The older I get, the more this day of All Souls means to me, for with the passing of the years is the inevitable passing of loved ones. It seems that I am going to more and more funerals as I get older. It is just the reality of life, that in this life on earth, we are on a pilgrimage of faith in the God we cannot see. We are walking, moving forward, in this endless changing world. As we keep the journey going, there are the goodbyes we must make to those who die, as they pass through the gateway of death into a life that is forever. The older we get, the more the goodbyes become frequent.
As I sit here praying and preparing to celebrate a Mass of remembrance for all the departed souls, I am filled with an amazing peace, and even joy. I look back and remember my parents, grandparents, godparents, aunts and uncles.... they are all “gone” from this life, but alive and well in the dwelling of God. I am filled with gratitude, mixed with a tinge of sadness, for all that they have given me: my life, a home, education, structure, discipline, religion, dinners, more dinners, traditions, Sacraments, outings, vacations, support, presence, Mary, St. Jude, letting go...love. What a grand list!!!! I am truly blessed. And so are you....
All those dearly departed loved ones were human beings with flaws. My family was far from perfect but I learned the beauty of forgiveness from these many souls. After all, they forgave me my many lapses in judgement, my lack of gratitude, my disrespect. Forgiveness is always a two way street.
My family is much larger than biology, thanks be to God! In my five parishes as priest, I have celebrated hundreds and hundreds of funerals, many of which were especially painful: the death of a child or young person. Horrible. I remember the parents and their grief that will never really go away. It just can’t because parents are supposed to die before their children.
Yes, death looms large on this day of All Souls, but death will never have the final word. Never. In one’s last breath here, at the sound of the trumpet, at the twinkling of the stars, we breathe the breath of a life that is no longer just passing; a life in which the journey continues, reunited with all those we are now remembering, loving, embracing, no more goodbyes, waiting for the rest to join us.