Monday, November 2, 2009

Honoring Our Dearly Departed Loved Ones

This evening I went to a moving service for All Souls Day. We sang/prayed the Liturgy of the Hours, wrote the names of our loved ones in the book of the dead, and lit a candle for each of them. We were given the opportunity to get up and tell a story if we wanted.
I had several names to write in the book this year, those of relatives who have been on my mind more often since my dad passed away, that of a friend, and one of a neighbor. I thought of more people I could have added after I returned to my seat.
I got up to talk about my dad. I shared that I was very grateful that God had given me so much time with him during the last couple years of his life. I was and still am amazed by the physical and emotional suffering he went through while still holding onto his faith and caring about our family. I feel very blessed to know that he had moved beyond the fear of dying, that he was finally ready to go to God the night he passed away.
I had given my dad a book to read a month or so before he died. I was hesitant at first about how he would take it, since the author had suffered so much at such a young age and had prayed fervently to be healed, and the physical healing she begged for didn’t come. Fortunately, A Step Further by Joni Eareckson Tada  & Steve Estes offered my dad hope in the days leading up to his death.
On July 25, 2009, Kevin and I spent my dad’s last birthday with him. As one of his birthday gifts, I gave him a Footprints prayer journal with the following message written inside:

Dear Dad,
     I remember you talking about a Footprints poster you’d seen framed in Dave’s office. I hope you will use this journal to write about your walk with the Lord, both when you walk side by side and those times when He’s been carrying you, leaving only one set of footprints in the sand.
     I’ve found more encouragement and hope than you know in your persistence in the midst of adversity to serve God and remain faithful to Him. God’s strength shines through our weaknesses and His love, if we accept it though we don’t merit it, will cast out our fear of failure, the future, and despair.
     I love you, Dad, and hope you become increasingly aware of how much God loves you.
Love, hugs, and prayers, Trisha

Dad wrote eleven entries in the journal but I was quickly drawn to the one piece of scrap paper he tucked in the front on which he’d written:

-Reach out – put others first before our own issues
-give and it will be given to you
-Don’t compare to people who have it better – leads to self-pity robs job and dishonors God
-If I get tired of being sick or of life, God will allow me to mount up with wings like an eagle until the day I get a new body.  -> Hope and faith

I have felt my dad’s presence many times, definitely at Mass, in church, and while praying at the 40 Days for Life vigil, which he did so much to promote over the past couple years.
One thing I reminded everyone at the service is that more people are praying for them than they know. 
Lord, bless all who mourn with the comfort only You can provide.  Show us how to love and support those who are grieving in ways that will bring them closer to You.  Thank You for the healing presence You give us in faith communities that are centered on love, service, and sacraments. Amen.
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