The bittersweet death we are to die

The liturgical colour of Advent has historically been purple, although some churches later changed this to a royal blue, fit for Jesus as king of the new kingdom. Purple, however, is the colour of mourning. This always struck me as somewhat strange while I went to church. Is Christmas not the time we celebrate the birth of new life, instead of death?

Yet it makes sense, if you consider the heathen pedigree of our Christmas celebrations. The sun wanes, the last leaves fall and rot. Another year has gone by and even though we know the sun will shine once more, it will shine on new leaves and a different year. On the smallest scale we may mourn words unsaid and plans that fell through. Things done, cannot be undone. Not in this year, although we might be granted a fresh start the year after.

The passing of a year is all the more poignant for those of us who mourn a loved and lost one. When my mother died, I remembered dreading the time when the first Christmas crept up on us.  She had died early in the new year, in January. At a glance, I guess we were doing fine, and I did not really miss her more in December than at any other given time. She still felt near, all around us, but when the year would come to pass, I knew I would have to leave her there, in 1993 A.D. That is as far as she would walk along in my existence. I had already met new people, I grew, and the temporal rift between me and one that I still attempted to communicate with, grew with every day. I did not want to leave her behind, in the realm of the past. The years may turn again and again, but move invisibly forward, never back. There would be a time, when the clothes she wore would look funny, the books she read outdated. She would be lost to me.

Our lives are all the more precious, precisely because of our certain deaths. The purple that shrouded advent in church, ominously speaks of the rough death Jesus was to die. Not all of us have to die such violent, untimely deaths. But every arrival into the world of a sweet little baby, must necessarily mean the birth of new pain, a new death.

Maybe we do live on in some form of afterlife, or even reincarnate, the God will know. But even if this holds true, our human death marks the end of a very unique life. A life we shared with other unique beings, in a singular time and place. It will never return.

Death is a harsh discipline, thinking about death makes it impossible to think of purely frivolous affairs, only the essential lights up in its gaze. I have often heard the concept of death gives people a sense of powerlessness and futility. I understand that, but I try to avoid feeling this way. I would rather see death, in my more courageous moments, as a warning to make the most of the time we have. The shadow that hovers over our lives sets the stage for necessary action.


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