IN DEATH, LIFE IS CHANGED, NOT ENDED.
As we look back over the Gospel stories we usually see Jesus at loggerheads with the Pharisees, who are demanding strict adherence to the law. Today he comes up against the Sadducees, who do not believe in the possibility of resurrection, and it is interesting to see how he deals with them.
Some people do not know how to deal with death! Do I face up to the reality now, or do I keep my head down, and wait till it comes? One thing is certain: We shall all one day die. “I shall one day die.” Can be too close for comfort. Under normal circumstances, it is always the other person’s funeral! There is a humorous story about an elderly couple who agreed that when one of them died, the other should mourn for a short time, then take out the insurance money, and have a good holiday. After a few moments of thoughts, the husband casually remarked: “Do you know what I was thinking? When one of us dies, I think I’ll go to the Gold coast!”
I guess that when it is all said and done, we ought to be concerned with the quality of our lives before death. Everybody dies, but not everybody lives! Some people settle for existing, and, when they eventually die, a doctor is called to certify that fact, because there was never much life in the first place. You could write on the tomb stone, ‘Died at forty, buried at eighty!’
Life is meant to be lived to the fullest. The Gospel gives us all the invitations on how to live life with enthusiasm. It is up to us to keep the inner fire burning with adventure, with love and forgiveness, with being absorbed by the wonder and awe of our Planet and Galaxy and all forms of mystery. If we ever get bored by the sense of discovery of little children or show little interest in the tried and true wisdom of our people in the evening time of life, then we are not really living, we are existing! When I was a baby, I was carried into a church, I was not consulted; and the next time I am carried into a church, I will not be consulted either; I will be in a Box!!! So will you!
The Gospel today is a wake up call about living life to the fullest in the here and now, and then we have the certainty through our faith, that what God has in store for those who love him, no eye has seen nor ear heard…This month we are especially reminded about praying in thanksgiving for our deceased, and truly remembering them. May the many Blessings which have been part and parcel of the lives of our loved ones, continue to grow in us.
Let’s go deep sea diving into life, where we find people that we know and don’t know who are dying, or have died; what can we learn over time by the experiences of people in these circumstances. This is very serious, and it will do as well to keep reading…..’Maybe go and make yourself a nice Coffee, or a drink like……like……some nice fresh Orange juice that’s full of lovely pulp!
As a Deacon and Priest, I have been walking with people to Heaven’s Foyer for nearly 43 years. When I was 23 years old, I was appointed to a Hospice for the Dying here in Sydney. I had covered the Theological aspects of dying and death, studied lots of material on the subject, but I was very hesitant to be involved with it at that age. However, I knew in theory that it was one of the most important parts of Ministry. My Superior in the Monastery at the time, was a very wise man…a bit prickly by nature, but also he was a lot of fun…..at times. In those days you were told where to go….if you get my drift, and what you were going to do….None of this, ‘How would you feel about doing this or that kind of ministry.’ That was OK. That was the time in which I commenced Pastoral work, so I am not complaining. I was told to go to this particular Hospice at 3.00PM one afternoon to meet Matron Beverly, and as we say and ‘learn the ropes’. That was to be my Ministry for three years….plus other Parish duties.
The Books and study in the Seminary where good, but now it was learning by listening and ‘being’! Notice I did not say doing…..Over the years, it’s not what you do for a dying person that counts, it is being a real LISTENING PRESENCE. When people are in Heaven’s Foyer, our whole being needs to be like a huge Radio Telescope, so that we can listen, be tuned in and respond……not react! Some people linger on while waiting to die…..some are sometimes waiting for a loved one to come from overseas, interstate, or even next door! Yes, being in Heaven’s Foyer is the time for Reconciliation, for ‘just being there’ touching and holding our loved one, and telling them over and over again, that we love them, and savouring every moment! Now, even if our loved one may seem to be unconscious, don’t give up on speaking gently and lovingly into their ear! The sense of hearing is the last sense to go. If our loved one during this time, wanders in and out of consciousness, be acutely aware of what they say, who they want, and don’t be skeptical about who they might see in the room apart from yourselves! It’s not the Morphine that maybe the cause of that.
Please remember that we are in Heaven’s Foyer! I have been with so many people while they are dying over the years, and it is one of the most beautiful and privileged positions for a Priest to be invited into the family during the farewell time. It is not the right of the Priest to be there…it is a gift! Please try and be ‘present’ while your loved one is dying…….keep speaking into their ear, that you love them and give them permission to go! Dying people often wait to be given leave!!!!
Animals and pets, have a wonderful sense of a loved one dying. Please take your dog or cat into the room of your dying loved one, if they have an attachment to it. Animals know what is going on! Animals can help us in those moments, too. After a loved one has died, take note of the animal’s behavior. We must always remember, that ‘in death, life is changed, not ended’….our loved ones are only a breath away, and after the moment of earthly dying, they still have much to remind us of and tells us. It seems to me that between Heaven and us…you and me, there is a very thin membrane…..sometimes we get glimpses through the foggy membrane, other times we experience unusual things which might call us to scratch our heads, or even say to ourselves….’Am I going a bit stupid?’ Rest assured that when our loved ones are living the changed life, don’t be surprised that some unusual things might happen; some thoughts that seem to come from someone else’s ‘being’ not ours. If you’re loved one particularly loved the Garden, and special flowers……keep an eye on them, especially at Birthdays, Anniversaries and annual special family events, you never know what surprises you might find! For me as a Priest, the most wonderful, beautiful, surprising, and most difficult Ministry has been and is, walking with others into Heaven’s Foyer.
There were twin boys in their mother’s womb. After some time, they became aware of each other, and they began a conversation. They noticed the cord, and they decided that their mother must love them very much, when she was prepared to share her very life with them. After a while, they noticed little finger nails appearing, and several other changes to their bodies. One of them asked what it could mean. The other replied that they were probably getting ready to be born. The first one shivered:-
READER 1: “I don’t want to be born. I want to stay where I am.”
READER 2: “But you have to be born, we can’t stay here forever.”
READER 1: How do you know there is any life after birth? Have you ever seen anyone who was born? Has anyone comeback to tell us? How do you know that we have a mother, anyhow? I’ll bet we only invented her for our own comfort”.
READER 2: ‘I really don’t know, but it doesn’t make any sense that this is it, and that there’s nothing after this!”
One of them was already a little atheist! While the other was a person of faith, which means that he has proof for nothing! After some time they were born. When they felt safe to do so, they opened their eyes, and looked up at the face of their mother. They looked at each other with a look that spoke volumes.
READER 1: “Weren’t we two right fools. Sure how could we possibly understand something as beautiful and as wonderful as this?”
In death, life is changed, not ended.
Fr Kevin Walsh
Stanhope Gardens – Sydney, Australia
Email: email@example.com Web:https://realhomilies.wordpress.com/