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.

Prayer for Dear Departed Who Find Themselves . . . in Purgatory, After All

charlieLast week Michelle at Scribbit posted this extraordinary post about 10 truly unusual deaths in history.

Today we remember those we love, who have gone before us in death. Grandparents, and in some cases parents. Old friends. Even children — including those who never saw the light of day.

For the Christian, the pain of separation from our loved ones in death is very real . . . and yet, we also know it is only temporary. Confident in the love and mercy of God, we can entrust the souls of our loved ones into His almighty hands, knowing that he loves them even more perfectly than we can. And, if it please him, we will all be together one day again.

Today I offer this prayer for those who never expected to find themselves in purgatory . . . and whose loved ones do not believe in the necessity of a final purgation for those destined to see God face to face. I wrote this prayer shortly after the death of my dear friend, evangelical pastor Charlie Shedd, with whom I worked on several projects when I was an editor for Servant Publications. Oh, how I miss him!

God alone knows the mysteries of life and death; He alone holds these things in His hands. Still, He commands us to pray for one another – brother and sister branches in the one true Vine. Charlie, if you’re still on the way, this one’s for you . . . If not, please pray for me!

Heavenly Father,
we offer up to you our heartfelt intentions,
united with the merits of Your precious Son,
whose death ransoms and restores
every soul who calls upon Your name.

We seek Your mercy,
not only for ourselves but also for those
wandering in darkness, mystified and alone.
Send Your angels to guide them through
the water and the fire, till every blemish fades.

And when we meet again,
may we rejoice eternally not because we were right,
but because You are righteous. And may we adore You
not because we escaped the fires of hell,
but because You are the true and lasting light.

Holy Mary, Mother of God,
pray for us sinners,
especially those who did not believe in life
that they would need our prayers in death.

Dear Jesus, be with those we love.
Especially those imperfect souls we loved best
while they were with us.

(c) 2006 Heidi Hess Saxton