It seems fitting to post this last letter from the dead in the midst of listening to Dante's Divine Comedy (Longfellow's translation)--I have completed the journey through hell--and on the heels of preparing a memorial service for my friend's 83 year old father. We prayed over his body a few hours after his death on Friday afternoon, and she has begun speaking of him in the past tense. Already, he lives on in the photos piled on the dining room table sparking memories.
They came in a dream, the angels, and invited me to go with them. Do you know what it is like to soar, rising from your old bones and labored breath? It is freedom. It is glorious and it set this tired old man to laughing. But then I see all the long faces, praying for me on the rosary. I want to reach down and wipe away all your tears. Eighty-seven years is enough on the earth. And I think you should be glad that I have gone. I think you should be dancing. Then I remember how scared to die we all are. Afraid that our mortal soul hangs in danger, and that words must save us.
It is with noble hearts that you pray, believing your prayers will twine themselves into a net to scoop me from the jaws of Satan and drop me at the feet of the Virgin. Rest assured I am not in hell and I am not in purgatory. It is possible that I am in heaven, although I have not seen the Virgin or her beloved son, Jesus, or your mother, Anna Maria, the love of my life. Wherever I am, I am free.
How I long for you to celebrate. Light the prayer candles and sing Alleluia. Pull apart the white carnation cross by my coffin and pin a flower in each lapel. Mija, I would like to tell you what it is like, this new life, this life after death. But I am at a loss, for there are no tastes and no sounds and no sights. Just this feeling.
I felt something like it once before, only much smaller, just inside my own heart, when you were born. The first time I held you and gazed into your dark eyes and touched the mat of black hair on top of your tiny head, I thought I would swell and explode with my love for you. Where I have gone it is like that, like love has exploded into a soup of stars and spirits.
Oh, my beautiful daughter, I wish you this peace.