Wednesday, December 17, 2008

MIssed Calls

Imagine: You stroll through a cemetery near your home, not because you have a morbid fascination with death but because you are lonely, the moon lights your way, and the stars like a crowd, move with you. Suddenly you hear a little tune. You stop, look around, hear it again. It's perky, friendly. It's calling you. Not easily frightened you now feel the hair on your neck bristle. No one is around. Are there such things as fairies and elves? You follow the sound to the ground. Yes, it's coming from one of the graves. You put your ear close to the ground and hear the faint tinkle again. Familiar. Yes, it's on the menu of cell phone ring tones. You almost chose it.

How far can technology go? Is this the latest way seances are accomplished? You're spooked?

So was I when I read the December 16th online report from MSNBC on burying people with their cell phones by their side. Activated! Mourners say it brings them comfort, like burying Granny with her precious dog's old collar or favorite recipe. I suppose if your dad or mother spent so much time with their ear attached to a bluetooth or a cell phone you might think they couldn't die without it. One woman buried her husband with his phone equipped with new batteries. She is still paying the monthly fee for the phone.

Is this madness or deep spiritual need? Surely it's a sign to take seriously. It's a symbol. Many people today are so strung out you can pluck them. They'd vibrate but make no music. Is the little cell tune music to their ears, music to salve their fear of disconnection, death?

Or is this something to laugh about as a friend did when she quipped, "I'd rather have them bury the phones than bring them into the restaurant where I'm having lunch."

As a Christian I think of the Holy Spirit as the Great Connector, the one who has no fear, who enters even the darkest corners of human need to bring faith, hope or love. The one whose signal never cuts out or breaks up.

A little boy goes off to kindergarten for the first time. He's scared. His mother gives him hugs and whispers sweet words into his ear. He goes alone into the classroom. Sometime during the morning the child feels the same fear he felt when he left home. Maybe the teacher frowned or another child shoved him. The boy just then remembers his mother's embrace of the morning. He feels the warmth in his body and hears her words in his inner ear, although mom isn't present. His fear is replaced— by love enough to know he is good, faith enough to know he is capable, and hope enough to know his mother will reappear in the flesh soon. He'll take it with him when he dies.

That's the work of the Great Connector. It's spiritual work. Cell phones feel like like hugs and sweet words in a busy world I admit, but get a hug anyway—just in case your battery runs out or you can't afford your monthlies.

I love my cell phone but I'm not taking it with me.