The Soul and the Body

27 09 2011

One of the things you will read if you read about grieving the dead is that it is common for people to forget the physical characteristics of the person who has died. They are able to remember other aspects of the person, but they are unable to recall the voice or the face, for example.

I can’t say what others’ experience is, but I have not found this to be the case.

On Sunday we entered the sanctuary for worship. We found a friend from our Sunday School class and we made our way into her row. As we prepared to enter, I looked down the row of seats and noticed that a family was there with a young girl sitting next to where we would be. I knew right away this would be trouble. I did not want Timberley sitting next to her through the entire service, so I quickly stepped in front and said that I would go in first. I knew it would be trouble because it was obvious that this girl bore a striking resemblance to Anna. She was about nine years old with long, straight, blonde hair.

As I sat down I began transferring my thoughts of Anna to this little girl. I wanted to squeeze her hand. I wanted to ask her her name, wondering if might be Hannah, or Grace (Anna is the Greek form of the Hebrew name Hannah. Hannah means “grace”.) I wondered if she liked to read good books. But I also knew that anything I did like that would frighten the child and land me in trouble with the parents, so I kept my hands and my words to myself.

But then something interesting happened. I realized that this girl was not really nine. She was probably eight years old, maybe. And when I looked down at her hand, I saw her fingers, and they were not Anna’s slender fingers, with the little curve they would have when she relaxed. I noticed then, as I looked at her fingers, that they rested on a bare knee. Anna would never have her knees showing like that, I remembered. This skirt the girl is wearing is far too short to be Anna’s. Anna’s sense of modesty was so strong that when she went to school in Kentucky one semester, she wanted to wear the school skirt everyday to school because it covered her knees. She couldn’t bring herself to wear the shorts.  Then, out of the corner of my eye, I saw the clincher. This girl had pierced her ears. As glamorous as Anna was (and she was striking), I could not conceive of Anna reaching an age wear she would pierce her ears. She had this sense of her body that it was not to be violated, either by her exposing it, or by damaging it, or changing it in some way.

And so, the longer I sat there, the more I became aware that despite an initial superficial resemblance, this was not Anna. Anna was unique. As is each person. One of the great glories of God is that he has created billions of people, each one bearing his image. And yet each one unique. Each one with their own smile, with their own turn of the nose, or droop of the ear. Each one with their own way of holding the hand, or sitting in a chair.

I have heard it said that the fact that we remember more the inner character of the person rather than the physical appearance indicates that the real person, the soul of the person, is what is inside. The physical body is simply a shell containing that person. In my experience with Anna, at least, that is not the case. And I don’t think it is biblical, either, since the Bible is clear that it is not merely Anna’s spirit, or inner being, that will live with Christ, but that her physical body will be raised and she will have a new body at the resurrection. Heaven is a physical place where we will see, hear, feel, and have bodies. And Anna is hoping and waiting for that day just as we are here. Maranatha.


Long Time, No Read

22 09 2011

It has been some time since I last posted here. It seems that good intentions, as they say, . . .

We are continuing to work away here. Timberley is continuing to educate Samuel at home. He is in the ninth grade. She is supplementing what she does with many outside programs, so she is more like the principal now, having many teachers working with her to educate our son. They are both doing well. Sam is playing football again this fall in the Homeschool Football League. He is playing at the JV level again. He moved over from right guard to right tackle since he grew about four or five inches over the past year. The other change for him is that since the Wake Forest JV team got so big, they split into two teams. Because of that he has to start on offense and defense, playing defensive tackle when they don’t have the ball. If you are in Raleigh on a Saturday and want to see some good football, come to Fred Fletcher Field. The Mighty Mite games (7-10 year olds) start first, around 10 AM. The youth league plays next (10-13 year olds) and then the JV games (13-15 year olds). His game are usually around 1 PM. The varsity games are after that.

Sam is still in scouts, too. He is the patrol leader of the Cobras and is enjoying his new responsibility. This Friday night the boys in his patrol are coming to our house and camping in the backyard. Should be fun. He is a star scout and working hard towards his eagle scout rank.

We love our church, Richland Creek Community Church. Timberley and I serve in our small group there. I teach the class, and she makes sure that everything else runs well. We have a great group of friends there. It is a good place to be part of the body of Christ.

This past summer did not go quite as we had planned. Several events in Timberley’s family shook things up a little and took us up to Richmond more often than we expected, and in some cases, than we would have wanted. On the good side, her niece, Brandy Walton, got married. They asked me to do the service for them and I agreed. They had a beautiful wedding on a mountainside in the Wintergreen resort area of the Virginia mountains. Not sure a more beautiful place could have been found.

On the other hand, Timberley was called up to Richmond several times to help care for her sister, Melanie, while she was in the hospital with complications from her bout with cancer. She was finally released to hospice care and Timberley stayed there with her full time until she passed in July. It was a traumatic time for everyone involved, though certainly not unforeseen, since she had been battling this cancer for years.

One of the joys that Timberley is having now is watching the races of Melanie’s son, Ryan Peterson. He is an outstanding young runner, both as part of a champion high school cross country team, but more so individually as he competes in duathlons (biking and running) and triathlons (swimming, biking, and running). He is doing very well and should go far in this sport. I think with Melanie’s passing, it means a lot to him that his Aunt Timberley is coming to his races to cheer him on.

We continue to miss Anna. The events of this summer only served to be another reminder of our loss. And yet it was one more reminder of the hope we have in Christ. It is amazing to me how many of the songs we sing at church speak of a reality that we can only see through a glass darkly, but which Anna now sees clearly. We sing and we grieve. Things happen here and I still find myself wishing that Anna were here to enjoy them with us. And yet she is enjoying so much more. I almost said “so much than I will ever know.” But that is not true. Someday I will know it, too.