Wednesday, November 3, 2021

November's "Holy Souls" and Our Loved Ones

Already, it is November 2021!

We have begun this new month (and the final weeks of the liturgical year in the Roman rite) with the joyful feast of All Saints, followed by a special remembrance of "All Souls" — all of the "faithful departed," especially our loved ones who have passed from this life united with Jesus in His saving death.

They have embarked upon that mysterious final passage "from death to resurrection" by which the fullness of His healing and transforming love frees them and prepares them for the blessedness of the true life: to dwell forever in perfect happiness with Christ, in the unveiled embrace of the God who is Love.

For many of us, this year's "All Souls Day" (and this month specially dedicated to the faithful departed) has a special poignancy and sense of "intimacy" that we may never have experienced before. During the past year (or in recent years) many have had to "say goodbye" in this world to people we loved deeply and dearly - people who were part of the edifice of our earthly lives — whose living and breathing, whose voices and affection and encouragement, were as basic to "our world" as the ground under our feet, as the sun that lights our days, or as that sense of quiet joy and familiarity of "being at home." People have said goodbye to spouses, family members, brothers or sisters, or friends who were "like" brothers and sisters to them on their earthly journey. It is a comfort to entrust them to God our merciful Father who loves them and us with a greater love than we can ever imagine. It is a great and "intimate" consolation to be able to pray for them, and rely on their prayers for us. In this month, it is as if the whole Church gathers together with those who grieve, to console those who mourn. In November we especially consider the whole Church: the communion of saints who see God face to face, as well as those "arriving" at blessedness through a final purification that is mysteriously arduous (that's why we pray for them) but also mysteriously joyful, and of course those of who remain on this earthly pilgrimage united with Jesus as we struggle to "fight the good fight" and "keep the faith" until our time is completed.

This year's November is new for me. It's somewhat hard describe how it "seems to me." My Dad died in 2019, and I have written here about the sorrow and also the "peculiarity" of life without him. Yet my Mom was still alive, and she had much need for our help, and also gave much love, affirmation, and wisdom to her children, grandchildren, and (at least by feeling her kick from the womb) her great-granddaughter who was born six days after she died. My mother's death this past July, however, was like "the breaking of the last thread" between generations, between "the parents" and "the kids" (the "kids" being Walter and me — funny as that may be in the minds of younger folks).

This sounds odd, perhaps, but it is the way I experienced my parents: they were "together" not only as husband and wife for 59 years but as my parents. Since my mother's death, it has struck me that I not only miss her (so much I cannot even understand it myself) but I also miss my father more. It was as if he was still "partially around" as long as she was still around.

There are practical, physical reasons for this: their own home and their estate have become our concern, and though they were not rich in the first-world sense of being rich, there will be some material benefit for us once all the bureaucratic stuff is taken care of. This is beautiful above all (by far) because we know how our parents carefully arranged their modest material legacy so that it would help us and the grandchildren in our material needs. It is one more expression of their love which makes me grateful to them. No one knows what tomorrow may bring regarding material circumstances, but the provision they have made for us — this special gesture of the care they gave us through all our lives — is a priceless gift. I am grateful beyond words.

And even as I miss them, there is a sense in which I feel closer to them. I think they still "take care of us," even in some very particular ways of daily life. They are "not far" from us. Some day we will understand how this all "works" (persons, relationships, the human family, the generations, life and death, how Divine Love illuminates all of it...).

We were blessed to have these good parents, and it helps us to glimpse some sign that indicates the kind of love that our Lord has for each and every human person, and the special love He has for the poor, for the "orphans" of this world (and there are more and more who are orphaned by strife perpetrated by humans, through war and oppression, through many sufferings from without and from within families, and the confusion and materialistic shallowness in our covetous society that breaks apart human relationships and leads to the dissolution of family life). God wants these suffering people to know that they are His children, and that He seeks their healing. And we know that we are called, that we must find ways to be brothers (brothers and sisters) to those who have no home, no family, and those who feel lost and alone in this world.

May God grant eternal rest to those who have died, and consolation to those who suffer from losing them in this life.

Here is a picture of Mom and Dad from their younger days: