Death is sad. We mourn for those we miss. We will no longer see their smile, hear their voice, or embrace their body. We will no longer travel together, enjoy good food, share stories and wisdom, or experience the remainder of our lives with them. We mourn for our loss. We should also rejoice in their passage to Heaven.
Death is the end of our journey together here… but not the end of the journey. The bereaved continues in life and the deceased has moved on to eternity. We believe in eternal life so we know, even in our grief, that life hasn’t truly ended.
The sadness we feel is largely for ourselves… for the loss of a loved one. It is real. It is palpable. Our Lord was sympathetic when He experienced the sorrow of His friends at the passing of Lazarus. His emotional reaction wasn’t for Lazarus… you can tell in the narrative that He was anticipating this moment to glorify God. Even though He knew this situation wasn’t going to end in sorrow, the sorrow He felt from others moved Him.
Mary experienced such great sorrow; watching the tortures of her son… waiting with Him as He breathed His last breath… holding His lifeless body. She knew His origin was from eternity and His death returned Him to eternity… yet she mourned for the lifelessness of His physical form. Death hurts. We don’t seek it. But we can welcome it in its larger mystery.
In the midst of our sorrow, there is also anticipation for those who hope in Christ. Jesus wept (John 11:35) but the story didn’t end in weeping. Just so, the story for our loved ones doesn’t end in weeping, either. If they belonged to Christ in life, they will be with Him in eternity. We anticipate the resurrection of the body and the life of the world to come… the deceased have taken the next step toward that glorious day.
Our Lady experienced this glorious day with her son. Although the Gospel doesn’t record their reunion, you have to believe it was filled with joy. Can you imagine the look on her face and the bursting of her heart when she beheld her son after His resurrection? If you can… then you are being given a foretaste of that same joy when we will meet Him and our loved ones in eternity. We have been promised glorified bodies and an eternity in Heaven. We will experience it together. Our journey will continue together.
As a baby develops in the womb in preparation for life in this world so we spend our lives in this world preparing for the next. Our goal is to be united forever with Him who is love- personified. Our mission, then, is learning to love. Love requires a giver and receiver. Love requires sacrifice for the receiver of our love. It is dying to self. The image of the Trinity is the Father loving the Son and the Son loving the Father. Their love is so real, the Spirit of love between them is a unique person. Love is sacrificial. The greatest image of love we can imagine is the God who created us nailed to a cross. He went to the cross for love of us.
We are here to be conduits of the love and graces of God. As we receive, we are to give. The more we give, the greater we grow in love. The greater we grow in love, the more we emulate our God who is life-giving love personified. This life is a gestational time of growth in anticipation of what we will be. What we will be is the living image of our God who we emulate (1 John 3:2).
The pain of death is the labor pain of eternal life.
O death, I do not know who can fear you, for through you life begins! – St Padre Pio.