All this for one person. All these logistics, ceremony, care, dignity. All these people together from all over to remember and bury one man. I remember thinking this as we stood around my grampa’s grave on a sunny day in May. I was in awe.
Just like you ooooh and awwww over news about a friend being pregnant, and wait excitedly as the due date comes closer, and then smile and cheer when you hear the name, and when you get a chance, smell the peach-fuzz hair and kiss the round cheeks. It’s one little person, just one little body, but it elicits endless love and care and excitement.
At birth and then at death, we especially acknowledge and celebrate the physicality of a person. The body is treasured, caressed, washed, dressed with huge attention to details. It happens in sickness too. Doctors and nurses work with skill and finesse to coax health back into a broken frame.
The body matters. Bodies matter.
I saw it when I watched Mandela’s state funeral and the ceremony and dignity it carried. I think of it now while my relatives are gathering to bury my grandma and they will not only talk about her character but also her small form and her blue eyes. They will carry the coffin carefully and gently cover it with earth. Tangible things that help us process the intangible.
In some cultures, for whatever shattering reasons, life and physicality isn’t valued, but I know it is not how we were designed to live. I know this because Jesus, very God, lived in a body and thus gave physicality dignity and significance. With the incarnation, He demonstrated the deep spiritual truths of redemption, showing how much God esteems the physical. He knows our frame, He remembers we are dust. That we are dust doesn’t diminish our value; maybe it endears us to Him more.
It seems natural, even instinctive, to touch and celebrate the body in birth, sickness, and death. What if
we I would pay more attention to the walking, breathing, talking frames of dust around me? If I would treasure them as they deserve, respect their dignity, and celebrate their skin and hair and voices?