Is there freedom in death ? Not for the person who dies but for the person who lives.
I vividly remember a student in my 4th grade class more about 15 years ago. This student was a sad, sad girl. It always seemed as though she carried her sadness way down on the inside and only used her half of a smile to camouflage something untouchable. Even in her laughter on the playground, or when constructing some fabulous building in the block area with cantilevers and everything, this student was weighed down by something. Perhaps not by anything tangible– just a weight light as air and heavy as water which seemed to be everywhere and nowhere in her soul.
She wore dark colors, long hair always out and straight down her back, usually not combed (she would tuck it behind her ear throughout the day). She was friendly and worked hard and was (can I still say this word?- smart). really smart. I remember riding bikes in the neighborhood park one sunny day and her mom rode up to me on her bike and asked me to please take care of her daughter. I remember thinking that this was the first time that I had seen both the mother and daughter happy in a way that you just cannot fake.
A few days later, the mother committed suicide (hanged herself in her bathroom). I don’t remember if the daughter was the one to find her but I do remember the preparations to sit Shiva. Yes, there was crying and disbelief and numbness which lasted as it should.
However, I clearly remember the day when I noticed that the student started to wear bright colors and laugh a hearty, lively laugh from deep down in her gut and I couldn’t help but think if she found freedom in death. It is a horrible thing to say, to write, to even think but I tell you, the little girl no more than 7 or 8 began to transform right in front of me. Was something released with the passing of her mother? Is that even possible? Did she begin to experience a sense of normalcy without her mother? (My hand are trembling and my heart is beating fast as I even dare write this).
I’ve thought a lot lately about a dear friend of mine who recently lost her father. He had medical challenges, as well as Alzheimer’s. This friend, my sister is an amazingly mature soul with a strong sense of self and selflessness. She is the nucleus of a family with a husband and two children (plus a nephew that she is raising) who were all adept at locking the cabinets and the refrigerator and even parts of the house. I watched her juggle her work schedule since someone had to be with her father at all times. She came to work, did her job expertly, smiled with a slight reserve that you’d only know about if she decided to let you know that she spent the better part of her life caring for and worrying about her father. In fact, she came to meetings as her activist self; strong, determined, focused and calm but with a great worry that she carried under her professionalism and her harried, complicated schedule of caring for her father.
Now he is dead. Will she experience some type of freedom in his death? Am I just being naive and saying things that should not be said or thought about. Of course, he is her father and she loves him deeply but I wonder what life will be like for her now. The African priestess who wore white for a whole year as the embodiment of her beliefs and connection to a higher power. Will she experience some sort of freedom in death? Is this even possible?