Today, the Christian tradition celebrates Ascension Day – the day when Jesus was lifted up to heaven. The story is recorded in Acts 1:1-11. What strikes me is how the apostles were flabbergasted: “While he was going and they were gazing up toward heaven, suddenly two men in white robes stood by them.”
That’s how dying and grief work: The apostles did not get closure because they never had the proper goodbye at a funeral, because Jesus became socially distant three days after his death. And now that it’s time to say farewell again, there is still that expectation that at some point he will come back. Those transitions are hard and nobody ever accepts them as finite. The angels even reinforce that in front of the grieving apostles: “They said, ‘Men of Galilee, why do you stand looking up toward heaven? This Jesus, who has been taken up from you into heaven, will come in the same way as you saw him go into heaven.'”
Barbara Karnes, RN, reminds family members of hospice patients that one to two weeks prior to death, the dying person may seem to converse with loved ones who have died before them. The transition from here to there is not always instantaneous but can take time and be confusing and Ascension Day reminds us that that’s okay.