There's a poem that was written by someone of a ship leaving some crowded pier. Those who are watching the ship from the shore stand and wait until the very tips of the sails can no longer be seen over the distant horizon. Most don't want to see her go because she sails with friends and loved ones on board.
"She gone," they tearfully say, and some stand looking out at the sea and the empty horizon.
What they don't think of at the time is that, on some distant shore, others are watching and waiting. They are ready to welcome home a loved one from years gone by. They have eagerly anticipated the arrival of this particular vessel and can hardly wait any longer. Then, at the first glance of the tips of the sails breaking the line of the horizon, a cheer goes up.
"She's here!" they shout gleefully as they shed tears of joy at the thought of happy reunions with their loved ones.
The poem is a well-written metaphor about what we experience at the death of a loved one.
As the ship of a loved one's life sails over the horizon, we tend to mourn that loss. We grieve because of the separation -- the gulf that is now in place, albeit it temporary, between them and us.
We tend to forget about that distant shore where other loved ones wait, watching for the slightest glimpse of the rigging on the ship as she draws nearer and nearer.
Our family -- indeed, the world -- lost a wonderful human being this week. Our dear cousin and friend Erma Dean Everett Bittle completed the passage to that distant shore Tuesday morning. For me, the knowledge that someone waits for her with open arms, laughter and tears of joy provides a bit of conciliation in an otherwise painful time.
Dean was a light in our family; an anchor for us when we wandered and found ourselves being tossed about by the winds and storms of life. And the most interesting thing is this: she was that light and anchor for everyone she knew -- family or friend or fellow church member or distant relative. That's who she was -- she was just Dean.
I could write volumes about the woman and it would not do her justice.
And so we stand on the pier and watch as the ship glides across the waves and slips over the far horizon, mourning our loss and grieving because of the separation. On the other side loved ones await that moment when she disembarks to join them on that blissful shore.
Rest in peace, Dean.
We're all gonna miss you.