Eternal Rest – Do We Really Sleep When We Die?

Eternal rest then is about resting in the Lord, free of the constraints of our human bodies and their infirmities.

by M. J. Joachim

“Eternal rest granted to him oh, Lord. And may perpetual light shine upon him.” I grew up reciting this prayer at every funeral I ever attended. Supposedly, it was a comfort for the repose of the soul of the person who died. Obviously, no one really knows the answer to the question, “What happens when people die?” Personally, I have trouble with the idea that we fall into a deep sleep, when everything I’ve ever been taught seems to contradict the very notion of such things.

Jesus rose from the dead, walked among the people as the risen Christ, entered the room and invited Thomas to place his fingers in the wounds of salvation. This is not a God who died and went to sleep. It is a God who promises us a house with many rooms. I certainly can’t picture a house full of dormitories for sleeping when this image comes to mind. This is a home for the living – those resurrected in the freedom of faith in Christ.

Science can try to explain death, and it certainly can demystify what happens to our bodies when we die. However, everything I’ve ever witnessed regarding death seems to be a process of transforming ourselves to another existence. It’s what we do throughout our lives. We transform in our mother’s womb, only to be born into a world that is constantly changing. Everything is on a continuum; nothing is stagnant (or sleeping). Even when we sleep, our minds never rest, our hearts never stop – and our bodies use that down time to heal themselves in various ways.

How is it then, that death is eternal rest, if not hypothetically? St. Therese declared in her autobiography, Story of a Soul, “I will spend my Heaven doing good on earth.” She clearly didn’t expect to be sleeping in eternal rest.

Eternal rest then is about resting in the Lord, free of the constraints of our human bodies and their infirmities. It is the variable that truly conquers our limitations, and does not presume to cast limits on our souls. We live in death, not through our preconceived notions of what death appears to be when our souls separate from our bodies, but through the love that remains steadfast from the Cross. This is the life we were born to, not the life we currently exist in, striving to make peace with what happens when we die.

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©2011, 2012 All Rights Reserved Teresa DePoy