Making Meaning

I lean against the wall of the standing-room-only church, immediately regretting my choice of heels. A funeral is always hard, and one honoring a mom in her 40s with young kids especially so. Fans twirl slowly from the ceiling of this small town church. I hold the program and fan myself as vigorously and quietly as I can, careful not to bend the paper that holds the face of the dearly departed.

Every passing of someone feels like a mirror. One cannot help but take stock of the big questions: where do we go? What is life about? What does my life mean? And especially with the loss of someone so young, you can feel the squeeze of trying to make meaning.  

I shift my weight as I watch as siblings, kids, friends, and friends that feel like family dab their eyes. I scan the front, trying to understand the layout. Flowers. Pictures. And one small vase.

Videos, memories, stories. Laughter and tearful expressions. Wall-to-wall people. So much life fills this space, yet here is one small vase. Cremains that take up the smallest of spaces. My heart feels panged. Confused. And burdened.

On the way home, and over the days to follow, the little vase bothers me.

I feel suffocated when I think of it. A small pressure in my chest. A tiny panic that creeps up slowly and whispers.  

I want to know what space my life will take.

I think of the detailed to-do lists and undone dishes and, and, and. I think of tasks and jobs and experiences that brought zero joy to me or anyone else. I think of how tired I let myself get or when I didn’t make that one meaningful phone call I’d been meaning to make. I think of the person I need to laugh with over French fries and Diet Coke.

Why do I give extra weight and merit to things that don’t matter?

I am sitting, wrestling with the desire to fill a room with wildness and joy. A museum-sized emporium of crazy ideas and kind words and warm cookies that make people feel like the most important person in the world. Abundance in every sense of the word. For me, in the minutes and hours and years I have left. For others, so they can dance, sing, mourn, laugh and shout along. I want the things that matter to matter.

Regardless of whether it’s a small vase or a packed room, I want my vase to hold the weight of changed lives. Of purpose and meaning. I want it to be full of failures and successes that helped others feel like they can. I want to have people who feel like their lives are better because of the weight of my work, my worry, my wonder. 

I want every particle of my being to weigh a full pound.

Eliza Cortes Bast is a fierce and honest follower of Jesus. She is a pastor and denominational executive, dedicated to helping churches think missionally. She lives into her passion by connecting people, advocating for the community, and helping organizations think strategically so they can be healthy, vibrant, and sustainable. Eliza lives in Michigan with her patient and handsome husband EJ, and their two boys. Her loves include her home country Puerto Rico, her interracial marriage, a good steak, salsa dancing, writing, empowering emerging leaders, making the impossible possible, Diet Coke, and mentoring. She is not a big fan of anger without action, generalizations, basketball, and saying you can’t live without coffee. She believes you can because she believes in you.