The stories of our dear departed keep them with us
By Father Steve Porter, STL
Loving our loved ones once they’ve moved on ... As Catholics we very firmly believe that death is not the end, that there is hope, and that that hope lies in Jesus Christ, and only in him—he is the resurrection, and the life. Eat and drink, as he commands us, and we shall live forever—that’s the promise he made, and I believe it! Our faith says that our loved ones are with God, yet our heart says, “ouch,” our loved ones are not with us ... anymore.
But we are still here, and our hearts ache when the one we loved is not “here” as well, at least “here” in the sense that we want them to be. The quiet moment, the hug, the shared coffee (or something stronger!), the plan for the vacation, or Thanksgiving dinner, these are all different now. How I remember the old times, when we ... And that’s (right there is the clue) how to do it now, when all is so different. Remember the memories!
Talk, and tell the stories, and if the stories make you cry, tell them anyway. St. Ignatius of Loyola tells us that when we have no more words to pray our tears are our prayers. If the stories make someone else cry, let them cry, but tell the stories anyway. When we share the lives of loved ones, it’s as if the loved ones are with us still, and sure in the early days we are sad and maybe cry, but as we tell the stories the loved ones live on in our hearts and our minds, and we remember more and more the fun, the life, the joy we had with them and less and less the pain of their passing.
And don’t exclude the loved ones from the conversation, tell their stories as if they are still with you, and chat with them as much as with others about their lives, their loves, and their passions—what motivated them? What kept them going, through thick and thin?
The earliest members of the Church did that after Jesus’ ascension. He’d returned to his Father in heaven, leaving them the “ethereal” Holy Spirit, and the command “get going, you’ve got work to do!” Peter might turn to Thomas and say “do you remember that night when he was preaching up a storm, and it was getting late, and we tried to get him to stop so the people could go and get some food?”
“Yes, I do” said James, and Thomas said “he looked at us with those big brown eyes, and said ‘why would you send people away from me? Give them what food you’ve got.’ ” And then Martha said “there’s a kid here with two sticky dried fish and five tortillas, even I couldn’t stretch that for so many.” And we all know how the story turned out, it’s all in the Gospels, (well, maybe not the Martha bit) and as Christian people we still tell the stories of Jesus, and we remember the joy, the peace, the hope of his presence in his stories. And we all talk to Jesus still, don’t we? We call it officially “praying,” and we have formal prayers (the Mass, the Rosary, Novenas, Devotions…) but don’t forget the chit-chat, the jokes, the little everyday things. We love it when our friends share their lives with us, don’t we? Share your life with your loved ones still, include them in all things, just as you do with Jesus.
So, when we tell the stories of the ones we’ve loved, they live on with us, their love, their care, their laughter, even perhaps their admonitions, live on and fill us with hope.
Our Diocese urges us to live “that people’s lives be filled with hope.” That we be the best Christians that we may be, those who are filled with Christ – of course – but who never forget those whose influences have filled our lives with hope. And that we share their experiences, their strengths and their hopes with others that, together, our world be transformed by Christ’s love as shown to us in the lives of those we’ve loved, and not lost, even if for a while it’s just not the same.
We are still one family—here and there—sisters and brothers of each other, when we include our loved ones still, we shall not forget them. May their memory be eternal!
Father Steve Porter is Parochial Vicar at St. Kateri Tekakwitha Parish in Beaumont-Banning.