There is a line in a hymn, I think it’s sung at funerals or as they’re called in the Catholic church, Mass of Christian Burial. It goes, “from death into life.”
I began attending this celebration of life by accident in one of my early days of attending Mass. I was there, and I couldn’t leave without drawing unnecessary attention to myself, so I remained, hidden in plain sight, in one of the back pews, wishing I was invisible, feeling as though I didn’t belong in such an intimate family gathering. I was, however, wrong – this mass invites the community members, the congregation; to be in communion with the family, to send their loved one on their next journey. I followed the program, I sang along, I prayed, and I found something in that service. I think my first funeral service was for a woman named Dottie. I still have her program in my church papers that I’ve collected and saved.
After that first time, I continued to go to the Rite of Christian Burial when it occurred during the daily mass time. I almost never knew until I arrived at church, and after one or two more, I found great comfort in this Mass.
But I still didn’t get it – that death into life bit.
I could never understand that phrase. How can you go from death into life?
It wasn’t until after my spiritual conversion, and after passing this tree, always on my way to my writing workshop.
On the way to the library, I passed the church adjacent to this tree, and the cemetery that surrounds this tree, and one spring day it was gloriously sunny and bright, and the green leaves had sprouted and grown.
I could see them bright against the white of the siding on the church building; this delicate new growth rising from the fallen tree, its life long thought buried and gone.
This was when I could grasp death into life, life from death, the infinite from finite, everlasting life from our journey on earth.
Now, when I sing the hymn, I picture this tree when I sing death into life.