“And what happens when someone dies?”

“And what happens when someone dies?”

Coming from a child, that is a question parents and teachers dread.  Death is a mystery that we all struggle with and when a child asks it, we struggle even more.  How can we answer honestly something for which there are no easy answers or pat evasions?  Added to that, we are often ambushed by this question when we are dealing with the death of someone that we love.

For a Christian, the mystery of death is closely entwined with that other great mystery of life: God.  Death and God! No wonder we get tongue-tied when a child blurts out the above question.  And to make it even tougher, ultimately the answer to this question can only be answered in very personal terms…so I’ll share my answer with you.

Created in God’s own image, we are made for the fullness of love but while we are alive, here in this world, we experience limitations in our loving: time, space, our physical bodies, weakness in personality, our sinfulness.  When we die we are released from these and given the opportunity to choose God, love and life in its fullness.  Those we leave behind on earth suffer the loss of us…for a time.  But the ones who have died are actually free to love us more than they could while on earth.  Because of that, I often turn and pray to the people who loved me on earth: my parents, grandparents, and friends.  Whatever might have limited their love on earth is now cut away and they love me with God’s own love. 

In the Catholic Church, November is a time when we remember the dead.  We remember them in prayer, knowing that they continue to love and care for us, with us all waiting for the day when we will be reunited in God’s glory.

Loving God, we grieve over those we love who have died.  Hold us all together in your love that we may look forward to the day we will be reunited in the fullness of life.  We ask this in Jesus’ name confident that you will hear us.

Sr Kym Harris osb