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When a loved one passes on

From The Christian Science Journal - June 27, 2012


As hard as this may sometimes be to accept, death is only an experience of the observer. For the one actually going through a change or transition from one phase of existence to another, there is an uninterrupted continuity of living that is invisible to the human eye, but discernible to spiritual sense. I, like many, have lost loved ones. Each time it has become more imperative to develop the spirituality that not only allows me to survive the initial feelings of personal loss, but also to discern what is happening through spiritual sense. Spiritual sense alone gives the necessary evidence that, in fact, all is well and will continue to be progressive for the one whom I have lost sight of. Only through the exercise of spiritual sense have I been able to move on from the riveting argument imposed through a false belief that death is an actual end of life.

I study the weekly Christian Science Bible Lesson on a daily basis. Recently, we studied a series of Lessons that are among my favorites because they deal with the so-called “mysteries of life”—death . . . the so-called “afterlife” . . . evil . . . and whether or not God is a punishing God—the subjects that tend either to rock one’s faith or push us to go higher and find answers. I have always loved a good mystery—not just for the sake of the story, but because I like to look at things from a new and fresh angle and unravel the truth whenever possible. So the Lesson one particular week on the subject of “Probation After Death” was particularly compelling to me. What touched me in this particular Lesson was the tender way the Bible explains what is really happening when it seems that someone’s life path is interrupted by death, especially when the passing occurs at an “untimely” moment.

It is a privilege to witness each others’ journey, but a limited, human perception won’t always give us satisfying explanations of a mortal sense of things.

The Lesson included the story of Moses leading the children of Israel out of Egypt to the promised land. In his life he had overcome a lot—fears, limitations, self-doubt, and a temper that led to his killing a man. But he developed the spiritual qualities necessary to lead his people safely out of bondage. After a 40-year expedition full of  ups and downs, he was just nearing the border of the new homeland promised to his countrymen. It was at this point, before stepping foot in the new territory, that he passed on (see Deuteronomy 34:4–8). 

We can’t know what really happened to him at this point. There were no witnesses to his passing. Was he ill? Was he taken up in a dramatic whirlwind, like a later prophet Elijah? All we know is that he went on before entering the promised land and was reportedly buried in a valley in Moab—although no one ever found his grave.

So up comes the question: Why now, just before his moment of victory? We know it wasn’t an “age thing.” To the contrary, we are told,  “Moses was an hundred and twenty years old when he died: his eye was not dim, nor his natural force abated” (Deuteronomy 34:7). If he made it to 120, it seems likely he could have continued the days necessary to cross the border into his new land. Was he being punished for sins in his early life? I have read Bible commentaries that go both ways on that point. But I think we can take a hint from Scripture that, in fact, Moses had already progressed on from a sinful sense of himself and had risen above many of the negative human traits that may have caused obstacles in his earlier life.

It is only centuries later, on the Mount of Transfiguration, that we get an eyewitness account of Moses talking with Jesus—unchanged and unharmed by the transition from one state of existence to another or by the passage of time, and clearly still recognizable as himself (see Luke 9:28–36). It was the developing spiritual sense of the witnesses—Peter, James, and John—that allowed them to see through limits of time, space, and their own belief-system regarding death, to discern that life is an ongoing and progressive unfoldment.

Death is not an end, a solution, or a necessity for progress.

My perspective on Moses is that he simply didn’t need to go into the Promised Land to know that God loved him or to feel one more time that he had passed a landmark in human experience. His life wasn’t over; it simply took a turn in a new direction for reasons undetectable to any human speculation. 

Mary Baker Eddy, an avid Bible student and seeker of spiritual light wrote, “It is only when the so-called pleasures and pains of sense pass away in our lives, that we find unquestionable signs of the burial of error and the resurrection to spiritual life” (Science and Health, p. 232).

We don’t have to stay tied up in knots over unhealed grief. The spiritual journey is individual. We take our walk alone with Life, with universal Love. And it is safe to do so. It is a privilege to witness each other’s journey, but a limited, human perception won’t always give us satisfying explanations of a mortal sense of things. Spirituality—letting our sense of life expand to include more of what is permanent, and infinite, and good, and real in life—is essential to the understanding and proof that death is neither an inevitability nor an interruption of good. 

Death is not an end, a solution, or a necessity for progress. It is not an unsolved or unsolvable mystery. Death is the perception of a horizon that doesn’t really exist. It is the limited perspective and explanation of a mortal onlooker, a perspective that is corrected by spiritual sense. As Paul is paraphrased in The Message: “We’re not all going to die—but we are all going to be changed. . . . Then the saying will come true: Death swallowed by triumphant Life! Who got the last word, oh, Death? Oh, Death, who’s afraid of you now?” (I Corinthians 15:51–55). Not us, Paul, not us!


Michelle Nanouche is a Christian Science practitioner and teacher in Paris, France.

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