I’ve often thought about death. This puzzles my generally upbeat husband who sometimes wonders if he didn’t marry Morticia from The Addams Family, the television sitcom with the catchy theme song: “They’re creepy and they’re kooky; Mysterious and spooky; They’re altogether ooky; The Addams Family.”
He never understands how the topic of death pops into conversations about everything, from me questioning if, after I die, anyone will wipe the crumbs off of the kitchen counters to what about my life will have mattered (besides ensuring clean countertops for an indifferent-to-crumbs family). Recently, the longtime retired pastor of our parish passed away. It was sad. People were sad. I was sad. And I couldn’t help feeling like his passing was just another in a multitude of deaths that we have all experienced during the past two years. It’s been a long season of loss for many of us. People we love and who have left an indelible mark on our lives are gone leaving us to live on the morsels of treasured memories which never come close to being as satisfying as having our loved ones with us.
As much as I am tired of grieving and losing those who are so dear to me or watching friends deal with their own losses, pondering death doesn’t feel macabre to me. It feels centering. Death is a compass that can point us in the direction of a meaningful life. It is the halting reminder that our time on earth matters. Occasionally, it’s an annoying tug that tells us to be more patient with the people we love because they won’t always be with us. Death highlights life’s priorities and ruthlessly edits the superfluous that squanders our time, energy, and efforts in a thoughtless heap of irrelevance. It magnifies the kaleidoscope of distraction in our lives and offers a clear lens to see through the blur of busyness into the balm of simplicity. The purpose of life, as complicated as we sometimes make it, really is quite simple. It is to love. It is to be love and act of love, specifically, God’s love – that perfect and abiding love which conquers death.
As the secular world gets ready to celebrate Halloween, and as much I love saying the word spooky, and as catchy as the tune is for The Addams Family — I can’t help but think ahead to All Saints Day, which honors all of the the saints known and unknown throughout our human history. I can’t help but think of all the souls I have lost in my time on earth and the gratitude I feel for their lives despite the still painful losses. Mostly, I think of the joy that awaits all of us should we get to enter the kingdom of heaven. It’s as palpable to me as listening to the beat of the spirited song “When the Saints Go Marching In.” It dulls the sting of grief’s sadness by reminding me that for Christians, death is not the end of our story.
I think again of my retired parish priest and the legacy he left our parish, specifically his devotion to Perpetual Adoration. He spent his life reminding us that no matter what we do here on earth, nothing or no one will be as meaningful as the time we spend with Jesus. It’s a legacy that reminds me that while death is inevitably sad, we can never lose sight of the joy that awaits us in heaven. While I may always ponder death, it’s not because I am “creepy or kooky.” It is because I so very much “want to be in that number when the Saints go marching in.”
I hope to see you there.
In memory of Father Fred Parke and the beautiful legacy he left so many.
Hi, all~ When my children were in grade school one of my favorite things to do was to attend the All Saints Day mass and see the kids dressed up as Saints and process into the church singing “When the Saints Go Marching in.” I really hope that song gets stuck in everyone’s head today because it really is so joyful!
Speaking of joyful: