The Long Good-Bye

My parents and I in 2016.

Today’s first reading, on the Feast of All Souls, is comforts me today. At a time when both my parents are experiencing the physical and mental frailties of old age, this beautiful passage is reassuring: Better days are ahead.

The souls of the just are in the hand of God, and no torment shall touch them.

They seemed … to be dead; and their passing away was thought an affliction,

and their going forth from us, utter destruction. But they are at peace.

For if before men, indeed, they be punished, yet their hope full of immortality;

chastised a little, they shall be greatly blessed

because God tried them an found them worthy of himself.

Wisdom 3:1-3

As a Catholic, I believe in the reality of purgatory. As a daughter who has walked with my mom through the slow goodbye that is dementia, I am confident that this life, too, can be a kind of refining fire. It took her more than seventy years for her eyes to be opened to the beauty and truth of the Catholic faith … but when at last she saw it, she embraced it of her own free will. And in that moment, a long-standing rift between us was healed.

So on this feast of All Souls, I am thankful to have experienced this miracle. And I am grateful that God saw fit, in the case of my family, to begin the healing in this life, rather than the next.