What do you think of death? Is it something to be feared, avoided and denied? Like many people do you ignore it and hope it never bothers you?
I have had a relationship with death stretching back to my childhood. Not that I lost anyone close to me during that time, but I feared that I would. My Mom had celebrated her 47th birthday 11 days before I was born. Dad turned 50 a few months before. I thought nothing of that until I went to school at age 5. At school events (choir, plays, etc.) I noticed right away that the other kid’s parents seemed different. I discovered that they were younger. They were farther away from death than my parents were. Death… as in going away permanently. I didn’t much like that. I was convinced that at any time Mom and Dad were going to die. I developed the habit of checking their chests while they were napping to see if they were breathing. This continued long after I reached adulthood during vacations home and after I returned home to care for Mom.
My adult experience of death has been defined by my Mom’s dying in November 2005, and the subsequent griefwork (grief counseling, namely online discussion forums, in person counseling and grief support groups.) After the initial period which lasted well over a year, I developed the notion that death isn’t something to be feared. Sure, I would rather have my Mom and other loved ones still around, but as I moved past the pain and agony of the loss, I was able to see and understand the “Communion of Saints” doctrine of the Church as something of a comfort. This great “cloud of witnesses” that St. Paul writes about in Hebrews 12 may include our beloved dead, gone on before us. They form a part of the Church along with us. Those in Heaven being members of the Church Triumphant, while we still on Earth as a part of the Church Militant. Together with the Church Suffering (those souls in Purgatory) we all comprise the Mystical Body of Christ. We are all members of a community of believers, and as a community can still have a relational bond.
Through prayer and devotion to the deceased, we can still maintain our relationships with them. They are not completely gone. We obviously cannot interact with them as we once did, but it is uncharitable and cynical to regard them as forgotten or “gone”. They are just beyond from where we are.
Therefore, death ceases to be a means by which our beloved are taken away and are gone. Death becomes a passage through which our beloved experience the joy of entering into the presence of God, the domain of eternity where He is.
Ultimately it is a passage that we need to think about and meditate upon. Unlike most times where we focus upon the destination rather than the road, this passage is significant unto itself. Everyone will experience it. Regardless of what you believe happens after death, it is universal. Happens to everyone. This means you. Whether the passage of death leads one to Heaven or Hell depends upon the choices we make while alive. Therefore death as a passage forces this consideration of our daily living. How do we live? How are you “trudging the Road of Happy Destiny?” Catholic teaching puts that AA slogan in a new light.
If your attention is focused upon Heaven, and you consciously yearn for that place which is our true home, the death is to be welcomed and not feared. Perhaps not desired, but certainly not looked upon with dread.
It is our way home.Know someone, perhaps yourself, who might like Catholic devotionals for alcoholics? Please take a look at my books! (Thank you!!)"The Stations of the Cross for Alcoholics"