Growing up, I had an unhealthy view of death, at best.
I never attended funerals, we rarely talked about those who had died unless it was quick, “they’re in heaven now,” kind of chatter. I feared it and avoided it well into my 20s. A few years after marrying Scott, we found ourselves in Indiana and the mother of a dear friend died. For some reason, I felt compelled to attend the funeral. By myself. The eulogist was her son, now a rock star deacon in the Diocese of Layfayette-in-Indiana. His words planted a seed of hope.
A year later, a 9yo boy in our parish community died of cancer. Man, he was tough to the end. I remember the priests getting that phone call. We were on our way to World Youth Day in Toronto with 750 teens from our diocese. Upon our return home, I attended the funeral and was blown away by the celebration and sense of community I experienced. Another seed of hope.
Then, I largely avoided death once again. I think it was part age, part denial, part lack of understanding. But, as I’ve grown in my faith, added years to my life and experienced the deaths of many more – young, old and in between – the beauty of my Catholic faith has once again saved me.
For me, I think the fear of death was like a wall, built with bricks. And with each funeral, each person lost in my life, I started taking down those bricks. Last fall, the final swing came in, and God knocked them all away.
I was completely broken, but the grace, it saved me.
The Easter Triduum gets a lot of press, but these three days (All Hallow’s Eve/Halloween, All Saints Day and All Souls Day) are worthy of mention and much reflection. If you’re like me and you find yourself grappling with the reality of a mortal world, I urge you to dive into Catholic tradition and teaching on death. I think it’s going to take me a lifetime to fully embrace it. I’m finding myself seeking peace while the fear is slowly dissipating.
For us, Halloween has always been a fun, community-based evening. The kids dress up (this year, I made them raid the costume bin at home and get creative!), we enjoy seeing neighbors, visiting the school “trunk or treat” and even making a stop at the Chi Omega house on the t.u. campus. I know, that takes some serious will power to step onto the 40 acres. I love that we still have a neighborhood of trick-or-treaters. Plus, Halloween in Texas means 80-degree temps and gorgeous weather. Can’t beat that. We ended up with a ladybug, a cowboy, Ginny Weasley, a smartypants, a cross country runner and, a ghost. Poor Will had basketball practice on Halloween. SIN!
We woke up early Tuesday morning from our sugar highs and headed to the All Saints Day Mass at school. Every year, the sixth grade class chooses saints, researches them and then dresses up and presents brief monologues to all the classrooms.
Pretty much the best day ever.
At the Mass yesterday, our priest reminded us:
Every saint has a past. Every sinner has a future.
Aren’t those inspiring words? Go, be a saint! We had our very own St. Maria Goretti. The boys were St. Pope John Paul II and Padre Pio in years’ past.
The icing on the cake was having John Paul serve as an altar server at the Mass. So handsome! So reverent!
Today, is All Souls Day or Dia de los Muertos (day of the dead). We remember all those who have died. We pray for them, we honor them and we pray their example leads us to a more holy life.
There is beauty and purpose in the liturgy. It asks us to get real about death, which is never easy. But by confronting our greatest fears, we find the greatest reward: peace. May today be a beautiful one for your family.