This month, my family lost someone very special to us to cancer.
We knew what was coming and had time to process how we were to deal with it, but nothing can truly prepare you for the death of a loved one.
The woman we lost was not my mother; she was the mother of my best friend. Our mothers met when they were pregnant with us and we were born exactly one week apart.
Her daughter and I attended the same kindergarten class and never stopped being friends, no matter what distance laid between us over all these years.
I consider her entire family as precious as my own, and we have shared a lot of laughter and pain together.
I called my best friend's mother "mom," and she always treated me like her second daughter.
"Mom's" death was peaceful, I'm told.
The way her passing was described to me sounded like the ideal way to go.
She was at home, resting comfortably with her family surrounding her. The windows were wide open for a nice cross breeze and her favorite music played.
"Mom" received her last rites near midnight and passed the next day. May we all be so blessed when we leave this world.
My friend and I were able to have a long talk the next evening, sharing memories and laughter.
She told me that none of them were really sure what happens after death and she hoped that her mother was greeting her dad and brother, who departed before her. She didn't ask me my opinion, and I didn't offer any either.
Then, she told me that during the last rites there was an atheist in the room, who was gently moved by the sanctity of the act.
The purity of the priest's words and the sincerity of his actions showed such loving kindness that everyone felt comforted, regardless of their faith or non-faith.
I believe that every one of us has a connection to the divine.
We are all God's children, made to love.
It is only love that can break through the pain of childbirth, the grief in death, the loneliness in life and loss.
Does the Catholic grieve more deeply than the Atheist? Does the Christian love more deeply than the Muslim?
Of course not!
The religion we follow (or choose not to follow) has no bearing on our humanity, or our right to dignity.
We all need to breathe, eat and find comfort in those around us, in life and in death.
It is never easy to comfort those, who are in mourning, as nothing you seem to say can take away the moments of loneliness we experience when someone we love dies.
No matter what anyone thinks they believe, we never really know what happens to us after we die, and that is a very hard fact to deal with.
At least in life, we can rationalize and come to terms with reality. After death, we have no control of what happens to our loved ones.
Prayer is one way we can bridge the gap - that thin veil that divides the mortal and immortal. Whether or not you follow a certain religion, we all can find connection with a power greater than ourselves.
According to the Dalai Lama, "We must distinguish between belief and respect. Belief refers to total faith, which you must have in your own religion. At the same time you should have respect for all other religions.... Whatever we do, we do because we think it will be of some benefit. At the same time, we all appreciate the kindness of others. We are all, by nature, oriented toward the basic human values of love and compassion. We all prefer the love of others to their hatred. We all prefer others' generosity to their meanness. And, who among us does not prefer tolerance, respect and forgiveness of our failings to bigotry, disrespect and resentment?"
As for me, I pray that, "the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard [our] hearts and [our] minds in Christ Jesus." (Philippians 4:7)
May we all have more time for hugs, memories and intimate moments with those we love.
Love with the peace of the knowledge that you are loved and that you matter much.
Amy Lewis lives with her husband and daughter in Satellite Beach. She is a longtime member of the United Church of Christ.