This time of year always brings to mind the people I have loved that are no longer with us. I miss my grandparents, an aunt and an uncle who died way too soon, a great uncle who was a special part of our family. In a particular way, I miss my dad who died a few years ago and who I always wish was here to talk things over with. I think about them often, and I am very much aware each time I celebrate Mass that they are with me in a special way. Yes, with time, the grief has subsided a bit, and the days are a little easier. But the memories, great memories, are still there, and their absence still leaves a hole in my heart.
But that’s okay. That’s how grief works. It might seem sometimes like it would have been better to live without love, but we know deep down that that’s not true. Sadness and even death are temporary; love is eternal. As the Church’s vigil for the deceased tells us, “all the ties of friendship and affection which knit us as one throughout our lives do not unravel with death.” We know that death only separates us for a short time, and even though there is that hole in our heart, the sadness that we feel is way better than never having loved at all, never having had our loved ones in our lives at all.
Today, the Church gives us the grace of remembering all of our loved ones who have gone before us, marked with the sign of faith, and all the dead whose faith is known to God alone. The Church is great in wisdom in giving us this feast every year. Because even though on this day, we might shed a few tears, still we will have the grace of remembering the ones who have given us life, given us wisdom, those who have been Christ to us, those who have made God’s love tangibly present in our lives.
But sometimes our relationships weren’t like that: sometimes there was abuse or a lack of love that gives people mixed feelings on a day such as this. Even if the memories aren’t the best, and even if we struggle with the pain of past hurts mixed with the sorrow of grief, there is grace in remembering today. Maybe this day can be an occasion of healing, even if it’s just a little bit. Maybe our tears, mixed with the saving Blood of Christ, can wash and purify our wounded hearts and sorrowful souls.
And I have to tell you that it won’t all go away today. We are left with tears and loneliness, and that empty place at the table, and that hole in our heart, maybe even the pain of unresolved conflicts. But sadness and pain absolutely do not last forever, because death and sin have been ultimately defeated by the Blood of Christ. We can hope in the day that our hearts will be healed, and we will be reunited with our loved ones forever, with all of our hurts healed and relationships purified, in the kingdom that knows no end. The Eucharistic Prayer itself will tell us today that there will come a day when “every tear will be wiped away. On that day, we shall see you, our God, as you are. We shall become like you and praise you for ever through Christ our Lord, from whom all good things come.”
And so we pray: eternal rest grant unto all of our departed loved ones, O Lord, and let perpetual light shine upon them. May the souls of all the faithful departed, through the mercy of God, rest in peace. Amen.