When someone passes on, it isn't unusual to be drawn toward the poignant recollection of the ups and downs of our relationship with them. Sometimes deep appreciation surfaces. At other times wounds of regret or loss are laid bare. What can we do with the grief?
The Bible tells how the patriarch Abraham dealt with his wife Sarah's passing after a long and fruitful relationship. Abraham wept for her, but he didn't remain immobile with the heaviness of an unhealed grief. Noting this, The Interpreter's Bible concludes "It is not right that grief should be allowed to become a paralyzing bondage." (Abingdon Press, 1951-1957, Vol 1, p.649)
Here's what we know from the Bible account: After she passed, Abraham sought to buy a very costly cave for Sarah's burial. His countrymen tried to make a gift of the land, but Abraham insisted on paying a fair price. Genesis, chapter 23, covers the entire negotiation and emphasizes the cave's importance to Abraham. This is the first account on record of a burial being given such attention. For generations, until Joseph, the patriarchs continued to be buried in that cave. And after the liberation from Egypt, Moses brought Joseph's bones along and eventually placed them in Sarah's tomb (Exodus 13:19). What is the significance of this cave?
The Glossary in the Key to the Scriptures of Mary Baker Eddy's Science and Health, gives a glimpse of the metaphysical signification of the term burial in Scripture.
First, the physical meaning is given: "Corporeality and physical sense put out of sight and hearing; annihilation." (p.582)
Then the second part conveys what putting a corporeal sense out of sight can lead to if we are willing to open our hearts to God and to be guided by spiritual sense: "Submergence in Spirit; immortality brought to light." (ibid.)
I think Abraham's purchase of Sarah's tomb represents more than a business transaction or a cultural concession. Abraham made another kind of exchange - giving up a limited sense of life in matter for the constant, unwavering consciousness of existence in and of Spirit, God. He paved the way for future generations to understand how to move forward after a loved one passes, without being mired in confusion, doubt and fear.
Release from grief often involves making a wise exchange. Annihilating a corporeal sense - a grief-stricken sense - involves embracing the true sense of Life as God and of man as submerged in Spirit and enveloped in Love. No matter what it looks like, we never lose contact with divine Life, God. Life never loses its reflection.
What we experience of those we love, in qualities like love, strength, humility, compassion and joy, indicates their permanent relationship with God by reflection. God is the Source of all the good that we love in others. The more good we see and the more we consent to the fact of God as the Source, the easier it becomes to exchange the mortal sense of temporary good for the eternal fact that neither Life nor its expression can end.
There is no fluctuation of good in divine Life which is Spirit. No element of man's true being has ever been put out of the sight or hearing of divine Life, the omnipresent Spirit. We each forever manifest activity and progress. The only thing that can ever be truly destroyed is a mortal misconception of life as beginning with material birth and ending with death. And that is accomplished through spiritual growth. The realization of eternal life will finally come to us all. So, there is no point being impatient or suffering unnecessarily.
After Abraham handled Sarah's burial, he continued on with God as his companion and guide. He lived a full and satisfying life, even remarrying and having more kids.
To me, Sarah's tomb shouldn't be seen as a monument to death, but rather a testament to the love of Abraham for his wife and his commitment to bring all aspects of his experience into line with his understanding of God. Through the care with which he purchased Sarah's tomb, Abraham showed us a way out of grief.
Grief can be healed now. Let's make the wise exchange.
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I have practiced Christian Science professionally in
some form since 1979.
But my journey with
Christian Science started
in a Sunday school
where as a young child
I was taught the Scriptures and some simple basics
of Jesus' method of
scientific Christian healing.
A significant experience
at the age of twelve
opened my eyes to
the great potential
of this practice.
After impaling my foot
on a nail,
I prayed the way I had learned
in Sunday school.
the pain stopped
and healing began.
By the next morning the wound had disappeared completely.
the great potential
of Christian Science,
there would be no