By Rev. Jim Innes
More than a few years back, together with an Elder, I officiated at a funeral service at Kettle Point. His words at the graveside were memorable, "We were born from our mother's womb, and when the journey's made, we return to our mother's womb."
Images of being folded back into the earth were vivid. I foresaw the body's decay. The soil is fertilized, and the eventual growth of grass and flowers. Then the cattle and bees feed upon them, animals with life-generating purposes.
We live and die within a closed loop of systemic dependencies. Reminding me of how a wave, traveling far towards the shore, inevitably folds under and returns to total absorption in the lake out of which it was formed.
Do our souls stay in the same loop as our bodies? If you believe in having a soul, do our souls remain in that life-enhancing 'circle of life'? Or are our bodies and souls detached at death?
Tradition, at least the tradition I was raised within, suggests the body and soul have separate functions (sometimes at odds with one another) and, at death, detach and go their own way. The body is commonly seen as this leftover discarded into the ground while the soul turns into a vaporous form that rises above the earth. These ideas do make for spiritually rich poetic reflection.
However, for the sake of debate, is it too strange to envision our souls remaining as one regenerating utility that grows back into life alongside the body? The body vs. soul reasoning has become entrenched, capturing our assumptions and engaging our imaginations.
Yet the notion that the two flow as one into the eternal cycle of regeneration adds colourful flavour to the scientific fact that all creation is interconnected. It adds power for 'greening' our lives because there is now much more at stake, a deeper connection to the future of this planet. And, is it not within reason to imagine our souls remaining present as our bodies return to total absorption in life.
The importance of such reflections and questions fluctuates with age and circumstance. For example, what kind of burial do you want? What do you tell your children (and their children) about death and the hereafter? In this age of random violence, how do you cope with 'good and evil' and their connections with life's cyclical nature?
Aside from religious questions about the hereafter, many situations challenge our understanding of the body-soul relationship. To name a few; old-age dementia, medical decisions about resuscitation, moral issues regarding assisted dying, planning our parent's funeral, and how to understand and assimilate the grief over a loved one.
I have few answers regarding the truth of the matters stated in this article. However, I have come to appreciate the peaceful warmth and evolving compassion that flows with an open mind and heart toward another's view.
Judging another's perspective, especially when profoundly integrated and heartfelt, does not work. Nor does thinking that the answer for ourselves is but to be achieved except, perhaps, by learning to appreciate and trust our intuitive sensibilities.
Final question, is it fortunate that answers are never entirely achieved?
Rev. Jim Innes is the rector of St. John's, Grand Bend with St. Anne's, Port Franks.