One of my (whitefellah) friends said to me the other day something akin to this, “I don’t do death; once they’re gone you let them go and that’s it. No point in being sad”. This friend doesn’t go to funerals. I decided that she was not a friend I needed to be with during my ‘sorry camp’ time. Mourning is complex and perhaps I shall be writing much more about this in the coming months.
I know several people who ‘don’t do death’. Death is much more than the person who has died. Whether you look at things from either a spiritual or a non-spiritual perspective your relationship with the deceased continues long after they have gone.
The abovementioned friend also does not believe in, “dredging through the past”.
One of my favourite (self coined) sayings is that, “the past keeps changing”. And indeed it does. How many times have you seen something that happened in your past in an entirely different and more incisive and insightful way?
When someone you knew and loved dies you may find yourself wanting to know how and why. However as I have found there are many people in mainstream ‘whitefellah’ culture who like to avoid such detail. In Aboriginal ‘sorry camps’ I have been in such matters are discussed openly in front of everyone, including small children. It is an unsaid rule that matters of such importance involve everyone.
I started a ‘secret’ group on Facebook where such details can be discussed as can the ‘viewing’ of her body after it had been duly ‘washed and blessed’ by her husband’s mother according to Islamic custom. In that group also are photos of her funeral in Pakistan and some photos and copies of the Memorial Service held here yesterday in Perth, Western Australia for her immediate family and friends. Anyone who would like to go there to pay their respects and/or concern themselves with such aforementioned details needs to email me in Facebook for an invitation.
After someone has died we can still learn much about the deceased person, ourselves and our (always) ongoing relationship with them. Our ongoing relationship with them continues as we reflect on many of the moments we shared with the deceased person and I have often heard it said that people have learned more from their dead loved ones and friends than they learned during their shared lifetime on this earthly plane. This statement reflects neither an exception nor a rule.
My exposure to my sister’s Islamic faith has been only brief so far and from what I interpret from her many Islamic friends who have been (so sadly) inundating me in Facebook since her passing are invariably saying, “We will always pray for her” is the equivalent of what I am saying here about having an ongoing relationship.
Going to someone’s funeral is a cultural given in Aboriginal culture here; it is a mark of respect and to not do so can, in many instances, be the equivalent of you yourself being dead, after which you may be duly treated as being so.
The friend alluded to earlier told me that when she has in the past quizzed her parents about them attending the funeral of someone they haven’t seen in many years their answer is that, “it is a sign on respect” (she is European). Indeed someone you may only meet for a moment can have a truly profound and everlasting impact on you and the course of your life and to me, going to their funeral is a public, respect and open acknowledgement of this.
Often people who have had an NDE (near death experience) return vowing that the experience has changed their perspective of life irrevocably.
My sister Dina spent her last day on this Earth comforting a dear friend whose father had just died and she sent him a pasted text written by the World Assembly of Muslim Youth on the question of life after death. If you are interested in their dissertation on such matters this can also be read in the aforementioned Group on Facebook.
This article is not addressing the question of whether or not there is an afterlife; it is dealing with the irrefutable fact that your relationship with someone who has died is an inevitable and ongoing part of your own earthly existence being that your view of your ‘past will forever be in flux and changing’.
Let’s, as her Islamic family and friends ask “keep Dina forever in our prayers”.
Keep posted (from Jaahda in ‘Sorry camp).
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