In this week’s blog, Fr. Paddy remembers those gone before us as we reach All Souls Day on November 2nd.
ST LUKE’S Hospital in Kilkenny recently held a Mass for all who died there in the past year. More than 200 names of the deceased were read aloud, a poignant reminder of men and women, young and old, whose lives have ended. I was greatly taken by the tears and silence in the church. Grief is a living emotion. I met one lady who shared with me “my heart is broken without him.”
Bereavement and loss are part of life and nothing can really prepare us for this awful human experience. All around us, we are reminded of our mortality. Nature has fallen asleep. The leaves have fallen, land lies fallow, life seems to be on hold, asleep and somewhat dead. Death is never easy. Death brings with it struggle, emotion and huge loss. Death is unavoidable, despite a real temptation to deny this reality.
We have all felt the fragile and vulnerable truth that is very real when we experience a loved one’s death. The great Christian writer CS Lewis describes this very human emotion: “What’s wrong with the world, to make it so flat, shabby, worn out looking? No-one told me that grief felt so like fear. I am not afraid, but the sensation is like being afraid. The same fluttering in the stomach, the same restlessness … and, at other times, it feels like being mildly drunk or concussed. There is a sort of invisible blanket between me and the world.”
Bereavement is felt in the hearts of so many people in all of our communities. There is no quick fix in dealing with loss. Life simply never is the same again as a result of a loved one’s death. We can continue, engage in the routine but we can never fully “get over it” – nor, perhaps, do we really want to.
Every year, I celebrate the life and death of many parishioners. I am very taken by the goodness, compassion and generosity expressed by extended family, neighbours and friends, who turn out in force at funeral time. However, there is an air of unreality about the initial noise and chat that fills the early days of bereavement. The reality is that, soon – despite the outside continuing as normal – silence, loneliness and inner turmoil defines the experience of loss from the inside.
As we get closer to the month of November, it is a time to be sensitive to the bereavement stories that we all have. It is important to remember our losses. Paddy Kavanagh poetically named his bereavement story Every old man I see reminds me of my father.
It is in listening and acknowledging our losses that we can, in time, befriend and live with the void that is the pain of human loss. CS Lewis again aptly describes “The tears that now freely flow remind me of the love we once shared”.
The story of Christian hope tells us for all who have gone before that life has changed but not ended. However, perhaps the most powerful demonstration of Christ’s solidarity with all who are bereaved was when he lost his best friend Lazarus. Simply and profoundly, we are told: