Recently one of my dear friends and a colleague in counselling passed away. I was asked to lead the service for his funeral, which was very challenging but also a great privilege. To say good bye to a loved one is very sad, and yet in this case my friend was spared much future suffering, which was something to be grateful for. Best of all was the sense that he was safe in the arms of God, with whom he had walked faithfully through all of the journey of his life. We reflected on his life story, which was truly an uplifting testimony, and we acknowledged the ending of this part of his life, with total assurance of a blessed eternal life ahead.
This experience caused me to reflect, yet again, about beginnings and endings; how central they are to our lives, how formative and transformative. How we manage endings is so crucial, whether that be the end of a project, a job, relationship, a life, or even a book. If we have celebrated the good and grieved the loss, learned the lessons, and prepared for the future, we can make a healthy and often exciting new beginning. There is much to be taken away with us if we are clear about what we are leaving behind, what’s been accomplished, healed, gained. If we’ve been transformed in some way by our past experience, be it a good experience or a painful one, then we are better prepared for the future. Someone has said ‘there are no failures, just learning experiences.’ But that may be too simplistic a view and may allow us to avoid necessary repentance and grief.
I prefer the ideas of one of my favourite writers/speakers, Richard Rohr, who writes much about transformative suffering, about dying to self and resurrection to new life. “The genius of Jesus’ ministry is that He reveals that God uses tragedy, suffering, pain, betrayal and death itself, not to wound you, but in fact to bring you to God. So there are no dead ends. Everything can be transformative. The cross is always unto resurrection. Transformed people transform people.” Scripture refers often to these ideas, such as in Matthew 16: ‘Anyone who wants to save life, must lose it. Anyone who loses his life for Me will find it.’ And John 12. ‘Unless a kernel of wheat falls to the ground and dies, it remains only a single seed. But if it dies, it produces many seeds.’This idea is also expressed in these lines from R.T Brissenden’s poem describing the propagation of some Australian native plants:
'The seedcase must be scorched before it cracks;
More than the rain it needs the bushfire’s heat.
But with the spring the flowers burst honeysweet.
And once the taproot stirs it can split rocks.’
These are not easy concepts to welcome into our lives. Most of us probably hold on to good things beyond what is healthy and find it hard to let go when it is necessary, even if we know something good or even better is beyond the ending. What we know is easier to control, more comforting, less challenging or frightening that the unknown, the new. Surrendering to endings, cherishing new life, embracing transformation, is a challenge for us all, but surely our Christian calling, and what will lead us to our most precious and glorious destinations.
On a lighter note, I can’t finish without reflecting on what all this means as a writer. Do my stories leave people with something new to take away; a challenge, an inspiration, something that might transform their lives in some way? When readers come to the end of my books, are they sad to say goodbye to my characters, but going away with seeds of new life? If so, I’ll feel like I’ve made a worthwhile contribution.
Richard Rohr is generous enough to allow pieces from his writings to be emailed out as daily meditations free of charge for anyone interested, from the Centre for Action and Contemplation. https://cac.org/
Carol writes historical novels based on her family ancestry in Australia and include the Turning the Tide series; Mary’s Guardian, Charlotte’s Angel, Tangled Secrets and Truly Free. Her earlier novels Suzannah’s Gold and Rebecca’s Dream have been re-released by EBP. You can see more about Carol and her novels on her website or her FB author page.