I write on All Souls Day. It is a day that I appreciate very much for its reminder to be in conscious spiritual union with those who have gone before us in faith.
This morning in prayer and occasionally in the hours since, I have remembered my mother and father who in God’s providence gave life to my sister and me. They fed, housed, nursed, supported, encouraged and rooted for us all the years we spent together on earth. I have no doubt that they continue their prayer for us in heaven. It is a special joy to have a day in which to return the favor and to thank God for all of the gifts that came to us through them.
This day also makes me mindful of many family members and friends who have gone before us in faith. I didn’t plan or anticipate, it but I have been drawn to think about and pray for my grandparents, Helen and Nelson Bills, and Charlotte and Matthew Clark.
It is easier with my paternal grandparents because I got to know them before their deaths in 1948, when I was 10 years old. My memories of them are fond ones. We lived just two blocks away from them and were frequent, welcome visitors in their home. I remember being there all year round but have particularly strong memories of wintertime visits. As it got dark in late afternoon I would visit them to get out of the cold and to enjoy the snack they always offered.
Most of all I remember the warmth of my grandfather, who would haul me into his lap while we listened to the radio adventure stories that were so popular in those days. All through the years that memory has stayed with me. As I think about it I can conclude only that the image carries with it a sense of belonging, of being cared for, of being loved. In that sense, I often think of my grandfather as a deeply human reminder of God’s love for me. My grandmother Charlotte is the quiet presence in memories of those winter afternoons, but she is the one who provided the snacks.
It is different with my maternal grandparents. I was only 6 when they died. I often wonder if the few memories I have of them arise from direct experience with them or if they are memories drawn from stories I have heard about them or from photographs we have of them.
Whatever the case my thoughts and prayers about Helen and Nelson related more to our hoped for reunion than it did to any clear memory of them. I want to ask of them questions like, "How did you manage to raise 13 children?" and "How did you cope with losing three young children to accident and illness?" And, to Helen, "How did you cope with your husband’s early age dementia on top of all of your other concerns?"
Such memories and longings were in my spirit as I celebrated the Eucharist at St. Pius Tenth in Chili this morning. They stayed with me as many of us went to the parish cemetery after Mass to dedicate their newly built columbarium. I am sure that the people at the Eucharist and the dedication were all deeply mindful of and at prayer for their deceased loved ones.
I suspect that their experience was not unlike my own — that it combined blessed memories of gifts given and received with a longing to know better, to understand more deeply, to appreciate more fully than we were able to when we were together.
We are invited to extend our celebration of All Saints Day and All Souls Day through the month of November. We can do that in many ways. We can place our deepest personal needs before our deceased loved ones and ask them to pray for us. We can tell them what we always wanted them to know better or understand more deeply about us, and never did. We can grant forgiveness to them for the unresolved hurts they caused, or ask their pardon for hurts we caused them.
With God’s grace all of the above will express and deepen our communion with them.
Peace to all.