We know there’s an ending as soon as it begins. Midway through we see the end coming. After a play’s intermission we know it’s about to happen because the second act is shorter than the first.
But the first act? Ahhh. Stumblingly and gloriously meeting unknown faces – soon to be friends, allies or “just those other people” who work there. Beginnings also contain surprising expectations that expect our immediate attention.
At your first meeting at that new job, it becomes clear to others that you don’t like meetings so that thought is stored away in their minds’ newly-minted-empty folder called, “The New Guy.”
I have a friend who reads the last page of a book’s first. Weird? Then he reads the entire book. OCD? Perhaps, but as he reads the book he’s now connected to its ending so the unfolding was only a mystery to the writer. At home, I’ll rewind and watch the end of a movie several times to make sure I’ve sewn up the plot’s resolutions as well as the leading man did. “But what about that other thing?” I say to myself when he solves it in one sentence. “I thought that thing was an important part of the movie?” I complain to my cat but the leading man gave me the ending; usually wrapping it up in sixty seconds or less.
“Ending.” There’s an ending because there’s a beginning. God’s creation saw to that. It’s not that God knows our endings but what is created now will soon become a “then.” (Funeral directors will never say, “Thank you for your business” because they know you’ll return.)
“The End” is followed by what scrolls upwards as you try to read who else was in that movie you’ve just enjoyed. “The End” means the restaurant bill was paid and now it is, “Your place or mine?” “The End” is eighth-grade graduation when how many more years (and how many loans) burden in your future.
“‘The end’ will never come,” says a ninety-year-old with no living or final will. “She looks good to us,” we say to ourselves, “Hell, she looks eighty?” (As though eighty-years-old is young?!) Inside out thoughts, we wonder if she thinks she’ll be the first person to live on Mars.
“It can’t happen to me,” I tell myself because I’m valuable to the company and its philosophical philosophy. “Other folks, maybe, but not me,” when waking up in the morning knowing that my today might be my “ending” day.
“The Party’s Over,” “The fat lady’s sings,” “It’s the bottom of the ninth,” “The clock struck twelve,” “Thank you for coming,” “You’ve been a great audience,” “It became a pumpkin again.”
“Just a minute or two longer?” you say to whoever is above you but he only shows you silence. (I think they teach a class in that.)
It’s the “end,” with only its “befores” in front of you with little thought of its “afters” which then make you an “after.” The “befores” are cherished for a long, long time and the “afters” are now those longer days with no divisions of time.
Death has no ending in our Christian faith. This life was meant as a prelude to something greater and grandeur. Yet what can be more grandeur than still a loving family to hug off to sleep, a fireplace to ponder nothing and everything, a surprised sympathy call from a friend after hearing about your “ending,” or family and friends celebrating Ethel’s 89th year life ending, that empty, stupid chair that your husband loved, that song at your wedding, that moment on vacation when you met someone and laughed the night away but who remains nameless.
Does it all end or does that ending continue to live and breath in a life that’s still breathing. “Even in death, the deceased continue to live,” we all faithfully believe and want to feel.
Those two words are the movie’s way of concluding itself to get people out of the theater to clean up your lost popcorn. The movies that, both in film and real life, I watch again and again are the experiences and encounters of my life that I can relive again and again. And believe me, I do.
Books by Fr. Joe Jagodensky, SDS.
Available at Amazon.com:
“Living Faith’s Mysteries”
“Spiritual Wonderings and Wanderings”