘borrowed time’ so must make the most of our opportunity to love and be kind. I empathise with your loss and feel grateful on your part that you felt better after the service than the melancholy you experienced before.
I loved everything about this post–the consolation of the service for your old friend, the photo of days gone by (like many I have down to the guitars) and especially the wonderful poem, so special. Memory eternal to Martha.
The best memorials/funerals are the ones that leave us with joy for those lost and the glorious times shared, the memories of dear friends and the happiness of friendship. I’m glad you could experience this, despite the loss.
I loved your insight and your tone. Beautiful words. May her memory be eternal and her name among the angels! 🙏
Every time I read this poem, it seems more wonderful: more true, and more hopeful. It’s especially fitting here, as a part of your tribute to your friend and to the community you shared.
Your use of the word ‘earthbound’ brought to mind a song I dearly love: one that might well serve at any memorial service, and that sends melancholy on its way in a flash.
That song says it all! You are right, no melancholy allowed. Thank you, Linda.
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I heard someone say this week that she does not fear death but she fears loss. I would agree that loss is harder for me to deal with than the idea of my eventual death. We aren’t very good in our culture in dealing with loss, I think.
What a beautiful and felicitous tribute, the mingling of sorrow and joy. May the Memory of Martha be Eternal!
I’m so thankful for the hope we have in Jesus. I’m amazed at how quickly our earthly years pass! We have so much to look forward to because of Him! 🙂
Whole-heartedly concur with Lisa’s comment above. With the frequency of memorial services lately, I, too, have experienced a bit of your reminiscing with long time friends. What a hope we have to come.
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