During my Grandma Rose’s funeral Mass, the priest said that we thank God for the gift of her in our lives. I remember a little light bulb going off in my head and thinking, “Oh, that’s right. I’m mad at you God for taking Grandma from us but I should be thanking you for all the time we had with her.”
I’d be pretty upset if I gave someone a gift and they responded, “What! This is it? You couldn’t give me more?” But that is what we do when a loved one dies. We become angry at God for our loss rather than thankful for the gift we received.
Yet, losing someone dear to us is painful. Even Jesus wept upon learning of the death of his friend, Lazarus (John 11:35). It is a human response to be saddened at the passing of a loved one.
When a friend is suffering from a fatal illness or unable to participate in life for an extended period of time, their death may feel less painful. We may even experience a sense of relief from it. It’s not that we don’t mourn their death but rather we accept the need for their passing, that their life as we all knew it is already nonexistent.
Matthew writes in the Beatitudes, “Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted (5.4).” Finding that comfort isn’t easy when we lose a precious loved one, especially if it is a child.
As I wrote in my book, Grieving with Mary, parents lose part of their innocence and future hopes with the death of a child. “The parents experience a type of death themselves as part of their legacy dies with the child. Their roles and definitions of themselves as parents are forever changed” (47). Such a loss is felt deeply and for the rest of the parents’ lifetimes.
We realize that death is inevitable. It’s the timing and circumstances surrounding it that often is incomprehensible. We wonder why that person suffered or was taken away from us so soon.
The reason for such a loss is complicated beyond our understanding. God may want us to learn something from the death. Or it may not be that at all. Perhaps it wasn’t God’s doing but rather God allowed it to happen.
In any event, God knows when we will die (Job 14:5). It’s up to us to be prepared to go at all times.
Saint Theodora lost several sisters under her care. Some were quite young such as sixteen year-old Sister Seraphine Caroll (Laughing Eliza). Saint Theodora loved Sister Seraphine as her own.
When Sister Mary Ligouri Tiercin, one of the Saint Mary-of-the-Woods founding sisters, passed away after a three-month painful illness, Saint Theodora wrote, “Let us be careful now not to murmur against Him. In our having to give Him the first fruits of our Congregation, who more than she, merits the honor of being chosen” (Letters and Journals, 237)?
And that is the point for all Christians to remember. We are aiming for eternity in Christ. That is when we truly are alive. Our loved one’s passing is a blessing to them and to us in knowing they are at peace and happiness in the arms of the Lord.
©2012, Mary K. Doyle
(Photo of Sisters of Providence Cemetery at Saint Mary-of-the-Woods)