By Selina Venier
“DON’T you think it’s a bit morbid?” asked a non-churched friend.
She was referring to our practice as Catholics of remembering the faithful departed and the souls in purgatory in November.
“No,” I said. “In fact, I find it uplifting.”
And it’s true.
There’s something particularly hopeful about remembering those who we love and believing they are resting in the arms of God.
There’s also something particularly hopeful about remembering those who are otherwise strangers and have departed this earthly life.
In both instances, we do not forget them.
In the first week of November my Nonna (grandmother) was bursting to tell me that the orchid I’d bought her on the anniversary of the death of my Nonno (grandfather) in June, had lost its last branch.
She was “bursting” because of the hope it gave her to know the orchid endured almost five months.
To her, it was a sign of the heavenly life enjoyed by Nonno.
And I certainly wouldn’t describe that belief as morbid.
To me it’s hopeful to believe I have a grandfather and other loved ones in heaven.
I clearly remember when Nonno was close to death he expressed a realisation of the presence of his deceased parents, calling him, with God, towards his heavenly reward.
Even in the face of death, which often is considered morbid, there was hope.
It’s also hopeful to have three living grandparents who believe in heaven just as fervently.
What an amazing legacy they live and will leave behind.
Through them and personal faith in God, I feel compelled to do the same; I feel compelled to be just as fervent and just as convicted to my children and, God willing, my eventual grandchildren.
I often remind my grandparents what an impact it is to witness their conviction and their faith, especially in the quiet, unassuming way they live it.
They sometimes look at me puzzled with a notion of, “Of course, why not?”
Their faith in God is so inherent and so ingrained, and such a blessing.
Grandparents, never discount the impact you can have on your children and grandchildren, even after you have left this earthly life.
Later in November I appreciated a homily from a priest who was also very convicted about the joys of the kingdom of heaven and why we pray for the repose of souls.
His message, while about death, wasn’t morbid either.
Even the Misses, aged 11 and 13, commented on how convicted he was of the importance of our prayerfulness and our remembering of the dead.
It gives the girls the same brand of hope to visit the cemetery, not the opposite.
Theirs is a hope of being reunited with their great-grandfather even though we know nothing certain of what that will be like.
After a recent visit, Miss 11 asked, “What do people believe in if they don’t believe in heaven? Where is their hope?”
They were excellent questions alluding to the vacantness of a life without faith in God, although non-believers might beg to differ.
As a believer I often sit in Mass and think, “I’d love to have this scripture reading at my funeral” or, “I love this hymn, I should make a note to have it played at my funeral.”
I wonder if such thinking is also considered morbid?
To me, not so, because sacred scripture and hymns often uplift me in life and hopefully they will do the same for others after I die.
Every November, at the least, I find myself asking that question, “Am I ready to die?”
It’s a great question to ponder more often than not, especially when “life” tends to evaporate time and energy.
I think back and consider my responses over time.
Of course there are thoughts of the family I would leave behind and of the tasks unfinished.
But even in those thoughts there is hope, to continue this God-given life for as long as He wills, among those I love and with the purpose He deems.
So if tomorrow is my last, even with those left behind and things left unfinished, it’s an uplifting and not a morbid thought to know Jesus Christ awaits and I won’t be forgotten.