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All Souls: The Day of the Dead

This month when we celebrate the feast of All Souls it is good to write about heaven as well as death. Someone is always putting a book or article in my hands that I need just at that moment, and the other night, when we gathered for Vespers in our office-library-stencil room, Mike Kovalak handed me a little book, ninety pages long. The first paragraph of the first chapter gave me the definition of heaven I needed.

There we shall rest and we
see; We shall love and we shall
praise; Behold what shall be in the
end and shall not end.

It is St. Augustine, of course, speaking with his mother just before she died. It is Scripture also speaking to us, of a future life where we will know as we will be known. The very word “know” is used in Genesis again and again as the act of husband and wife which brings forth more life; Abraham knew Sara, and she conceived and bore a son.

An Evangelist who sends me his comments on the Bible once referred to death as a “transport,” and ecstasy. And indeed we are transported, in this passover to another life.

Jacques Maritain, our beloved friend whose death this year we are also commemorating, said once that the story of the Transfiguration is a feast we should surely meditate on. Three of the Apostles, sleeping as they often do even to this day, awoke to see Jesus standing with Moses and Elias, transfigured and glorified. It is a glimpse, Maritain commented, of the future, of life after death, of the dogmas contained in the creed–in the “resurrection of the body and life everlasting.”

And Peter, the rock upon which Christ said He would build His Church, was confused, as popes have been many a time since, and wanted to start to build! But let’s forget about criticism of Peter and find always concordances, as Pope John, the beloved, told us to do.

I had the great privilege of standing by my mother’s bed, holding her hand, as she quietly breathed her last. So often I had worried when I was traveling around the country that I would not be there with her at the time if she were suddenly taken.

And now I have seen my little four-year-old great grand- daughter worrying about me. It was just after Rita Corbin’s mother’s death (another member of our family to remember this month). After Carmen’s death and burial in our parish cemetery, my little Tanya came and sat on my lap. It was after one of my weeks-long absences from the farm, and stroking my cheek, she said anxiously, “You’re not old–you’re young.”

Sensing her anxiety, I could only say, “No, I’m old too, like Mrs. Ham, and someday, I don’t know when, I’m going to see my mother and father and brother too.” And as she was accustomed to my absences, I am sure she was comforted. How wonderful it is to have a granddaughter and her little family living with us. A House of Hospitality on the land can indeed be an “extended family.”

Meanwhile, in the joys and sorrows of this life, we can pray as they do in the Russian liturgy for a death without “blame or pain.” May our passing be a rejoicing.

Houston Cahtolic Worker, Vol. XIV, No. 8, November 1994.