Brushes with Eternity

Further Up Further In (1)I recently attended the memorial service of a good and Godly man. The circumstances behind his passing still linger starkly in my mind—a lingering symptom, a surprise diagnosis, a short remainder, a sudden end. But the circumstances behind his long life rang clear and true—a loving, thoughtful, and joyous soul who was devoted to his family, friends, and church, and lived fully and richly in the presence of his God until the end.

You can imagine that I’ve attended perhaps a hundred funerals, many of which I’ve had some official capacity, and some of which were acutely personal and deeply moving. And this one was one of the good ones—a bittersweet celebration of a life well lived. But there have been many other funerals as well—awkward and thorny, full of family secrets and things unspoken, so much whistling in the darkness. And as it should be, each memorial service drove me to the brink of eternity, to the deepest unanswered question, to make me once again contemplate the fragile and transitory nature of life and the meaning of it all.

No doubt about it. There’s nothing like a good funeral to recalibrate the soul.

I think it’s important to remind ourselves as artists of faith of the eternity that we have one foot upon. Because eternity doesn’t begin when we die. It began when we were reborn. Our present temporal life is the shadowed threshold of the greater reality, but make no mistake—our journey into eternity has already begun. It’s just that the constant drone of this present world lulls us into sleep walking—through our relationships, through our art making, through our lives. Sometimes it takes a memorial service to waken us all to what is important, what is real, what is True.

Suddenly Farsight the Eagle spread his wings, soared thirty or forty feet up into the air, circled round and then alighted on the ground. “Kings and Queens,” he cried, “We have all been blind. We are only beginning to see where we are. From up there I have seen it all – Ettinsmuir, Beaversdam, the Great River, and Cair Paravel still shining on the edge of the Eastern Sea. Narnia is not dead. This is Narnia.”

“The Eagle is right,” said the Lord Digory. “That was not the real Narnia. That had a beginning and an end. It was only a shadow or a copy of the real Narnia, which has always been here and always will be here: just as our own world, England and all, is only a shadow or copy of something in Aslan’s real world. All of the old Narnia that mattered, all the dear creatures, have been drawn into the real Narnia through the Door. And of course it is different; as different as a real thing is from a shadow or as waking life is from a dream.” His voice stirred everyone like a trumpet as he spoke these words.

The Last Battle, C.S. Lewis

So here’s a question I’ve been asking myself lately, and I’d like to share it with you. What artistic expression would you want shared at your memorial service? It could be a song, a film clip, a book excerpt, a painting. What artistic expression represents you and what you want to say? What is it you’d like to share on the other side of the threshold? What artistic expression invites us to brush with eternity? Please share your work or link I’ll publish it here.

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