A Christian Science perspective.
My grandmother and I were quite close and had many interests in common. She was very cheerful, and I always felt loved when we were together. When my grandmother passed on, I was very sad to think that our good times were over.
One thing gave me some comfort, though – a collection of African violets we had cultivated together. Having them felt a little like having her still with me.
Around this time, I was beginning to discover that there was more to life than what appears on the surface of things. I was reading a book by Mary Baker Eddy, the founder of the Monitor. Her book “Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures” explains that existence is spiritual. The reasoning in the book appealed to me, especially this explanation of identity: “Spirit is God, and man is His image and likeness. Therefore man is not material; he is spiritual” (p. 468).
Could it be that a person’s true identity extends beyond his or her physical characteristics? If we are each made in the likeness of limitless Spirit, God, this must be the case. This made sense to me in terms of friendships. When I’m with a friend, I perceive many aspects of the person that transcend the body, qualities such as good humor, courage, and kindness. And when I’m alone and that friend comes to thought, I recognize him or her by these qualities. I might even feel the warmth of that friend’s approval in the same way I feel it when we’re together. But I hadn’t yet extended this reasoning to those no longer with us.
Then, soon after my grandmother passed on, my husband and I moved. I carefully placed the violets on the back shelf of the car for the trip. But when we arrived at the new apartment, it took us longer than expected to unload them. In the interim, the sun came bearing down through the window, and the violets were severely damaged. When I saw them, I was overcome with grief. It seemed to me that now my grandmother was gone forever.
My father-in-law was helping us with the move, and was surprised by my uncontrollable grief. He could tell I needed help, so he found a quiet place where he could pray, while my husband stayed with me. I knew that my father-in-law regularly read Science and Health and used the ideas in it, along with those in the Bible, to heal others through prayer, so it didn’t surprise me when he went off to pray.
Soon I began to feel calm again. Then I realized that the ideas I’d been thinking about from Science and Health could be applied to the grief I was feeling. It dawned on me that I couldn’t lose the love I’d enjoyed with my grandmother, because that love wasn’t limited to her physical presence. It was an expression of God’s love and could never be lost since God, the source of it, was always present, manifesting love. Together, my grandmother and I were reflecting divine Love, which didn’t start with us or end now that we were physically apart.
I was very grateful to know that all the love and joy we’d shared would be with me forever, alive in my thought. It had never been contained in the violets – or even in my grandmother. I could truly feel, and still do feel, that my delightful grandmother is right with me, continuing to give me an example of how to be happy, how to love others, and how to enjoy all of the beauty in life. I don’t mean this in an otherworldly way, like hearing voices or seeing apparitions. Rather, in a very real and tangible way, I feel the same complete love I felt when she was with me in person.
The incident with the violets turned out to be a blessing. It allowed me to let go of my limited, physical sense of my grandmother and discover her eternal, spiritual nature – those vibrant qualities of happiness, love, and beauty that continue for all time. In fact, I felt so free of sadness that when I took another look at the violets, it occurred to me that I could do what my grandmother would have done – cut off the few leaves that hadn’t been damaged, let them take root in a cup of water, and start new plants. I did just that, and enjoyed those new plants. But I no longer saw them as a physical link to my grandmother. Now I understood that her beautiful character was far too unlimited and grand to be contained in anything physical.
For a Spanish translation of this article, see The Herald of Christian Science.