Saturday, November 20, 2010

November: Month of the Holy Souls

Adele Chambart Tutter
October 26, 1932
November 20, 2007
Remembering Those Who Have Stepped
Through the Door:  The Story

Contemplative nuns in their monastic horarium are wedded to the events of the Liturgical Year and the special traditonal themes of prayer that are woven through it. November begins with the Feasts of All Saints and All Souls with special remembrance of them continuing until the end of the Liturgical Year. Before we launch into the wonderful first season of the Church's year, I would like to share remarks presented at the Annual All Souls' Remembrance Service in a local parish. Our grieving for the recently deceased and our continued mourning of their departure from our lives here can be complicated by "our story" and the weight of our loss. But light can still be found.

Each of us has come here today with a story. It is the story of our relationship with someone who has gone to the other side; who has passed through the door from one state of being to another; who is dwelling in the eternal presence of our loving God. But we have been left behind. And all we have is our story.

Three years ago I was called to the bedside of a dying friend – really more friend, mother, sister and spiritual companion rolled into one huge heart of love. She rallied a bit and the next day, as I sat silently waiting, her eyes opened and looking directly at me she said, “I have been told that I am going to be an angel.” She died within a week. When I think of her I know exactly where she is and with whom. And so I must rejoice. But every day I miss her. That daily missing may be part of your story too. When it gets very hard, I make myself think of all she wanted for me, of all she was sure that I could be and do. I think of how much she loved. And I move on. I move on in that positive direction to which she always pointed. I move on because it is the finest tribute to her memory that I can offer.

But, what if the story is not so sweet? What if, although love is surely there, disappointment, hurt, or betrayal is also present in the story? What if unresolved issues linger and unfinished chapters remain? It is a joy to remember the light and happy parts but we find the dark episodes very difficult. Yet, there may be a silver lining. The difficulties, however dark, may have developed in you a strength, a determination, a courage or gift of character or personality that has served you well in dealing with the rest of life. If you can recognize that you are more compassionate, more independent, more thoughtful, or more forgiving today because of the difficulties in your story, you can find a way to come to terms with painful memories.

Another strand woven through so many of our stories is regret. Sometimes relationships never develop into all that is possible. And we accuse ourselves. “I could have done…” “I should have done…” “Why didn’t I?” It may just be the ego or our savior complex talking. Or, perhaps, there may be some real truth emerging from examination of conscience. In either case, the story of your intertwined lives is over. The one we loved is in another place. What can we do with the regret? Completely filled with divine forgiveness, the one whom we mourn would have us make restitution in the here and now; to be, in the here and now, in live action at every moment possible, the very embodiment of the love we may have failed to offer in the past. It is never too late for that.

Love cureth all things. Love enables us to continue to strive for all that our beloved dead wanted for us in life. Jesus, mirror of the Father who is pure love, spoke of loving our neighbor as we love ourselves. Healthy self-knowledge and self-love can make us aware of some good that came out of even the greatest pain or hardship. With a dose of self-forgiveness and a willingness to make amends in the here and now, we can grow into and exercise that radical love to which Jesus invites us. We can overcome any regret or remorse lingering in our hearts.

These are ways to deal with our tremendous grief and embrace the varied textures of our stories which are always a mixture of light and darkness. Each is a great challenge. But Jesus soothes and comforts the troubled soul, saying over and over, “Do not be afraid…I am with you…I am the way.”

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Thank you for the insight which I gained by reading this post, especially the part about regret. I am graced to let
something go surrounding my mother's death. You have been the instrument.
Bless you!