Catholic funeral rites invite us always to rest upon the mercy and promises of God. But the prayers also remind us that resting in God does not excuse us from spiritually preparing ourselves for death. Crossing that dark portal of death will be the gravest trial and crisis that any of us will ever face. How important it is to come to that moment with spirits that have been purified and strengthened by grace and hearts that are firmly yoked to Jesus so that He can shepherd us safely through that dark valley.
I share with you below a poem written by Emily Dickinson called, “I heard a Fly buzz – when I died.” The speaker tells of the moment of her own death. We read of a great stillness in the room – yet it is a stillness like that of an eerie lull in the midst of a storm. Some profound upheaval has taken place – but there is another upheaval yet to come.
All of the temporal arrangements have been set in place. The will has been made out and the “keepsakes” given away. The teary eyes of the mourners have now been dried and their breaths have grown “firm” again. All are ready to move on. But then… the annoying buzz of a gross little bug disrupts the calm. A fly is “interposed” or has come between the deceased and the “light.” This intruder, which at another time may have been casually brushed off as tiny or insignificant, now looms large. It will have to be dealt with if there is to be peace. Then begins a deep mysterious journey through which the deceased “could not see to see.”
We prepare for death by paying attention to those pesky flies now and by commending all to the grace and power of the “King.” And we pray for the dead. They need us and we need them.
I heard a Fly buzz - when I died - Emily Dickinson
I heard a Fly buzz - when I died -
The Stillness in the Room
Was like the Stillness in the Air -
Between the Heaves of Storm -
The Eyes around - had wrung them dry -
And Breaths were gathering firm
For that last Onset - when the King
Be witnessed - in the Room -
I willed my Keepsakes - Signed away
What portion of me be
Assignable - and then it was
There interposed a Fly -
With Blue - uncertain - stumbling Buzz -
Between the light - and me -
And then the Windows failed - and then
I could not see to see –